White House Loses Energy Bill: DeLay Rebuffs Bush Over MTBE
Well, surprise, surprise.
A day after I said with some certainty that the White House and Rove can find a way to get any bill they want when push comes to shove, look what happened when Dick Cheney ran into Joe Barton and Tom DeLay over the energy bill: DeLay and Barton won. Result: no energy bill victory lap for W.
The White House’s efforts to cut a deal with Congress to get the energy bill through with a compromise on the MTBE liability exemption failed tonight when Joe Barton and DeLay refused Cheney’s attempts to find a settlement. According the Bill Frist, the bill is now dead until after the holidays, if then.
Senate Republicans last night abandoned attempts to pass energy legislation this year after efforts by the White House to find a way out of the impasse that has stalled action on the bill since Friday failed to produce results.
Some senators in both parties expressed anger at a controversial provision in the bill that provides limited immunity from lawsuits to makers of the fuel additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether, which has been implicated in groundwater contamination in California.
House Republican leaders from Texas and Louisiana, where the product is made, insisted on the provision in negotiations with the Senate. Suggestions that it be modified were reportedly rejected over the weekend. Sources said an official in Vice President Cheney's office sounded out Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) about the possibility but was told there would be no further compromises with the Senate.
The White House was directly involved in the attempts to get a bill, but ran into a wall with Tom DeLay.
The stalemate is a significant setback for President Bush, a former oil executive who made developing a new energy policy an early goal of his administration.
But the legislation, which gained new momentum after the blackout in August, ran into significant opposition from conservation groups and lawmakers who complained they had been shut out of the negotiations over the bill.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was dispatched to the Capitol to explore the possibility of abandoning a particularly contentious provision that would grant limited legal protection to producers of a gasoline additive blamed for water pollution around the nation. Vice President Dick Cheney, who formulated the White House energy policy in 2001, also made telephone calls to important lawmakers, officials said.
Republicans involved in the talks said there was some receptiveness in the House, which insisted on the protection as part of the measure, to reaching a new agreement over MTBE. But an aide to the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, said Mr. DeLay was not interested.
"We see no need for a giveaway to trial lawyers simply because a minority of the Senate wants to filibuster the energy bill," said Stuart Roy, a spokesman for Mr. DeLay.
We’ll see how DeLay and Barton’s intransigence over aiding their MTBE benefactors at the expense of losing a bill that would lard pork on the whole energy industry will play with Bush’s campaign contributors. When push comes to shove, Tom DeLay can apparently give the finger to Bush and Cheney.