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November 21, 2003   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
November 21, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate failed by two votes to invoke cloture on the energy bill conference report, making it doubtful that the bill will pass before Congress leaves for the year.

The recorded vote was 57 for and 40 against which is three votes short of the 60 required to cut off debate. However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist changed his vote so that he could file a motion to reconsider. Frist said another vote could be held be held prior to year's end and possibly as early as next week.

Minority Leader Tom Daschle voted for cloture and asked the Senate to send the bill back to conference to remove the "safe harbor" provision that exempts the manufacturers of MTBE, a gasoline additive, from product liability suits -- a provision he said was as a lightning rod for opponents of the bill.

But DELTA FARM PRESS reports that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., the chairman of the House-Senate energy bill conference committee, said before the vote that such an action would be impossible because the conference committee had already been dissolved.

"The House has met and approved this bill," he said, "The conference committee's work is done and it has disbanded. If you don't vote to end debate and then pass this bill, you will have thrown away the chance to pass the ethanol provisions and other much-needed provisions in this bill."

"The Senate missed a tremendous chance today to create jobs, reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, help protect air and water quality and foster growth in rural areas," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "Once again, politics has gotten in the way of providing new opportunities for America's farmers.The bill would have created significant new economic opportunities for farmers and rural workers to produce clean, renewable energy while at the same time ensuring that users of energy will have secure and reliable supplies to run their operations."

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