From economics and health care to abortion and gay rights, Republicans and Democrats always seem to be on opposing ends of the political spectrum. So when it comes to another controversial topic, environmental regulation, it is surprising that the two parties might actually agree on something.
The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act was proposed by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Dem. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Also known as the Shaheen-Portman Bill, it would encourage businesses and homeowners to become more energy efficient by revising building codes, subsidizing worker training to promote innovative energy ideas, and helping industrial research develop more sustainable and cleaner energy practices for manufacturing.
It also requires the federal government to takes steps towards higher energy efficiency through the use of “information and communications technologies, including computer hardware, operation and maintenance processes, energy efficiency software, and power management tools,” according to Title IV of the bill.
The bill’s ability to help the environment while still benefiting companies and consumers has led to the accumulation of a wide support base. It is endorsed by over 200 businesses, organizations and other groups, ranging from various industrial companies to the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Foundation, with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans. .
“It has been a very bipartisan effort and it reflects what I believe is an affordable approach to the use of energy efficiency technologies,” Shaheen said in an address to the Senate. “It will help create private sector jobs, it will save businesses and consumers money, it will reduce pollution and it will make our country more energy independent.”
However, despite broad backing for the Shaheen-Portman Bill, its fate looks grim. Instead of debating about the bill itself, politicians argued over proposed amendments like the one Republican Senator David Vitter proposed that would delay funding for the Affordable Care Act. Another amendment would force Congress to take a position on the Keystone XL Pipeline. The deadlock over these non-germane amendments forced Senator Harry Reid to delay action on the bill earlier this month, and it is unclear if or when the bill will be taken up again.
According to Jack Shaner, Deputy Director and Senior Director of Legislative and Public Affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council, one of the reasons this happened to the Shaheen-Portman Bill is because of the high expectations for its success.
“The sad thing is there’s gridlock on Capitol Hill…so when there is a promising looking bill that has some momentum, it can be a target for amendments that can be good or bad and it’s very unfortunate that controversial issues unrelated can get tacked on to this bill that would otherwise have broad support from both parties,” Shaner said.
He also noted how this bill highlights Congress’ inefficiency in law making.
“If our politicians would put America first and politics second, this bill could fly through Capitol tomorrow,” Shaner said. “How ironic that a good red, white and blue proposal to increase America’s efficiency and competitiveness could be bogged down and sidetracked in the height of political inefficiency and regress.”