Energy Conference Update #36 (Closing Statement)

November 21, 2003
12:00 AM
Mr. President, we have come to the point of voting whether to proceed forward to a final vote on the energy bill conference report that will send this bill to the President for his signature, or to effectively set this conference report aside. Those of us who are about to vote against cloture do so, not because we are against having an energy bill, but because we are against having this energy bill. A view has been stated over the last few days that this particular conference report, with all its problematic provisions and excessive spending, is the only option if we wish to deal with our energy problems. It is argued that if we don’t pass it today, then energy is dead as an issue for this Congress. If you look at the facts, these statements are not logical. We are not at the end of a Congress. We are reaching the mid-point of one. There is nothing magical about passing energy legislation in odd-numbered years. The Energy Policy Act of 1992, in fact, achieved final passage a few weeks before a Presidential election. There is broad consensus in the Senate for enacting forward-looking energy legislation. We know this is true because, three and a half months ago, we passed an energy bill by a margin of 84-14. That bill would have made 35 trillion cubic feet of Alaskan natural gas available to the country, which this conference report will not. It saved twice as much energy as this conference report will. It gave a real boost to renewables in electricity. It took a modest first step towards dealing with the reality of global warming. It did not undercut the National Environmental Policy Act. It didn’t roll back the Clean Air Act. It didn’t exempt the Clean Water Act. It was $10 billion lighter on the tax side. It was another $3 billion lighter on other direct spending. It didn’t unfairly shift all the costs of building new electricity transmission to consumers who won’t get the full benefit of that transmission. It didn’t have embarrassing tax giveaways to build a mall anchored by a Hooters restaurant. It was a reasonably good bill. I have served on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for 19 years, longer than any other Member of my party. I didn’t get on that committee to filibuster energy bills. I got on to pass good ones. The reason why so many of us believe we should not proceed to pass this energy bill, is that many of the provisions that caused the earlier bill to have 84 votes have been taken out in conference. And an array of non-relevant and objectionable provisions have been added. It is almost as if a calculation was made that as long as you stuck ethanol provisions in a bill, and kept drilling in the Arctic Refuge out, there would be 60 votes for passing the bill and no one would much care about the details, and that was good enough for the country. Well, we are about to test that proposition. I hope it turns out to be wrong. If it turns out to be a miscalculation, and cloture cannot be invoked on this bill, then our job on energy will not be done in this Congress. In fact, this may be an opportunity to get things onto a better and more bipartisan track. Both sides have made their share of mistakes in assembling massive energy bills over this Congress and the last. Yesterday, Senator Nickles criticized the process Democrats used in the last Congress to move an energy bill to the floor, and many of his criticisms were valid. Throughout this Congress, Democrats have tried to make a constructive contribution to the bill, at every stage, even in spite of flawed processes that seemed excessively partisan and closed to us. But now, we are faced with a choice of voting for or against this bill in its totality. Those who oppose cloture, Democrats and Republicans, choose to do so because, in its totality, this conference report will not lead us to an energy future that is secure, clean, affordable, and fiscally responsible. If this conference report is rejected, I for one will continue to push for the enactment of a good comprehensive energy policy. It may be that, having tried twice to do it with 1000-page bills and failed, Congress should try a series of bills of more limited scope that might be able to pass with less controversy. Congress enacted several energy bills in the 1970s that way. I hope that if this conference report is rejected, once the dust has settled, we can resolve to work in a bipartisan fashion to do better for our country than this bill will do. I, and many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, regret that we cannot support moving it to enactment. # # #