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Keystone pipeline bogs down US Senate energy bill

WASHINGTON -- A widely popular, bipartisan energy savings bill fell victim in the U.S. Senate on Monday to election-year politics and the Obama administration's continued indecision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Republicans are united in favor of the pipeline and against new power plant regulations in the bill, while Democrats are deeply divided on both. Republicans hope to gain control of the Senate and increase their majority in the House of Representatives in the November midterm congressional elections.

The stalled legislation would tighten efficiency guidelines for new federal buildings and provide tax incentives to make homes and commercial buildings more efficient. It easily cleared a procedural hurdle last week but stalled after Republican demand for votes on the Canada-to-Texas pipeline and on new administration-proposed greenhouse gas limits for coal-burning power plants.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used a parliamentary maneuver to block Senate votes on the pipeline and power plant rules as part of the energy savings bill. But a procedural motion to limit debate and send the measure to the Senate floor without amendments fell five votes short of the 60 votes needed for approval.

Reid said Monday that Republicans were “still seeking a ransom” on the energy bill by insisting on the Keystone amendment and other votes. He said he had agreed to a long-standing request from pipeline supporters for a separate vote on the pipeline if its supporters would let the efficiency bill sail through un-amended.

Republican Minority Whip John Cornyn called Reid's maneuver disappointing.

Election-year politics loomed on all sides.

Democrats said Republicans were unwilling to hand a victory on the energy efficiency bill to Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a co-author of the bill who is facing a re-election challenge in New Hampshire from Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Republican Sen. Rob Portman also co-authored the energy legislation.

Shaheen said people “across the country lost out today because of election-year politics,” while Portman called the vote “a disappointing example of Washington's dysfunction.”

Partisan discord was so strong that three Republican senators who co-sponsored the energy legislation voted against it Monday to protest the exclusion of amendments.

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