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Facing unified GOP opposition, Senate Dems shelve vote on energy bill

From Ted Barrett, CNN Congressional Producer
  • Democrats and Republicans had competing energy bills
  • Reid shelves vote on Democrats' bill, as it faced unified GOP opposition
  • Reid: "It's a sad day when you can't find a handful of Republicans" for support
  • GOP says Reid is to blame for rushing the bill through without shoring up support

Washington (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved plans to vote Wednesday on a slimmed-down energy bill that Democrats had hoped to pass before the August recess.

Citing unified Republican opposition to the proposal, Reid said, "It's a sad day when you can't find a handful of Republicans to support a bill that would create 70,000 clean-energy jobs, hold BP accountable, and look at a future as it relates to what BP did."

However, Republicans blamed Reid for rushing through his bill and not first shoring up support across the aisle.

"Sen. Reid is predictably blaming Republicans for standing in the way of a bill that he threw together in secret and without input from almost any other member of the Senate," said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the energy committee. "Process alone guaranteed its failure, although substance would have as well had Sen. Reid actually brought his bill up for debate or a vote."

The Democratic bill, which was long ago stripped of its most controversial components such as limits on carbon emissions, had three main parts: It would have eliminated the $75 million cap on economic damages offshore oil drillers would be responsible for and reformed federal government oversight of offshore drilling; it encouraged the use of natural gas engines in commercial trucks; and it promoted high efficiency appliances in homes.

Republicans planned to offer an alternative bill that included lifting the Obama administration's blanket moratorium on deepwater drilling, setting up a bipartisan commission with subpoena power to investigate the Gulf oil disaster and propose reforms, and allowing for revenue sharing for states that permit offshore drilling.

The Senate Wednesday was to set aside the confirmation of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court in order to debate and vote on the competing energy bills. Leaders in both parties have known for days passage was highly unlikely for either side's bill.