Is it time to throw in the towel on the Shaheen-Portman bill?
Since its 2011 introduction, the bill has undergone many facelifts, but has yet to gain enough bipartisan support to earn President Barack Obama's signature. The bill — for whatever reason — just never seemed to fit in with the masses. It's Congress’s proverbial ugly duckling.
And, recent Senate reappointments and departures may serve as the bill's final eviction notice. Longtime supporters, Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., recently vacated the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, respectively. Baucus was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to China; Wyden will replace Baucus as Senate Finance Committee chair.
The Finance Committee, under Baucus, discussed energy tax reforms that would create technology-neutral energy incentives and consolidate tax breaks into clean electricity and clean transportation categories. The 10-year, $150 billion reform was lauded by many.
In its three-year tenure, whenever Shaheen-Portman hit a snag, Wyden seemed committed to finding an alternative method of getting it through, tirelessly touting the bill’s ability to create jobs, save money, and help suppliers sell environmentally proven materials.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., will soon replace Wyden as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. And, while Landrieu is familiar with the bill -- voting to add an amendment loosening green-building requirements and broadening the types of usable products in federal projects -- her interest pales in comparison to that of Baucus and Wyden. Being from Louisiana, she will most likely fill the committee’s agenda with issues pertinent to Lousiana, such as gas, oil, and the state’s recent rejection of a statewide utilities energy-efficiency plan. While Shaheen-Portman may remain on the horizon, the bill may soon encounter its final sunset.
Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Congress somehow recognizes the bill’s widespread potential. Maybe this outcast blossoms into a beautiful swan and becomes one of Congress’s greatest Obama-era achievements. Only time will tell, and, based on recent history, we could be waiting quite a while.