How To Reach C&ENACS Membership Number


 

December 1, 2003
Volume 81, Number 48
CENEAR 81 48 p. 10
ISSN 0009-2347


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

ENERGY, OTHER BILLS FOUNDER IN SENATE
Spending bills, taxes, and asbestos reform are among laws not passed

DAVID HANSON

Although President George W. Bush is basking in the success of passage of his Medicare reform bill (see page 27), his success was less apparent in other areas. The Senate failed to pass an omnibus energy bill last week, killing the measure for this year despite months of tough negotiations. Majority Leader William H. Frist (R-Tenn.) gave up on the bill after it became clear that he could not get the two votes he needed to break a filibuster over the conference report on the bill (C&EN, Nov. 24, page 10).

The problem that proved fatal was a provision in the conference report that provided a liability waiver for producers of the gasoline additive methyl tert-butyl ether, exempting them from lawsuits on cleanup costs from MTBE contamination. Although the provision was passed by the House, the Senate wanted to drop it. House leaders, however, insisted it stay, causing the impasse that shelved energy legislation until next year.

The energy bill was the most visible bill to fail in the Senate this year, but not the only one. The closely divided and argumentative body broke down on a number of other legislative efforts.

An attempt to legislate an end to costly asbestos litigation failed because Senate negotiators, led by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), could not agree on the size of a victim compensation fund to be paid for by companies and insurance firms.

A piece of environmental legislation that is stalled in the Senate would amend U.S. laws to make them compatible with international treaties to control persistent organic pollutants and require prior informed consent for chemical shipments to developing countries. Passing this measure is the only thing keeping the U.S. from being a full party to these agreements.

On tax matters, neither the Senate nor House has taken action to change the law on taxing income that companies receive from overseas operations. The current U.S. law was declared in violation of the World Trade Organization, and the European Union has vowed to place $4 billion of retaliatory duties on U.S. goods if the law is not changed by January.

More retaliation faces U.S. exporters next year because Congress has not repealed or amended the Byrd Amendment, a law that gives funds collected from antidumping fines to the U.S. companies affected. The World Trade Organization also found that this law is a violation of its rules and demanded that the U.S. change it before Dec. 27.

Finally, the Senate is expected to adjourn next week without completing it most fundamental job--passing all 13 appropriations bills for fiscal 2004. A $390 billion omnibus spending bill that includes the seven appropriations measures not yet passed by the Senate is expected to be approved by the House this month, but the Senate does not plan to vote on it until January. The government will not close down, however, as a continuing resolution on the 2003 budget is in effect until Jan. 31.



Top


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society



 
Related Story
Energy Bill Comes To A Vote
[C&EN, Nov. 24, 2003]

E-mail this article to a friend
Print this article
E-mail the editor
   

Home | Table of Contents | Today's Headlines | Business | Government & Policy | Science & Technology | C&EN Classifieds
About C&EN | How To Reach Us | How to Advertise | Editorial Calendar | Email Webmaster

Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.
• (202) 872-4600 • (800) 227-5558

CASChemPortChemCenterPubs Page