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Reid pushes energy bill vote to September

August 04, 2010
Senate Democrats have pushed work on their oil spill response bill to September, but even extra time doesn't mean the measure will pass.

The bill, which would eliminate the $75 million liability cap on damages oil companies must pay in the case of spills and other disasters, also included new regulations that would require companies to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing.

Oil and natural gas industry supporters voiced their opposition to the bill, and the deeply partisan atmosphere in the Senate made sure the bill, as written, would be difficult to pass.

From Politico:

The delay virtually ensures that strategists from both parties will use the congressional recess to hone their plans, talking points and poison-pill amendments for any floor debate, all with an eye toward the midterm elections.

Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to pull the plug on offshore drilling is the latest blow to Democratic efforts to move energy legislation, beginning with the deaths of a sweeping climate change bill and then a scaled-down renewable energy bill.

It initially appeared that the slender offshore drilling package was a must-pass bill with political momentum, but it became evident over the past week that the Nevada Democrat lacked the votes within his own caucus to force the issue as the Republicans held firm against it.

Some Democrats and environmentalists said they are optimistic the extra time will allow them to revisit the broader renewable energy provisions they had to jettison earlier, in hopes of folding them into the drilling bill.

“It may be a good thing,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn). “Maybe we can get some support for a renewable standard and do a little more. If there’s any hope of strengthening it and adding [a renewable electricity standard], that’ll only happen if we wait until September.”

But lobbyists and staffers close to the energy bill process said that, if anything, the partisan dynamics that led Reid to pull the bill this week will only get worse the closer lawmakers come to the midterm elections.

“Reid has got to craft a very narrow bill. He’s going to have to go as narrow as possible,” said a former Senate Democratic aide now closely involved in the Hill energy debate. “Getting broader just makes it harder. He’s going to have to go as narrow as possible, given that he’s got some Democrats against the liability cap. It’s a terrible box.”
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