Republican senator calls out her party for energy bill riders

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) on Wednesday called out Republicans who tried to pile ObamaCare amendments onto bipartisan energy efficiency legislation that recently stalled on the Senate floor.

“What we need to reckon with is the fact that you have got a process that is being used for political advantage and gain rather than to advance policy,” she said.

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Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, blamed her own party and Democrats alike for letting the bill sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) get derailed. The Alaska senator and other advocates are hopeful it can resurface on the floor.

“Maybe we need to embarrass those in the leadership that it is high time that you focus on the policy side of this,” Murkowski said at an energy forum hosted by the group Center Forward.

She expressed hope that, if the bill returns to the floor, an agreement could be struck that only allowed energy-related amendments.

Murkowski said the Senate, as a whole, bears responsibility for the inability to advance the bipartisan bill. “I think, in fairness, we as a body need to be embarrassed about the fact that we cannot move an energy efficiency bill across the floor of the United States Senate. That should trouble all of us,” Murkowski said.

“It should trouble Harry Reid; it should trouble Mitch McConnell; it should trouble David Vitter and Ted Cruz and the guys that had tried to hold it up,” she said.

Murkowski expressed hope that the battles over ObamaCare playing out on the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling could enable the energy bill to advance later without getting bogged down in healthcare debates.

“If you can let some of the steam out, then maybe we have got some room to advance this energy efficiency [bill] without the weight of all this extraneous stuff,” she said.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) blocked debate on the energy bill last month by insisting that he get a vote — on the energy bill or elsewhere — on his ObamaCare amendment.

Vitter’s amendment would have required the president, the vice president and political appointees to use ObamaCare's health exchanges, and limit tax subsidies to help cover the premiums of federal employees, among other provisions.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated an amendment to delay the individual health insurance mandate for one year and codify the Obama administration's one-year delay of requirements that employers provide insurance.

The looming federal funding debate knocked the stalled efficiency bill off the floor in mid-September.

But Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Shaheen, Portman, Murkowski and what she said were “a few others” are still working to revive it.

“We need the ‘and a few others’ to grow so we can demonstrate to [Majority Leader] Harry Reid: 'Look, we have got 60 [votes] to move forward with this; we have got that support; give us the opportunity to come back [to the floor],'” Murkowski said.

“What we have been doing ... behind the scenes, not necessarily out on the front pages every day but what we have been doing is focusing on how can we build a bigger alliance here,” she said.

While Murkowski criticized efforts to link the bill to ObamaCare, she predicted that if it hadn’t been for those amendments, there would have been others that Reid found “equally onerous” and given him “cause to pause.”

The underlying energy bill contains measures to encourage better building codes, train workers in energy efficient building technologies, help manufacturers become more efficient and bolster efficiency in federal buildings.