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Lawmakers weigh walking back amendment stalling energy bill votes

Lawmakers weigh walking back amendment stalling energy bill votes
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers are working on a compromise to an amendment that risks stalling an otherwise popular energy package.

The American Energy Innovation Act would spur research and development into a number of types of energy, the first major package on the topic in over a decade.

But an amendment to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in refrigerators and air conditioners is holding up a broader vote.

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Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court upholds ruling invalidating Dakota Access, but doesn't shut down pipeline | Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency | Biden seeks to bolster consultation with Indian Country Senate to vote Tuesday on Biden's secretary of State pick MORE (R-Wyo.) is fighting for language that would block states from setting their own stricter standards on the substance. 

The White House has also expressed opposition to the amendment, echoing Barrasso's position. 

Barrasso told The Hill Thursday he is working with amendment sponsors Sens. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports MORE (D-Del.) to tweak the amendment, arguing such legislation should have passed through the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that he chairs.

“This is trying to airdrop something into the energy bill that's been referred to another committee. The idea of having committees is to vet ideas,” Barrasso said. “They chose to bypass the committee process and ignore some of the suggestions or have not yet accepted some of the suggestions that I think would help improve it.”

When asked for comment by The Hill, Kennedy said only, "We're working on it."

Kennedy and Carper gave passionate floor speeches on Wednesday, pleading with lawmakers for movement on their amendment.

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Kennedy in particular argued no one senator should hold up a vote.

"It doesn't mean to have to vote for it," he said. "You can vote against it. But please let the entire body have a vote. Because that is what democracy is supposed to be about."

Carper also argued the preemption issue should not stall a vote.

“Let's go ahead and get the bill out, get it through the process, through the House, and then later on if we need to revisit the issue of preemption, and we can do that,” Carper told reporters Tuesday, arguing the legislation is widely back by both industry and environmentalist.

“Nobody’s asking for this,” he said of industry groups.

Lawmakers have proposed adding numerous amendments to the American Energy Innovation Act, which is seen as  the best chance this year for passing legislation to expand the use of cleaner forms of energy.

One proposal would seek to incorporate provisions from Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFormer Ohio state health director reportedly considering Senate bid Senate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE (R-Ohio) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over MORE (D-N.H.) to strengthen building codes to make new homes more energy efficient.

Another, proposed by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWhat the shift in Senate control means for marijuana policy reform Hawley files ethics counter-complaint against seven Democratic senators Hillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution MORE (D-Ore.), would aim to expand tax incentives for electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The Portman-Shaheen provision has bipartisan support, but is opposed by groups including the National Association of Home Builders.

Portman emphasized to The Hill on Thursday that the codes would be voluntary and at states’ discretion. 

"It is better information for states and localities to be able to come up with better codes, but they don't have to accept it. Who could be against that, right?" he said. 

Updated at 4:55 p.m.