Vitter offers to drop O-Care fight if Keystone gets a vote

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said Thursday that he’d drop his ObamaCare amendment to an energy efficiency bill if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) agreed to have a binding vote on construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

On Wednesday, Vitter has threatened to once again block progress on a bipartisan bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) until he got a vote on his “No Washington Exemptions” bill.

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Reid is expected to call up S. 2262 for consideration next week. That bill would boost building codes, train workers in energy efficient building technologies, help manufacturers become more efficient and bolster conservation efforts at federal agencies, among other provisions. 

Reid said he was in talks with Republicans and Democrats about holding a vote on the controversial pipeline that the administration has delayed because of environmental concerns. The pipeline would move oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Vitter said he also wanted a vote on his non-germane amendment but agreed to drop it if the Keystone vote was binding instead of just a “sense of the Senate.”

Last time the Senate tried to consider the Shaheen-Portman bill, Vitter objected to considering any other amendments until he got a vote. Since the amendment had nothing to do with energy, Reid said he was forced to pull the bill preventing final passage of the bipartisan deal.

Vitter’s amendment would prevent members of Congress from exempting any of their staff from entering the ObamaCare health exchanges, require all executive branch appointees to participate in the healthcare exchanges and end subsidies for congressional staff to pay for insurance.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pointed out that most major employers contribute to the healthcare costs of their employers, so Vitter’s proposal would actually treat congressional staffers differently than the public.

“Our employer — the federal government — is contributing to that premium like every other employer in America,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Thursday. “I will fight for staffers, Democrat and Republican, for that right.”

Vitter said he still wanted a stand alone vote on his measure.

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