Lawmakers failed again Wednesday to reach a compromise on how to address the rising cost of gasoline, with no deal in sight before Congress adjourns for its five-week summer break on Friday.
The impasse centers on Republican demands that any energy plan include a provision to expand domestic oil drilling to areas currently off-limits, including a wildlife reserve in northern Alaska and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Democrats oppose the idea, saying oil companies already have millions of available drilling acres on land they're not using.
Senate Republicans Wednesday blocked a wide-ranging Democratic measure that would extend tax breaks to an array of renewable-energy entrepreneurs. The measure, which also called for tax breaks for teachers, businesses and parents, failed to proceed on a vote of 51-43, with 60 votes needed to end a filibuster.
And in the House, a Democratic proposal to counter oil-market speculation fell victim to the drilling dispute and failed by a vote of 276-151. The tally was nine votes short of the two-thirds needed for approval because the measure had been offered under expedited rules imposed by the Democrats to avoid Republican attempts to attach an offshore-drilling provision.
Senate Democrats said the tax breaks for renewable energy would lead to increased production of renewable-energy sources, such as wind, solar and battery power, and would lessen the nation's dependency on oil. They added the bill would help create thousands of new jobs in the renewable-energy industry.
While Republican leaders said they generally supported the tax breaks, they opposed the bill in part because the tax credits would be offset with tax increases elsewhere in the budget.
But Republicans in both chambers opposed the measures in an attempt to pressure Democrats to bring Republican proposals to increase domestic oil drilling to the floor for a vote.
"This is no substitute for a real bill on drilling," declared House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who accused Democrats of using the oil-market speculation measure to "divert attention" from their refusal to allow a vote on offshore oil drilling.
A potential deal in the Senate also broke down Wednesday after senators failed to agree on amendments attached to a proposed Democratic energy bill aimed at curbing excessive speculation in the petroleum futures market, which many experts say has contributed to rising gas prices at the pump.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, had earlier this week offered Republicans four amendments after Republicans requested dozens. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on Wednesday said he agreed to the offer, but Mr. Reid denied a compromise had been reached.
"We've tried so hard to do something on energy. We've been trying for months," said Mr. Reid. "But Republicans have basically rejected everything."
Republicans said Democrats balked after calling their bluff, adding that Democratic leaders are afraid to allow a vote on any Republican proposal to increase domestic oil production because they fear many of their members would cross party lines and support such a measure.
"Democrats keep moving the goal posts," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart. "They can't take 'yes' for an answer."
But Democratic leaders accused Republicans of exploiting the energy crisis for political gain.
"Every time, the Republicans say they'll accept something, but every time you get down in the weeds, they want five or six more" things, said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.
cThis article is based in part on wire service reports.