Suspension bill fails on House floor

The House on Tuesday rejected a bill to create a program within the Department of Energy to research minerals used in manufacturing.

It failed to pass under suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority, on a vote of 260-143. With 403 members voting, it would have needed 269 in favor to pass.

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The bill would authorize $25 million annually through fiscal 2019 for the Energy Critical Elements Program.

The Club for Growth and Heritage Action, two influential conservative groups, both urged members to vote against the measure. Both groups said they would include the vote in their annual legislative scorecards.

"Through this bill, government intervention in the private sector will only increase," Andy Roth, the Club for Growth's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement.

After the vote, Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said the measure should not have been considered under the procedure requiring a two-thirds majority, which is typically reserved for noncontroversial legislation.

"Conservatives in the House deserve credit for defeating a bill that would have expanded the government's role in this important industry," Holler said. "This bill was far from uncontroversial and had no business being on the suspension calendar."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), said it would promote federal research of elements such as lithium, which is a critical material used in products such as cell phones and computers.

"Many Americans may not realize just how dependent we are upon energy critical elements," Swalwell said.

After the vote, Swalwell accused the conservative groups of misrepresenting his bill.

"Under the threat of punishment from Heritage Action and Club for Growth, a majority of House Republicans voted against America's manufacturing and national security interests," Swalwell said. "Rather than support research and development that will help create jobs here at home, 142 House Republicans just voted to send good-paying American jobs overseas."

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who included Swalwell's measure in his "Make It In America" initiative to promote domestic manufacturing, called on the GOP leadership to schedule another vote. He noted that the bill garnered a simple majority, just not enough to pass under the two-thirds majority requirement.

"Given that bipartisan support, the Republican leadership should reschedule this bill for floor consideration as soon as possible," Hoyer said.

The legislation would further require the Department of Energy to develop a strategic plan to study the minerals.

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the measure would help the U.S. find ways to produce rare earth elements on its own without relying on other countries. 

"This bill helps ensure that the United States remains globally and economically competitive, and that our energy sector and military have the critical elements that they need," Smith said.

- This story was updated at 10:23 p.m. to include comment from Swalwell and Hoyer.

 

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