Senators Now Sparring Over Energy Negotiations

Posted July 24, 2008 at 4:23pm

As movement ground to a halt on the energy bill at the end of this week, Senate leaders are now bickering over the state of negotiations.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) sought to clarify talks between Democratic and Republican leaders on Thursday, saying that he had given Republicans the chance to offer up to three amendments on the speculation bill, which is sponsored by him and other members of the Democratic leadership.

Those GOP amendments could have specifically dealt with expanding nuclear energy, reining in speculation and some form of domestic drilling.

Reid also noted that he discussed with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a vote on a handful of amendments and not just a deal on one package that would include various energy-related items.

“Republicans aren’t interested in doing anything. On the Senate floor, we offered them the ability to vote. They don’t want to vote,” Reid said.

However, Reid’s comments appeared to conflict with what he told reporters earlier in the week. Reid was asked if there was any middle ground between two votes on a Democratic and then Republican energy package, and the possibility of voting on 28 amendments sought by the GOP. At the time, Reid emphatically said “no.”

With a week to go until the scheduled August recess, Reid rejected the idea of Republicans offering a minimum of 28 amendments to the energy bill. That would put the number of amendments between Republicans and Democrats at 56 if the two sides agreed to a side-by-side process.

Reid’s comments came on the heels of statements made by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also said that Democrats offered a side-by-side amendment deal to Republicans that would pit a Democratic and GOP package against each other. Both packages would need 60 votes in order to pass.

What is more, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) outright rejected the notion that there were ever formal negotiations between himself and Durbin. Kyl said there had been a conversation on the Senate floor and one over the telephone with Durbin, but nothing had come of those conversations.

Kyl said there was never an attempt to get GOP input on the speculation bill, rather Democrats never wanted to pass an energy bill, but instead “check the box and say, ‘We tried to deal with energy.'”