(Details of blocked bill, Landrieu, Portman quote)
By Thomas Ferraro and Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON May 12 U.S. Senate Republicans on
Monday blocked an energy-efficiency bill backed by manufacturers
and environmentalists, forfeiting a chance to vote on the
long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
On a nearly party-line vote of 55-36, President Barack
Obama's Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance
the bipartisan energy bill supported by the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, had
offered a vote on a separate bill to take the final decision on
Keystone out of Obama's hands and give it to Congress if
Republicans allowed passage of the energy bill.
But Republicans refused. They complained that Reid barred
them from offering amendments to the bill, including one that
would have reined in emissions-cutting regulations on coal-fired
power plants, a top strategy in Obama's fight against climate
The blocked energy-efficiency bill would cut electricity use
by imposing tough building codes and requiring federal data
centers to find ways to consolidate and become more efficient.
In turn, the bill, sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a
New Hampshire Democrat, and Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican,
would help protect the environment, create nearly 200,000 jobs,
and save consumers billions of dollars a year by 2030, backers
"Today's failure to move forward on a bipartisan energy
efficiency bill is yet another disappointing example of
Washington's dysfunction," Portman said.
"It's a sad day in the U.S. Senate when more than 270
organizations - from business to environmental groups - can get
behind a good, bipartisan effort, but we can't get votes on a
few amendments to pass it."
TransCanada Corp's proposed pipeline would carry
800,000 barrels per day of oil sands petroleum from Canada's
Alberta province to Texas refineries.
Democrats accused Republicans of being more interested in
making Obama's repeated delays on Keystone an election-year
issue than voting to build the project or pass an energy bill.
Congress has not passed significant energy legislation since
2007. Shaheen and Portman hoped their bill would not suffer the
same fate as the sweeping climate bill the Senate killed in
2010. But now it looks as if energy efficiency is doomed until
after the Nov. 4 election.
Reid had offered a vote on a Keystone measure sponsored by
all 45 Republicans and 11 of the 55 Senate Democrats in return
for the bill.
It was unclear if they could get the 60 votes needed to pass
the legislation, which would allow congressional approval of
Keystone. But even if approved, Obama was certain to veto it.
A Senate vote on Keystone would have shown broad bipartisan
support for the project and put more pressure on Obama to end
years of delays and finally make a decision.
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the chief Democratic
sponsor of the Keystone bill, said: "This is just the latest
skirmish, and the battle to build Keystone is not over."
(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter
Cooney and Andre Grenon)