POLITICS

Senate Tied Up In Spat Over Energy Efficiency Bill, Keystone

05/06/2014 05:41 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Continued fighting in the Senate over amendments to a bipartisan energy efficiency bill prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid to compare his Republican colleagues to "greased pigs" on Tuesday, after a lengthy explanation of what exactly those are.

"Oftentimes working with my Senate Republican colleagues reminds me of chasing one of these little pigs in a greased pig contest," said Reid. "Regardless of our efforts, any time we get close to making progress, it seems as though we watch it slip out of our hands, and the Republicans scamper away."

His comments referred in particular to an energy efficiency bill currently before the Senate. The bill, from New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Ohio Republican Rob Portman, made it through a cloture vote Tuesday morning, but has been bogged down in fights over how many and which amendments to the measure will get votes. The bill includes a number of efficiency measures, such as improvements to building codes, funding for research and development of new technologies, and incentives for the use of more efficient products. It also includes measures to encourage improved efficiency in appliances and buildings used by the federal government.

The energy efficiency bill passed out of committee a year ago, and went up for a debate on the Senate floor last September. But that debate got derailed when Republicans tried to attach a measure to delay the implementation of Obamacare.

"This bill has bipartisan support ... This is a fine piece of legislation, but it seems for the second time within a year passage of this bipartisan legislation is in question because Senate Republicans keep changing their request," said Reid on Tuesday. "And this time around the minority party seems intent on a repeat performance of last year."

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back on Reid's accusations. "I mean, goodness gracious, there is a way to finish this bill. It does enjoy broad bipartisan support," said McConnell. "We are simply asking for the opportunity to debate on and vote important energy amendments ... That's all we're asking for."

Reid had indicated that he would be willing to give Republicans a vote on one measure that they want to pass -- a bipartisan bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline -- in exchange for approval of the energy efficiency bill.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the prospects of that deal looked less likely, as Reid indicated that he would not allow votes on other Republican amendments to the energy efficiency bill. "If they want to vote on Keystone, they can have a vote on Keystone, but enough is enough," he told reporters, according to The Hill.

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