- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003


Senate Republicans conceded defeat last night and dropped efforts to pass energy legislation this year after failing repeatedly to find the two additional votes needed to push the bill through Congress.

Top GOP senators couldn’t root out the additional votes among farm-state Democrats, while House Republican leaders balked at a change in the bill that would have removed a provision protecting makers of the gasoline additive MTBE from pollution lawsuits.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, concluded there was not enough time before the Senate was to begin its holiday recess to find a compromise that would be acceptable to the House and could overcome a Democratic-led filibuster in the Senate.

“Although Senator Frist remains committed to the energy bill, it appears in the short time we have left before we recess for the holiday, we will not be able to take up the energy legislation again,” said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Mr. Frist, adding that work would continue over the recess period “to bring all sides to an agreement.”

The MTBE liability shield had caused widespread Senate opposition to the $31 billion energy legislation, which included hundreds of provisions aimed at boosting and diversifying energy production.

Bush administration officials said the White House was ready to push for the legislation in January, confident that Republican leaders will be able to get the support needed to pass the bill by then.

The House easily passed the energy bill last Tuesday, but when it came to the Senate, a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, for different reasons, joined in blocking further action.

An attempt Friday to shut off debate and bring the measure up for a final vote fell two senators short of the 60 needed. Repeated attempts failed over the weekend to find two lawmakers willing to change votes, according to sources in both parties.

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