Energy bill heald up in Senate over health care fight, prompting charge of anarchy
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained on Thursday that “anarchists have taken over” the Senate after a Republican senator blocked business on an energy bill to demand a vote on an unrelated healthcare measure.
“We’re in a position here where people who don’t believe in government, and that’s what the Tea Party is all about, are winning,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat, on the Senate floor.
Among the amendments to the energy bill that have not received a vote is one sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, a Democrat, that would require more information in utility bills that he says will help consumers save money and power by taking advantage of price changes in power throughout the course of a day.
Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, said he would block any votes on amendments to an energy efficiency bill unless the Senate agrees to consider his bill that would remove federal subsidies for health care coverage for members of Congress, employees of the executive branch, and their employees, and instead require them to purchase insurance from exchanges.
“No special deal, no special exemption, no special subsidy,” Vitter said on the floor, explaining why he wants a vote on a measure favored by many opponents of President Obama’s health law.
Vitter rose many times throughout the day to argue in favor of his demand, and object to attempts by Democrats to schedule votes. He said he would stop his objections if Democrats scheduled a vote on the health care measure any time before Oct. 1, when much of Obama’s health law is scheduled to be implemented.
“What I’m looking for here in the Senate is simply to lock down and be assured of one fair up or down vote on this crucial issue,” Vitter said. “There are plenty of different ways to get there.”
Reid announced just after 3 p.m. Thursday that the Senate would not take any votes until next week, leaving the dispute unresolved.Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.