Its progress came to a screeching halt this week thanks to logrolling and political grandstanding kicked off by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who used his power to block votes on Republican-backed amendments rather than allow fellow party members in critical re-election races take a stand on the Keystone XL pipeline and the Obama administration’s own proposed greenhouse gas limits for coal-burning power plants.
Republicans responded by killing the bill. Even the three Republican senators who co-sponsored it voted against bringing it to a floor vote without the amendments. Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, called Reid’s action disappointing and said the Senate is being “run like a dictatorship.”
Keystone XL has been in the approval stages for years. It would move tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas. President Barack Obama recently delayed the project indefinitely even after his own State Department concluded that the pipeline would be unlikely to alter global greenhouse gas emissions.
Reid claimed Republicans were “seeking a ransom” on the bill, noting he had agreed to a separate vote on Keystone XL if they would let the energy bill go through without either amendment.
Republicans say Democrats were avoiding a vote on power plant limits to give political cover to senators from energy-producing states who are up for re-election. Democrats say Republicans wanted to deny political cover to Democrats who support the pipeline.
A national energy bill is long overdue and the Senate had summoned up its collective political will to pass one – until politics as usual clogged up the works.
It’s unfortunate the nation’s needs can be so easily cast aside as election day approaches.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.