Poison Pills Stall the Political Process

May 21, 2012
More than a year since its introduction, could Congress finally be ready to vote on S. 1000, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESICA) of 2011?

Despite a recent push by both Republicans and Democrats to bring the issue to the floor, the outlook is doubtful. ESICA will likely fall victim to the partisan, “poison pill” tactics that have stalled nearly every recent legislative measure presented before our current Congress.

The bill serves as a great enabler of efficiency, will help reduce America’s energy consumption, carries bipartisan support, is endorsed by numerous organizations and manufacturers, and even falls in line with President Obama’s efficiency goals.

S. 1000’s positives certainly outweigh its negatives. Congress needs to step up to the plate and hit this one out of the park, regardless of what lies ahead, who’s manning the Oval Office, or which party has control.

Bill Enables Efficiency

For those unfamiliar with this legislation, here’s a short summary of the bill. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ind., introduced ESICA last May. The bill gained bipartisan support and passed in committee.

Essentially, ESICA proposes to increase the use of energy-efficiency technologies in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors through home appliance test measures, Energy Star smart appliance credits, refrigerator and freezer standards, implementation of minimum EER standards for room air conditioners, uniform efficiency descriptors for covered water heaters, and more. The measure would provide incentives supporting investment in insulation, computer-controlled thermostats, efficient electric motors, and more.

The proposal has also gained the backing of more than 150 business, trade, and energy efficiency organizations including the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), and the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

Danfoss, Honeywell, Ingersoll Rand, Johnson Controls, Siemens Corp., and numerous other manufacturers have also pledged their support.

Election Year Politics

Yet with the big election looming in November, sitting politicians are more worried about protecting their hallowed voting records than America’s well-being. These party-driven public servants will very carefully do whatever they can to avoid casting difficult votes on measures that could tarnish their political careers, regardless of the potential impact on the rest of America.

And bills that do have a fighting chance — including S. 1000 — are likely to acquire so many party-specific poison-pill additions that the opposing side would never provide endorsement.

For example, look at the recent legislation proposed to lower federally subsidized Stafford student loan interest rates. Loan interest is scheduled to double (from 3.4 to 6.8 percent) if action isn’t taken by July 1. The increase could impact as many as 7.4 million student borrowers.

The Democrat-led Senate recently proposed S. 2343, the Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012. The bill was to be financed through an increase in payroll taxes for wealthy owners of privately owned companies — a proposal unlikely to ever gain support from most Republicans.

House-led Republicans countered with H.R. 4628, the Interest Rate Reduction Act, which passed the House, 215-195. This act would be financed through the elimination of a public health fund that prevents obesity, the use of tobacco, heart disease, and cancer, which has been a cornerstone of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

This perfectly illustrates the current political environment; each side seems intent on proposing solutions solely for political gain. Thus, the odds of S. 1000 ever making it past the my-way-or-the-highway labyrinth known as the 112th Congress is essentially nonexistent. You may have a better chance at beating Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a fight. Or matching the powerball in a Mega Millions drawing.

And if the Shaheen-Portman bill does make it to the floor, the measure may be impossible to pass — especially if it is coated with poisonous provisions designed to make it a tough pill for our partisan political system to swallow.

But, there is still time for our voices to be heard. The Alliance to Save Energy recently led a charge that landed more than 10,000 emails in senators’ mailboxes, urging them to ask their leaders to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. So consider fighting back against poison-pill politics by emailing your local representatives, contacting your association’s political action committee, and sharing your opinion with a neighbor. The more voices we have, the louder our charge.

Publication date: 05/21/2012

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