What: All Issues : Corporate Subsidies : Agriculture : H.R. 6. Energy Policy/Vote on the Rules of Debate Governing House Consideration of the Energy Conference Report. (2003 house Roll Call 629)
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H.R. 6. Energy Policy/Vote on the Rules of Debate Governing House Consideration of the Energy Conference Report.
house Roll Call 629     Nov 18, 2003
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A key domestic priority for the Bush Administration has been to overhaul the nation's energy policies. In early 2001, Vice President Cheney, in concert with a number of highly placed energy industry representatives, drafted a comprehensive energy policy to increase the domestic production of oil by, among other things, creating new tax breaks for oil producers, expanding drilling operations in the U.S. including a highly-contentious proposal to drill for oil in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and easing environmental regulations on the oil and gas industry. The original energy plan, however, was defeated in Congress in 2001 and 2002 in large part because the proposed oil drilling in ANWR galvanized opposition to the energy bill among environmentally-minded lawmakers. In 2003, the administration dropped the ANWR provisions from its energy plan and added ethanol subsidies to attract support from lawmakers representing corn-producing states (ethanol, a gasoline additive, is made from corn). The modified energy plan was then adopted by the House and Senate, albeit in different forms, and a conference committee was convened to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation in the form of a conference report (a conference report is the product of conference committee negotiations and is the final version of a piece of legislation when each house of Congress has passed a different initial version of a bill). On this vote, Republican leaders sought passage of the rules governing debate on the energy conference report (before legislation can be debated on the House floor, a rule drafted by the House Rules Committee-which functions in essence as an arm of the majority party leadership-must be adopted). Progressives opposed the rules of debate based on their two main concerns with the underlying conference report. First, Progressives objected to a provision included in the conference report which would legally shield producers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, from any costs associated with cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by MTBE. Progressives pointed out that MTBE has been found to contaminate groundwater, has been linked to cancer, and that a liability waiver to MTBE producers would undermine the clean water standards that are codified in the Clean Water Act. Second, Progressives opposed what they characterized as overly-generous subsidies to the oil and natural gas industry contained in the legislation. The estimated $14.1 billion in public subsides for oil and gas producers, Progressives argued, would be better spent on developing renewable and pollution-free energy sources such as solar and wind power. Conservatives voted in favor of the motion to proceed based on their support for the energy conference report. In their view, increasing the domestic production of oil and natural gas was needed to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Additionally, they argued, the bill makes important steps toward modernizing the nation's energy infrastructure. On a vote of 248-167, the rules of debate were adopted and the energy conference report was allowed to proceed to a final vote.

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