By Ramsey Cox
Senate Republicans and Democrats are caught in a staring contest over a deal to pass a bipartisan energy efficiency bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has offered to hold a vote the GOP has been demanding for more than a year, but Republicans want more.
"I want to be very, very clear with my Republican colleagues — a Keystone vote is on the table if they'll simply stand by the agreement they has a week ago with me," Reid said Thursday. "Republicans have stated and stated and stated they want a vote on Keystone. Good, let's take a vote on Keystone."
Reid said he personally opposes the construction of the the pipeline that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. The administration has delayed authorizing the pipeline for nearly five years, citing environmental concerns. But vulnerable Democrats up for reelection have supported a bill that would give congressional authority to grant the project.
On Monday evening, the Senate will vote on whether to end debate on S. 2262. Sixty votes are needed to advance the legislation to a final passage vote.
Democrats will need at least five Republicans to join them in overcoming McConnell's filibuster on Monday. The underlying energy efficiency legislation has seven GOP cosponsors, but McConnell has pressured them not to relent on forcing amendment votes.
Assuming McConnell doesn't cave and Republicans stand behind their leader, the Shaheen-Portman bill will once again fall short despite broad support. In September, Reid brought the bill to the floor but then pulled it when Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) blocked other senators from calling up amendments until he got a vote on an ObamaCare measure.
Also Monday, the Senate will vote to confirm Robin Rosenbaum to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eleventh Circuit and Steven Croley to be General Counsel of the Department of Energy.
Later next week, the Senate is expected to start work on a tax-extender bill.
Reid filed cloture on a motion to proceed to the Hire More Heroes Act, H.R. 3474, which will serve as the legislative vehicle for S. 2260, the EXPIRE Act. The House passed H.R. 3474 in March.
If the Senate sends an amended version back, it's easier for the House to take up the Senate-passed tax measure.
It seems unlikely that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will agree with Senate Democrats' tax proposal after conservative group Club for Growth called it a "special-interest orgy," although compromise is possible since a large chuck of the Senate bill is an extender for research and development tax credits. On Friday, the House passed a R&D tax extension without offsets.
The underlying House bill would allow companies not to treat veterans as full-time employees under the ObamaCare employer mandate. The Senate tax bill would cost more than $85 billion and includes incentives for corporate research and the wind industry.
The Senate could also begin consideration of the conference report of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) or a student loan bill that would allow people to refinance their loans to current lower rates.
The House is not in session next week.