By Ramsey Cox
The Senate cleared the first procedural hurdle to considering a bipartisan energy efficiency bill from Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
The Senate voted 79-20 to end debate on the motion to proceed — 60 votes were needed.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is negotiating with Republicans on how many and which amendments will receive votes. But on Tuesday he predicted that Republicans would end up blocking progress on the bill once again, saying they keep changing their demands during amendment negotiations.
Republican insistence on considering non-germane ObamaCare amendments killed progress on the bipartisan bill last year.
This year, Republicans and vulnerable Democrats up for reelection are pushing for a vote on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — something the administration has delayed out of environmental concerns.
Reid said he agreed to hold that vote in addition to four other GOP amendments, but as of last night Republicans wanted yet another amendment.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Reid was blocking the minority party’s rights to offer amendments.
“This is hardly obstructionism,” McConnell said Tuesday. “It’s laughable to say it’s obstructionism to allow the minority to have five or six amendment votes.”
Shaheen and Portman said 10 bipartisan amendments have already been added to the bill since it was last considered in September, making it an even stronger piece of legislation.
“This bill is good for American jobs and good for American energy security,” Portman said ahead of the vote. “It’s a good bill that deserves to be passed.”