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 BarrassoMcConnell will run for another term as leader despite Trump's attacks Senate Minority Whip Thune, close McConnell ally, to run for reelection Biden's court picks face fierce GOP opposition 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 KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (R-La.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks GOP senator blocks Biden EPA nominees over coal plant decision Biden raises vehicle mileage standards, reversing Trump rollback 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.

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 PortmanOvernight Defense & National Security — Texas hostage situation rattles nation Senators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support JD Vance raises more than million in second fundraising quarter for Ohio Senate bid MORE (R-Ohio) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenFormer aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India Senators to meet with Ukraine president to reaffirm US support Overnight Energy & Environment — Lummis holds up Biden EPA picks MORE (D-N.H.) to strengthen building codes to make new homes more energy efficient.

Another, proposed by Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Manchin told White House he would back version of billionaire tax: report Democrats look to scale back Biden bill to get it passed 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.