Dem senator: ‘No negotiation’ over hold on energy bill, Flint package


The Democratic senator who has placed a hold on energy reform legislation and an aid bill for Flint, Mich., said Thursday he will not negotiate over his objections to the package. 

Florida Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonFederal agency under fire for selling recalled cars Senators offer renewed hope of ending hotel booking scams Yahoo hack spurs push for legislation MORE does not want to bring the energy bill to the floor unless Republicans drop their desire to vote on an amendment to expand an off-shore drilling revenue-sharing program. Nelson said he’s worried the amendment will eventually lead to oil drilling off the coast of Florida. 

“They’re trying to start the process of drilling off of Florida,” he said Thursday. “For 40 years, I’ve fought to keep rigs off of the state of Florida and I will not let that happen here to satisfy Sen. [Bill] Cassidy.” Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, is offering the amendment.

Nelson’s hold prevents the energy bill from coming to the floor with unanimous consent. Since the energy bill is tied to Flint aid, Nelson’s hold effectively blocks that package from coming to the floor as well. Dangerous levels of lead began leaching into the city's water supply after the state's governor, Rick Snyder, switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River.

“I support the energy bill, obviously, I support the other provisions in it,” he said. “But this is a no negotiation part, for me, of what I’ve been doing for 40 years.”

Cassidy insists his amendment, which has yet to receive a vote, has nothing to do with Florida. The measure would expand a program by which the federal government and Gulf Coast states share revenue derived from off-shore oil drilling, a fund Louisiana has earmarked for coastal improvement projects.  

“If [Nelson] just reads the bill, he’ll feel a lot better about it,” Cassidy said Thursday. “He needs to read the bill and comprehend the bill and understand that Florida is not involved. Now we can take care of the people of Flint and also protect the coastline of Louisiana from storms.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who helped negotiate the $250 million aid package for Flint and other cities with water contamination problems, said he’s spoken with Nelson about his hold on the bill. 

“He’s very supportive of what we’re trying to do in Flint, and he’s said that,” Peters said. “But he feels very passionate about when it comes to drilling in the Gulf, so I respect that as well.”

Nelson’s hold is one of two remaining objections to the package, though lawmakers have been optimistic about clearing Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeDonald Trump's Mormon PR problem Trump's big worry isn't rigged elections, it's GOP establishment GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE’s (R-Utah) hold this week. 

Lee is concerned about the quickness with which the federal government will pay for the water infrastructure aid. He and Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowGreat Lakes senators seek boost for maritime system Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs Dems to McConnell: Pass 'clean' extension of Iran sanctions MORE (D-Mich.) have been working on the issue this week, and lawmakers are awaiting a Congressional Budget Office assessment of their deal before Lee is willing to yield.

“We’re really close,” Peters said. “I do think we have a path. I feel better than I have.”