Sponsors hint deal on energy efficiency bill close

“I think the biggest challenge at this point is more the number of amendments as much as it is the substance of those,” she continued. “There are a number of amendments that have bipartisan sponsorship that I’m hopeful we can agree on, so I think we’re looking at starting with those.”

The bill directs the federal government to use less energy, provides workforce training, offers incentives for industrial manufacturers to invest in efficiency upgrades and creates new — yet voluntary — building codes.

The Senate hasn’t seen a sizable energy bill come to the floor in years, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) didn’t allow a similar version sponsored by Shaheen and Portman to reach the floor last year because lawmakers were eager to file amendments to it on contentious topics, including the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

This year’s iteration of Shaheen-Portman likewise has the potential to be a magnet for all sorts of items.

GOP aides have criticized Reid for being too strict on limiting amendments.

Shaheen said she and Portman have had success in persuading some lawmakers to holster controversial measures.

She pointed to Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who has said he’s open to withholding an amendment on Keystone.

“My understanding is that he’s been willing to be flexible, which I think is very helpful,” Shaheen said.

Hoeven told reporters Wednesday in the Capitol that he’s negotiating another way to address Keystone instead of attaching it to Shaheen-Portman.

President Obama has the authority to decide whether Keystone builder TransCanada Corp. gets a cross-border permit to complete the Canada-to-Texas pipeline.

But Republicans and centrist Democrats are trying to push the administration into action, arguing the president dragged his feet on the matter.

Hoeven said he’d be willing to drop his push for a Keystone amendment if the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee agrees to a hearing on the topic, the administration provides a timeline for a decision or if he can move forward with a standalone bill.

A GOP aide quashed the idea that the sponsors can work out a backroom deal on amendments that will fly with the rest of the Senate.

The aide told The Hill that the best hope for the sponsors is to coax Reid into pulling the trigger on the bill, despite the amendment free-for-all that will follow.

Steve Kittredge, Portman’s energy aide, told The Hill on Tuesday that the amendment issue might need to be sorted out on the floor, but that he’s optimistic about the progress on the bill.

“It’s going to require some time on the floor. A limited amount of time, but more than a day or two — maybe a week or so, but that’s still under discussion — to allow an amendment process to play out,” he said.

He said lawmakers might need to “lock in” some amendments with Reid ahead of time, as well as sort out some “troublesome” provisions.

“There’s a way to do it, but we just have to have the will to do it — which I think we’re headed towards,” Kittredge continued.