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Inside Politics

House approves energy bill

Senate fate uncertain

From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau

Conference committee members Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, left, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, hold talks Monday.
Conference committee members Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico, left, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, hold talks Monday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House gave final approval to a Republican-crafted comprehensive energy bill Tuesday and sent it to the Senate where it faces a possible filibuster by Democrats.

The bill passed 246-180, with 46 Democrats joining 200 Republicans in favor of the measure and 25 Republicans voting against it.

GOP proponents said the bill's $23.5 billion in tax incentives for energy producers would help foster America's energy independence while strengthening the country's electricity grid and creating up to one million jobs for the struggling economy.

"To have good energy policy we have to have good investments," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said about the tax breaks.

Democratic opponents complained the bill is a taxpayer-supported giveaway to the energy industry, which has given millions to Republican candidates -- including President Bush.

Democrats said the measure would lead to more pollution and less conservation. They also complained that it gives a liability waiver to manufacturers of a gasoline additive, MTBE, that may contaminate drinking water.

"This bill is of, for, and by the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industry because they are the biggest supporters of the Bush Administration.," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts. "Energy conservation and renewables are given almost nothing because that a constituency that they just don't care about in this White House."

Among other things, the bill would double the use of corn-based ethanol in gasoline, a provision popular with corn state lawmakers; provide $18 billion in loan guarantees to build a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to Chicago; provide subsidies for the building of new nuclear power plants, and phase-out the use of MTBE.

Politically sensitive provisions that didn't make it into the bill include drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and higher fuel economy standards for cars.

The fate of the bill in the Senate remains uncertain as Democrats consider whether they have the votes and political will to filibuster the bill.

Democratic aides gave conflicting predictions Tuesday on what their Senators would do when the vote is scheduled, probably later this week.

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