Hopes Fading for Quick Senate Action on Energy Efficiency

June 5, 2013 - CQ News

Hopes by energy efficiency advocates for a quick and easy Senate vote on a broad power-savings bill are fading, with a floor debate seen slipping till possibly after the August recess.

Backers of the energy efficiency measure (S 761), sponsored by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, were hoping to secure floor time after completion of the farm bill (S 954) but before the start of the contentious debate over immigration legislation.

However, a Senate Democratic aide said Friday that debate on the Shaheen-Portman bill appears unlikely in June, while noting that both sides continue to work on an amendment agreement "to not have 100 votes."

While the bill — which is a revised version of legislation the pair offered in 2011 — enjoys wide political backing, the prospects of a flood of unrelated contentious amendments kept it off the Senate floor in the last Congress. Senators have already signaled they plan to offer amendments related to disputed federal building standards.

The Democratic aide said securing floor time in July is "hopefully an option," but efficiency advocates said debating the measure after the August recess might provide more time to work on the issues.

A Congressional Budget Office score released Friday came in significantly less than the $1.2 billion estimate assigned to an earlier version, though the CBO found that one new section in the current bill that allows federal agencies to enter into long-term contracts would increase direct spending by $350 million over 10 years.

That could be problematic, but a Senate aide said discussions continue over possible changes to make the bill deficit-neutral — a condition about which Shaheen and Portman have long been adamant. The CBO also found the measure would increase net discretionary spending by $210 million over five years, although the Senate aide said that amount would be offset by reduced authorizations to an existing program aimed at promoting energy-efficient commercial buildings.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Farm Credit Council.