Friday, March 16, 2012

Pickens Plan Defeated By 47 Senators, Even As War With Iran Looms

The real prospect of a war with Iran is not enough.  Gasoline prices averaging nationally more than $3.80 and over $4 in four states is not enough.  Despite these threats to our national and economic security, forty-seven senators were enough to defeat the Pickens Plan or the Natural Gas Act on tuesday in the US Senate.

The Pickens plan was defeated, even though 51 senators voted for it, since majority rule in the Senate ended once and for all, when Senator McConnell of Kentucky at the start of the Obama presidency routinely invoked Senate rules (filibusters) that require 60 votes to end debate or to pass the vast majority of important legislation.  The defeat of the Pickens Plan by 47 senators proves once more that the US Senate is totally dysfunctional.

While the Pickens plan is co-sponsored by Democratic senators Menendez of New Jersey and Reid of Nevada, and Republican senator Burr of North Carolina, the Republican senate caucus is responsible for its defeat.  Forty-four Democratic senators but only 7 Republicans voted to pass the Natural Gas Act.  Thirty-eight Republicans and 9 Democrats voted against it.  The defeat of the Pickens Plan largely was the result of conservative ideology, as exemplified by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, that opposes any effort to accelerate the substitution of oil with natural gas.

In Pennsylvania, right-winger Senator Toomey voted against the Pickens Plan but Senator Casey voted for it.

Though the Republican senate caucus overwhelmingly voted against the Pickens Plan, many of those members are loudly attacking President Obama for high gasoline prices. Here was a concrete opportunity to fight high gasoline prices and the anti-natural gas 47 senators vote no.  Those 47 members really think the American people are fools.

The defeat of the Pickens plan is a blow to the natural gas industry at a time when gas prices are at rock bottom.  But more important 47 senators voted to keep America importing huge amounts of foreign oil.  Forty-seven senators voted to keep fighting wars for oil.  Forty-seven senators voted against the national security and economic interests of America.

This is a big, bad vote.  Voters should remember it. For a complete roll call of votes, please see:  You will have to go to roll call votes on March 13th.  Then look for the vote on Amendment 1782 offered by Senator Robert Menendez.


  1. who and what is responsible for the high , gas prices at the pump? Can we vote corporate interest and profit out of our economy? Who is responsible for the high prices? Might be time to stop blaming the Middle East countries--

  2. The three biggest causes for oil prices being now consistently over $100 and as high as $127 per barrel recently are: 1. Large and rising Chinese demand, with China now the world's second largest economy, and a huge importer of oil; 2. Large and rising Indian demand, with India and China together accounting for about 1 one of 3 people on the planet; 3. Real prospect of a war with Iran, taking Iranian production off the world market and potentially endangering the transit of oil through the Persian Gulf. Blaming Obama or US corporations both falsely diagnose the problem. The majority of the world's oil is owned and controled by the national governments (and not corporations) of Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, Norway and some others. The truth is that the world demand for oil is straining the world supply of oil and oil is priced globally. We need to use substitutes for oil.

  3. You're blaming McConnell at the start of the Obama administration for starting filibusters in the Senate?! I don't remember in my lifetime majority rule in the Senate ever being the case, it's always required 60 for cloture. This is why the 2001 tax cuts aren't permanent--they could only get enough votes to pass it as a 10 year budget measure (which is the only way to bypass a cloture vote).

    Also, I'd take exception with your statement that this is a vote against NG development. This is a vote against the subsidization of energy, which has been a dismal failure with ethanol. NG will be a stronger fuel source if it can compete without subsidization, and the increasing prices of oil will let the market lead us in that direction.

    1. The filibuster used to require 67 votes to stop it, as was the case when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was filibustered and 67 votes had to be found to stop it . In the past, the filibuster also was reserved for very unusual, major or historic situations. Both parties used it rarely when they were in the minority. It was not routinely applied to nearly every single major piece of legislation. So quaint the idea that 51 votes should normally prevail. Not anymore. I can get you the data showing that the use of the filibuster reached record levels since January 2009, as McConnell has filibustered just about everything of any importance.

    2. Every single source of energy is subsidized directly or indirectly by failing to include costs of externalities in the price of energy. For example, the US spends about $100 billion per year on defense costs to keep oil coming from the Persian gulf. That does not include the costs of wars fought in the last 20 years there. None of that is in our price of oil. I am simply tired of exporting $400 billion a year to import oil and spending $100 billion a year in defense costs so that we can keep importing it. The Natural Gas Act is cheap, a bargain. And we won't produce gas here if we don't use it. We are already cutting back gas drilling because the supply exceeds demand and crashes the price. Voting against the Natural Gas Act is voting against gas development. Finally, some things are priceless: one of those priceless things are the lives and safety of our troops who sacrifice so much for all of us. The Natural Gas Act and the Pickens Plan is about protecting America and those that put their lives on the line to do so.

    3. If you can't see a difference since McDonnell took over in the Senate you're color blind (suffering from a red state state where every bill is now filibustered by red state Senators who blindly vote against anything the 'blue state Obama' would support, even if it means voting against the intesrests of the Red,White, & Blue.

      This strategy is what caused them to vote again the real Patriot Act to help America convert to nat gas. Do you really not find it the least bit hypocritical that they vote against subsidies for oil companies because that would be a tax hike (LLLLLLLOL)while subsidies for nat gas as a surface fuel is a perversion of free market capitalism. It's the strategy that's perverse.

      It reminds me of Seinfeld when George is questioned about how the show could be possibly about nothing. Instead of saying well only in a sense, he digs in and says "NO...IT'S ABOUT NOTHING"! That's like the Republicans strategy on voting.
      "You're going to vote for nothing? Come on now, nothing? The debt ceiling... you're not going to vote for the debt ceiling increase"?
      NO, NOTHING!"

      This is the real story of "Obama's lack of leadership" - the perverse do-nothing Republicans

  4. Should be direct link to roll call vote here:

    John, what was the political basis for the Dem. nays? Coal states? Oil states? Fiscal moderates? Anti-fossil fuels left?

  5. I think most of the 9 Democratic No votes are a partial result of the anti-fracking efforts that have been most successful in Northern and moderate to liberal areas. A few liberals would also describe the Natural Gas Act as corporate welfare.

  6. Thanks for this wonderful posting John. Your sentiments echo mine to a T. I'm disgusted by the fact that Toomey was a no vote on this. Disgusted by the fact that our "leaders" in Washington can't even pass this simple, obvious bill that would be the best bang for your buck investments in America that you could make right now.

    On a side note, if the obstructionists in the Senate want to filibuster, why don't they have to actually stand up there and filibuster? Make them stand up there for a couple of days and read War and Peace out loud if they feel so strongly about blocking the passage of a bill. Why has the threat of a filibuster become as forceful as an actual filibuster?

    No wonder Congress has a TEN PERCENT approval rating.

  7. You said it all, right there. I could not agree more about making a Senator who filibusters stand there and hold the floor. Let the public see this abuse day after day.