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A few weeks ago, electric-car enthusiasts in the Senate were optimistic about quick passage of a measure that would designate permanent parking spaces near outlets in Senate garages for recharging electric vehicles.
But concerns about costs, and perhaps a misunderstanding about what the bill would do, have slowed its momentum.
Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) refusal to allow the bill to be brought to the floor by unanimous consent has complicated prospects for the measure.
“Sen. McCain objected to passing the measure by unanimous consent because there’s no demonstrated need for spending thousands of dollars to install electric car charging stations,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said. “This is an expensive perk for Senators not enjoyed by average Americans.
“If the measure is such a priority, the Majority Leader can schedule floor time on it whenever he sees fit, allowing the Senate to debate and vote on it in the light of day,” Rogers said.
Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are the chief advocates of the bill that would direct the Architect of the Capitol to set aside parking spaces close to outlets for lawmaker- and employee-owned electric cars.
They tried without success to move the legislation via a unanimous consent agreement on the eve of the Senate’s adjournment for Easter recess.
At the time, aides for all three Senators characterized Republican objections as based on the notion that the bill would be costly. Anyone who charges his electric car on Senate property would have to pay a monthly fee that would likely exceed what it would actually cost to recharge an electric car battery, an Alexander aide said.
The bill’s advocates originally wanted to install recharging stations. But in the year since the bill was introduced, stakeholders have shifted to a cheaper alternative: designate parking spaces near electrical outlets, allowing electric car owners to supply their own extensions and plug in their cars.
Continued dialogue with concerned lawmakers, they suggested, would assuage opposition.
“Let me talk with Sen. McCain,” Alexander said Wednesday afternoon. He could not elaborate on how he would proceed with attempts to advance the bill but reiterated that “it’s a fairly simple housekeeping bill that establishes a way to make sure that owners of electric vehicles can plug their cars in while making sure it doesn’t cost taxpayers any money.”