‘Gang of 10’ Drops Plan to Offer Energy Bill

Posted September 19, 2008 at 9:22am

The Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of 10” will announce later Friday that it will not produce a comprehensive energy bill as it had planned.

After narrowly avoiding a complete disbanding earlier this week, the gang is poised to say it hopes to remain a influential player in next week’s Senate energy debate, but that it is not politically feasible for the gang to offer its measure.

A Senate leadership deal this week on tax extenders and energy credits “gutted” the gang’s bill, according to one Democratic aide. The deal between Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) not only stole key energy tax credits from the gang’s bill but also pilfered a major offset the gang was to use to pay for its measure. While the gang was planning on repealing a manufacturing tax break widely used by oil companies, Reid and McConnell agreed to freeze that tax break for future years to pay for their bill.

At a gang meeting earlier this week, the agenda included a plan to vote on whether to completely disband, the Democratic aide said. The issue arose after it became clear that the bill would garner few votes outside the 20 Members who joined the gang in the past several weeks. Democratic and Republican leaders appeared to have been working quietly behind the scenes to undercut support for the measure.

However, Gang of 10 leaders Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) argued that the group should stay together to fight another day, as well as take credit for putting issues on the map that were later adopted by Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The gang’s bill would have opened offshore drilling in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and more of the Gulf Coast, while pushing for more conservation and development of renewable energy sources.

Without the gang’s bill, the Senate debate next week will likely focus on partisan bills produced by each party.