Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) successfully thwarted efforts for the full Senate to vote on an energy plan before the year 2001 came to an end. Daschle ignored pressure from a coalition of Teamsters, labor-friendly Democrats, and Senate Republicans to allow a floor vote after a coalition-supported bill cleared the Democrat-controlled Senate Energy Committee.
Daschle scuttled the coalition bill because, as part of an attempt to strike a balance between increasing energy production and greater conservation incentives, it would allow natural resource recovery in a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Many Senate Democrats who would normally be expected to vote with the environmental lobby against ANWR are poised to vote for a limited amount of natural resource recovery in light of the nation’s growing energy needs and the substantial number of jobs that would be created by the plan.
Republicans fail to attach to railroad bill
With Daschle preventing a stand-alone vote on the coalition energy bill, Senate Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to attach the bill to other Daschle-favored legislation prior to the Senate’s Christmas adjournment.
The Republican leadership sought to attach the energy bill and a bill banning human cloning to a measure that would allow the railroad industry’s pension fund to be invested in the stock market and government bonds. However, the strategy backfired when some proponents of the energy bill refused to support a bill that included the cloning ban. Foreseeing they would lose the energy vote due to the attendant cloning bill, the Republican leadership on December 3 withdrew its support for the cloning/energy package.
“We ended up picking ourselves off,” commented Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), chairman of the Republican conference.
“In all my years, I don’t recall a more unusual marriage of issues involving public policy than this one,” Daschle agreed.
Republican leaders vowed that in the future they would attach only one bill at a time to legislation favored by Daschle.
Daschle unveils own energy plan
Daschle followed up his railroad pension fund victory by unveiling his own energy bill on December 5. The measure resuscitates many of the mandatory conservation and alternative fuel policies last seen during the Jimmy Carter administration. Specifically, the Daschle bill would:
- spend more tax dollars on energy conservation research;
- require American consumers to more than double their purchase of ethanol and bio-diesel gasoline;
- give the federal government more power to regulate the energy industry;
- require American consumers to purchase 500 percent more energy from “renewable” sources, such as wind and solar power;
- allow alternative-fuel vehicles to travel in High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes on interstate highways; and
- provide more federal funds to pay the energy bills of low-income families.
Additionally, Senate Democrats plan to add language requiring higher fuel mileage standards for cars and light trucks.
Daschle promised his energy bill would “strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and provide energy security for decades to come.”
Countered Republican Senator Frank Murkowski of Alaska, “What this is really all about is a charade, a charade as a consequence of the extreme zealous environmental groups that are opposed to an energy bill and opposed to opening up ANWR.”
Observed Patrick Michaels, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, “To achieve more independence in energy, you have to produce more domestic energy. That is precisely what Mr. Daschle’s bill doesn’t do. Instead, it hearkens back to decrepit, discredited solar energy, which will never provide us much unless the sun blows up. In that case we’d have much bigger fish frying. Mr. Daschle’s bill also promotes windmills, which are plumb ugly, and stop working precisely when energy demand is the greatest (during the hottest or coldest temperatures, which usually occur under calm conditions).”
Added Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), “As a collection of failed policies, idiotic and expensive new programs, and government payoffs to special interests, Daschle’s bill has few equals in the history of Congress. It looks like a bigger version of the Dark Ages policies of the 1970s that produced high energy prices and long lines at the gas pumps.”
“Daschle’s bill is anti-consumer. It would raise prices and reduce choices for Americans, and it would waste tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on subsidies for things that have already been proven not to work,” said CEI senior policy analyst Ben Lieberman.
Daschle stated he would call for a vote on his plan by the end of February, but would not allow a vote on any bill that would allow drilling in ANWR.
Teamsters challenge Daschle tactics
Daschle’s posturing notwithstanding, pressure continued to mount across the political spectrum for a full Senate vote on ANWR.
“Several members of the other side don’t want a vote on ANWR because they know they would lose,” said Murkowski. “They didn’t have the votes in committee and we did.”
Added Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, “Exploring in the ANWR is clearly the right thing to do. It will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, while creating thousands of jobs for working families. A vote on the energy package must not be delayed any longer.”