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Robert P.
Republican OH

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  • Unanimous Consents Request—H.R. 2126

    by Senator Rob Portman

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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    PORTMAN. Mr. President, I am also joined by our colleague from Alaska, the ranking member on the energy committee who will be the chair come January. I want to give her a chance to talk in a moment, but let me state a few things.

    First, this legislation represents a lot of hard work by a lot of people, including Senator Ayotte from New Hampshire, who spoke, Senator Shaheen also from New Hampshire, Senator Bennet, and others. It is an example of smart, bipartisan legislation that was worked out with the business community, with folks who are concerned about energy efficiency who are in nonprofits. It has no objection, as far as I know, in the real world; meaning there is no group, not a single group, that has objected to it.

    On the other hand, there are dozens of people who support it, including business groups, environmental groups, and people who want to have the opportunity on a voluntary basis--no mandates, as the Senator from New Hampshire has said, to be able to know that there is a certification that a building is energy efficient, to be able to have information.

    Second, I want to make the point that it is part of four provisions, one of which is urgent because it involves a decision we have to make now--tonight--in the Senate in order to keep a regulation from the Department of Energy unfairly imposed on businesses and consumers in America, and this is the water provision.

    So not only are we objecting to something I don't think anyone objects to in the real world, but also we are blocking something that would be good for our consumers and good for business.

    Because of our inaction tonight--because we had this objection for reasons we don't know because we have not been able in two nights on the floor to get a reason. All we heard was: We object. No reason. We are stopping the ability for companies to produce water heaters that are then used by rural electric co-ops that are used in an energy- efficient way, because during a peak demand they are turned off. So they could superheat the water and be turned off in peak demand, called demand response. It is an efficiency measure.

    The regulation doesn't make any sense that bans the production of these water heaters, but it is because of legislation that Congress passed that DOE feels they have to oppose the regulation.

    So tonight we had the opportunity not only to pass something good on Tenant Star, not only to do other things that are good for the Federal Government to become efficient--the biggest energy user in the world, by the way--but also we have an urgent matter before us; that is, to change this regulation before manufacturers are blocked from producing these water heaters.

    Rural electric co-ops all over the country are watching tonight, and they are disappointed. Why? Because they use these water heaters, and they use them in an energy-efficient way. They are not going to be able to do that going forward because manufacturers are literally having to stop producing these water heaters because we are not acting.

    So after the first of the year I hope we will be able to, in regular order, take this forward, and hopefully some of these manufacturers will begin to produce these water heaters again. Once we can take care of the regulations that are onerous on business owners and consumers and does not make sense for energy efficiency.

    Finally, this is part of what I hope will be the past Congress. I hope in the future Congress, which will start in January, that we do things in a different way. I hope we begin to look at ideas from both sides of the aisle, find common ground, and move forward in legislation to help the American people.

    This is a small matter. I understand that. It is a big matter if you are a rural electric co-op or if you are one of these commercial buildings that want to use Energy Star or if we care about the fact that we think about $5 billion is wasted in energy inefficiency by the Federal Government that could be addressed by some of the other provisions here tonight.

    I think this is, unfortunately, symbolic of where we are as a Congress. We can't even get simple things done.

    This legislation was reported out of the committee in the House unanimously--all four provisions. We are talking about the Republican- led House unanimously on the floor of the House passed by a vote of 375. I think it was 375 to 34, as I recall. We don't see those kind of bipartisan votes often.

    Then it came over here. It has gone through the energy committee. The energy committee's vote was something like 18 to 3, as I recall. It has come to the floor now for the third time--the fourth time, if we include last night.

    This legislation has been fully vetted. We have had hearings on it. We have done all the right things. We have played by the rules, and those of us who played by the rules on this legislation again are being stopped as we get to the floor of the Senate.

    I hope we will see not just good energy efficiency legislation passed in the next Congress but other legislation as well to deal with our Tax Code that is out of date, antiquated, to deal with the overreach and regulations, some of the regulatory reform measures that the Presiding Officer and I have talked about.

    We can deal with the fact that we are falling behind in terms of exports; that we are not dealing with some of our urgent problems we should be dealing with to get this economy moving.

    We have to change the way we are doing business around here. We are letting things move only in very incremental and, unfortunately, partisan ways. We are not allowing the process to work.

    So I am hopeful this legislation will be taken up in January. I am very disappointed it was objected to again tonight for no apparent reason. I am hopeful this will lead us to be able to better represent the people who hired us, the people who said: Go to Washington. I want you to find common ground because there are big problems to solve, not just give speeches. We have had enough of those. There is enough rhetoric. It is time to get things done. This is a small example of what could have gotten done tonight but for an objection with no apparent reason.

    With that, I appreciate the fact that my colleague from Alaska has stayed late to be able to talk about this tonight. She will be the next chair of the energy committee, and she has the ability. Working with her colleagues on the other side of the aisle, to get some great legislation accomplished, and I hope this will be one of them.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alaska.

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