“Shaheen-Portman is an energy efficiency bill, that, I’m told by Republicans, has ample bipartisan support. It will spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in private homes and commercial buildings, all at no cost to taxpayers… And it will create nearly 200,000 American jobs that cannot be exported.”
“For the second time within a year, the passage of this bipartisan legislation is in question because Senate Republicans keep changing their requests.”
“I invite all of my Republican colleagues to work with us in good faith. Help us pass this bill which creates jobs, saves money and puts our country on the track to energy independence.”
Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency legislation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Being from Nevada, I’ve been to a lot of small-town, rural rodeos in my life. They are always entertaining and a lot of fun for families. Sometimes these smaller rodeos have a greased pig contest. For all those who don’t know, a greased pig contest is exactly what it sounds like – the organizers cover a piglet in grease, and then invite children to try and catch the pig as it runs around the arena. The children sprint as fast as they can, trying to scoop up the scurrying pig – it’s an entertaining spectacle. Every time the kids try and clutch the squirming pig, their hands slip on the grease and the children topple over, crashing into the dirt with big smiles on their faces. Eventually, one child ends up with a pig in arms, but the majority of children crawl out of the mud empty-handed and covered with grease, regardless of how hard they tried. Sometimes, working with some Senate Republicans feels a lot like chasing one of those greased pigs. Regardless of all our efforts, anytime we get close to making progress it seems as though we watch it slip out of our hands, and Republicans scamper away.
Take as an example the legislation that is currently before the Senate. Shaheen-Portman is an energy efficiency bill, that, I’m told by Republicans, has ample bipartisan support. It will spur the use of energy efficiency technologies in private homes and commercial buildings, all at no cost to taxpayers. This legislation will make our country more energy independent and protect our environment. It will also save consumers and taxpayers money, by lowering their energy bills – saving $16 billion per year. And it will create nearly 200,000 American jobs that cannot be exported. I commend Senators Shaheen and Portman for their persistence in bringing this bill to the floor. But for the second time within a year, the passage of this bipartisan legislation is in question because Senate Republicans keep changing their requests. And this time around, the minority party seems intent on a repeat performance.
First, in order to allow us to vote on the bill, Senate Republicans proposed consideration of a “sense of the Senate” resolution on the Keystone Pipeline. Senate Democrats consented. Then, Republicans came back demanding a vote on a binding, stand-alone Keystone bill. And we have agreed to that. Then Republicans demanded a list of amendments to the bill. Now Republicans want more amendments from a year ago. Republicans don’t seem to realize that Senators Shaheen and Portman have already added ten new provisions, making this legislation even stronger than last year’s bill. To add further absurdity to the situation, the junior Senator from Louisiana pushed his never-ending poison pill, a harsh amendment which takes aim at the Affordable Care Act, stripping Congressional staffers of health insurance benefits. This is a virtual re-enactment of Republicans behavior last September. It seems like this is nothing but a game of diversion and obstruction to many Senate Republicans. But it’s not a game. Every time a group of Republicans feigns interest in bipartisanship, only to scramble away at the last moment, it is part of a calculated political scheme.
On the very night of President Obama’s first inauguration, a group of Republican political consultants, Members of Congress and presidential hopefuls gathered to discuss their plans for regaining power. They devised a plan to oppose all legislation and all nominees in order to make President Obama and Democrats look ineffective. To make the United States of America look ineffective. Since that meeting, Senate Republicans have worked hard to do just that – obstruct, filibuster, and stop the legislative process. Instead of working with Senate Democrats to pass meaningful legislation that helps American families, Republican leadership has shown more interest in agreeing to nothing.
So as Senate Republicans continue to play “hard-to-get” with Democrats who are working in good faith, the American people’s frustration grows. This bill presents a unique opportunity for all of my Republican colleagues – a chance to work with us in crafting and passing bipartisan legislation. I and my Democratic colleagues have been flexible throughout this process, and we hope to reach an agreement that gives both sides most of what they want. But time is running out on this good piece of legislation – again. So I invite all of my Republican colleagues to work with us in good faith. Help us pass this bill which creates jobs, saves money and puts our country on the track to energy independence.