March 26 2013
A crazy all-nighter in Washington doesn’t mean senators pub-crawling, singing ballads with their arms around each other, or dancing until daybreak.
Instead, it means voting on hundreds of amendments. At 4:30 a.m. early Saturday, Senator Mitch McConnell declared, “This is one of the Senate's finest days in recent years.”
Quite a party, I’d say.
Before the Senator’s energy died, in a series of votes early in the evening, Senators put themselves on record for supporting or opposing several key energy policies, including the Keystone Pipeline and a carbon tax.
The Keystone pipeline won a huge victory when 17 democrats joined republicans to endorse the project 62-37. The vote is purely symbolic, but puts extra pressure on President Obama to finally approve the pipeline. Following the vote Senator Hoeven of North Dakota bragged, “Both of these votes make it very clear that the Senate will approve this project if the president doesn’t.”
The State Department is considering another environmental impact analysis of the pipeline, and upon its publication, the department will have 90 days to approve the project. Yet some senators have noticed that voters are tired of all these delays and want more affordable energy now. In fact, Senator Baucus has introduced a plan that would take the authority to approve the pipeline from the State Department and give it to the Senate, a move that shows the Senate may actually start doing its job of lawmaking, instead of passing it on to regulators and unelected bureaucrats.
Furthermore, Senator Blunt submitted an amendment to call a point of order on any legislation that contains a tax on carbon, a policy concept that’s been getting a great deal of attention as a way to raise revenue for the government and discourage the use of fossil fuels. Any roadblocks to this tax are good for the American people. A carbon tax would be a big hit to the economy, slowing job creation and growth and pushing more and more manufacturing jobs overseas. Though Blunt’s amendment did not receive the 60 votes it needed to pass, it did receive a majority of votes: 53 with eight Democrats voting in favor.
Some have argued that these energy votes show deep divisions among Democrats regarding energy policy, and give the President incentives to force any policy changes through regulation instead of the legislative process.
But the President would do well to remember that we live in a democracy, and as set forth in our Constitution, it is Congress’s duty to make law. It’s great news that even the Senate seems to be re-embracing this basic foundation of our government.