Democratic Gas Plan Not Expected to Get 60 Votes

Posted June 9, 2008 at 3:41pm

Senate Republicans are expected to force another political showdown over the Democratic gasoline package when it hits the Senate floor on Tuesday.

A Republican aide predicted that the energy package, offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), would not receive the necessary 60 votes in order for the Senate to proceed to debate. If that fails, next on the agenda would be a motion to proceed to a measure to extend expiring tax breaks for renewable energy.

If that also fails, it is possible debate could revert to the global warming legislation, but Reid could stave that off with another cloture vote on a motion to proceed.

Some Republicans felt the global warming bill could help them score political points because, they argued, it would actually raise energy costs at a time of soaring gas prices. They criticized Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for holding up debate on that bill with a fight over judicial nominees.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the primary proponent of windfall profits tax on big oil companies that is the central plank of the Democrats’ energy plan, told reporters Monday afternoon that Republicans are in “obstruction mode” against Democrats, preventing them from offering their proposal to decrease prices at the pump.

“If [Republicans] are not going to give us cloture, they are saying that ‘four-dollar gas prices are OK with us.’ But that is not OK with us Democrats,” Schumer said.

Schumer was partly referring to chaos on the floor last week when McConnell forced the clerk to read a nearly 500-page climate bill offered by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.).

Senate Republicans appeared to be enjoying the debate on the climate change legislation as they took shots at Boxer and the Democratic proposal, arguing that it would raise gas prices even further heading into the summer vacation season. Republicans hammered Democrats for putting the bill on the schedule and preventing GOP lawmakers from offering amendments, thus making the case that Democrats were not serious about it.

Democrats hope to put Republicans back on the defensive this week. One Democratic aide said that after learning from last week’s debate, Democrats plan to push back at every Republican charge.