- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2014

Fed up with what they see as dictatorial behavior by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Republicans on Monday filibustered to block an energy efficiency bill, dooming it to defeat for a second time in less than a year and signaling just how bad relations have gotten in the upper chamber.

Democrats fell four votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster, with several of their own members absent and winning just three Republicans’ support.

“It’s a shame that all the hard work that’s gone into this ended basically in a draw tonight,” said Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, who was unable to shepherd the bill through the political minefield that the Senate floor has become.

The energy bill would have pushed for stricter efficiency standards in federal buildings, and would have offered incentives for businesses and homes to modernize in energy-saving ways.

It had broad support from both parties but, like so many other bills in the last few years, it fell victim to Republicans’ desire to have a more freewheeling debate than Mr. Reid, who is trying to keep a tight handle on floor debates, was willing to see.

Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who co-sponsored the energy bill and was one of the three Republicans who voted with Democrats to overcome the filibuster, sounded an exasperated note afterward, calling the defeat “yet another disappointing example of Washington’s dysfunction.”

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Republicans leaders said they wanted to be able to pick five amendments, all energy-related, to offer on the bill. But Mr. Reid refused, saying he had agreed to hold a stand-alone vote later on a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, but not on a handful of other amendments.

He said the GOP was breaking an agreement.

“Republican obstruction is bringing the Senate to its knees again and again and again,” Mr. Reid said.

But Republicans took a different lesson from the back-and-forth. They viewed the fight as another chance to try to break Mr. Reid’s firm control of the chamber, which the Nevada Democrat uses to decide which amendments he will allow to come up for votes.

“Let the amendments be offered. That’s what the Senate’s about,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office has crunched the numbers and concluded that July was the last time Mr. Reid allowed a somewhat freewheeling debate.

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In the 10 months since, the GOP has been given just eight roll call votes on its own amendments. By comparison, Republicans in the House have allowed roll call votes on 125 Democratic amendments, according to Mr. McConnell’s count.

But Democrats, who control the chamber, said they’d already made major concessions by agreeing to allow an eventual vote on building the Keystone pipeline, which would bring oil from Canada’s tar sands to the U.S.

President Obama’s administration has repeatedly delayed a final decision on building the Keystone pipeline, despite pressure from some of his own union allies.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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