The idea is simple: The U.S. government, American homes and businesses should use energy more economically. Pro-environment members of the Democratic Party like the bill. They say it could help reduce gases linked to climate change. The bill also has support from Republican Senators who are concerned about government spending. They like the long-term probability of the bill reducing government spending on fuel and power. Members of both parties like the possibility of the bill creating jobs. The bill has the support of environmental and business groups alike.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it this way.
"This bill will make our country more energy independent, protect our environment, and save consumers on their energy bills. It would also create 200,000 jobs, American jobs."
So why did the bill die in the Senate? Minority Republicans used a procedural exercise, called a filibuster, to prevent a final vote. A filibuster happens when lawmakers use a long speech or series of speeches to extend debate. To end the debate, Republicans like Senator John Cornyn demanded that Democrats accept votes on other energy-related issues.
"I have no doubt this underlying legislation would pass. It will pass if the majority leader allows us an opportunity to offer and debate our proposals for improving the underlying bill."
Republicans want votes to approve an oil pipeline from Canada, and to halt new restrictions on coal-powered electric plants. Many environment activists are Democrats, and they oppose both Republican proposals. Democratic Senator Richard Durbin accused Republicans of abusing Senate rules to support programs hostile to the environment.
"The Republican Party of the United States of America is the only major political party in the world that is in denial of what is happening to our environment when it comes to climate change and global warming. And as a result, we are, I guess, stopped in our tracks."
Senator Durbin said the energy efficiency bill already includes many Republican proposals. But that is not enough for Senator Cornyn. He denounced Democrats' refusal to permit additional amendments before a final vote. Mr. Cornyn said he and other Republicans blocked the bill in protest.
"Well, we are not going to just shut up. We are not going to sit down and shut up."
Other recent measures blocked in the Senate includes an increase in the lowest wage permitted nationwide and extension of government assistance for the long-term unemployed.