Senate Democrats Hold Up Energy Spending Bill

Originally published by: The HillApril 29, 2016

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For the second straight day, Senate Democrats blocked consideration of an energy and water spending package due to a proposed amendment dealing with the Iran nuclear agreement.

Democrats have broadly rejected an amendment to the bill that would block the U.S. from buying heavy water, a component of nuclear reactors and weapons, from Iran, a transaction the Obama administration announced last week.

The amendment, from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), isn’t pending and isn’t yet due to receive a floor vote. But Democrats have said they’re not willing to take the chance of it being attached to the bill and becoming a partisan policy rider already opposed by the White House.

“If the Republicans insist on these poison pill amendments — and there's no question that's what it is — we're going to have to continue as we have," Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a floor speech.

Cotton has said he’s willing to rewrite his amendment and even bring it up with a 60-vote threshold for passage, a higher figure than an amendment would normally require.

But Democrats have resisted even the chance of that happening. They voted to filibuster the bill on Wednesday, and did so again Thursday afternoon.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday queued up another cloture vote on the bill for later on. He said Thursday morning that Democrats were putting the whole appropriations process at risk by blocking the energy and water bill. 

"They couldn't wait a single week before throwing an obstructionist wrench into the appropriations process they claim to want," he said. 

"I hope they're not dusting off the old filibuster summer playbook, especially in light of the letter they just sent to me about win-win opportunities and restoring regular order." 

The $37.5 billion energy and water spending bill funds the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers, among other programs. The Senate bill came to the floor this week without many of the partisan riders included in the House version, raising hopes the Senate may be able to move the legislation forward.