The Senate defeated several Republican amendments to the transportation bill yesterday, but the major ones all lost votes on the Democratic side. In fact, two got majority votes in the Senate, though they needed to cross a 60-vote threshold. The amendment to kill the EPA’s rule on limiting toxic emissions from industrial boilers failed 52-46; it received support from Bob Casey (D-PA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The vote to push forward the Keystone XL pipeline got even more Democratic support, with 11 Democrats in favor (it failed 56-42, with two Republicans who were sure to support it not voting):
Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Casey (D-PA), Conrad (D-ND), Hagan (D-NC), Landrieu (D-LA), Manchin (D-WV), McCaskill (D-MO), Pryor (D-AR), Tester (D-MT), Webb (D-VA)
Ben Nelson couldn’t vote for it because of the controversy surrounding the pipeline in Nebraska. Elsewhere, this is election-year politics at its finest, although Kent Conrad and Jim Webb aren’t even running again and they decided to support the pipeline. Tellingly, Harry Reid in his statement argued against the process rather than the pipeline itself:
Today the Senate voted against Republicans’ attempt to impose an artificial timeline and short-circuit the process needed to plan the best route for the Keystone XL pipeline. If Republicans truly want to move ahead with this pipeline, they should stop treating it like a political football.
Half of the pipeline is already being built, and the company building the pipeline is submitting another application for the remainder of the route. This process should be given time to work, and be governed by what will produce the best result – not by Republicans’ desire to appease the Tea Party or big oil companies.
While it’s definitely concerning to see that level of support for killing EPA rules and pushing forward toxic pipelines, the surface transportation bill itself will likely pass unscathed. And because the process has collapsed in the House, it’s likely that John Boehner will allow a vote on the Senate bill once it passes.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday said he plans to pass the Senate highway bill after an 11th hour effort to take up the House bill this month faltered.
“As I told the members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference Thursday.
“In the meantime, we’re going to continue to have conversations with our members about a longer-term approach, which frankly most of our members want. But at this point in time, the plan is to bring up the Senate bill — or something like it.”
The surface transportation bill is seen as must-pass and funding expires at the end of March, so it’s possible the House will attach some detestable rider to it and jam the Senate. But this is an admission of failure. Boehner put the transportation bill forward as his main achievement of the entire year, that would wrap up their jobs and energy agenda. And because he couldn’t get a buy-in from conservatives, it now lies in tatters. What a terrible Speaker of the House.