Senate Republicans Flailing as They Try to Push Through Energy Bill

Senate Republicans are having a bad week. A proposal to push the energy bill through Congress by attaching it to the more popular and pressing transportation bill was roundly rejected yesterday. President Bush told Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Monday that he wants costs cut substantially on both the energy bill and the transportation bill, a move many observers say is a response to election-year concerns over the budget deficit. Congressional leaders managed to pare down the energy bill’s costs by more than half (from $31 billion to $14 billion) by eliminating several business-friendly tax breaks and other costly provisions; they also cut a controversial provision that would shield manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE from legal liability (a change that House Republicans adamantly oppose). Despite these concessions, the energy bill still faces substantial opposition within the Republican Party from lawmakers who feel, like Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), that the bill is too expensive and uses “a lot of gimmicks, a lot of B.S.”