Energy Bill May Be Split Up

Posted June 10, 2008 at 11:03am

After their energy package was blocked by the GOP this morning, Senate Democrats may choose to divide and conquer, splitting up the measure into more politically palatable pieces.

A motion to end debate failed Tuesday morning, 51-43, as it did not secure the required 60 votes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the vote had to be held open a long time because the Senate subway was broken. Reid said the Senate would move later in the day to votes on judicial nominations, signaling a possible compromise in that contentious area.

Speaking to reporters before the vote, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) signaled that he would be open to separating out less contentious provisions within the package, which called for an oil company windfall profits tax, rolls back $17 billion in tax breaks for energy companies, allows companies in oil-producing nations to be sued in U.S. courts and establishes a commission to investigate price gouging.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.), author of the windfall tax language, seemed to endorse the bill-splitting notion earlier this week.

The windfall tax has proven to be the most contentious component within the proposal, as many GOP lawmakers have complained that it would drive gasoline prices up further.

During the press conference, Dorgan focused on a provision that would crack down on speculation in the oil futures markets, to which many Republicans have been more receptive.

On Tuesday morning, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on the Senate floor called on Democrats to break the bill into several parts, saying language on speculation and price gouging would receive some GOP backing.

However, Patty Murray (D-Wash), Democratic Conference secretary, appeared less open to dividing the bill, arguing that Republicans should have voted for cloture and offered amendments that would strip the Democratic proposal of language they do not support.

“Republicans should not vote ‘no’ against an important bill,” Murray said.