A day after the New Yorker rather brilliantly skewered the institution, the Senate again displayed its inertia: Majority Leader Harry Reid (Getty Images photo) just announced that a bare-bones energy/BP oil spill bill would not go to a vote this week because he couldn't find any support for it from across the aisle. In a non-sequitur of a quote, Reid said, "We tried jujitsu, we tried yoga, we tried everything we could to get the Republicans to come along with us on this bill."
Now pause and imagine Mitch McConnell doing the downward facing dog.
His colleagues were snappier. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who authored the spill liability section for the oil industry called the impasse "a national outrage." Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Republicans have decided that the Senate "is closed for the people's business until the election."
Yet even some drilling state Democrats -- such as Alaska's Mark Begich -- had been reluctant to support the bill because of its unlimited liability for oil producers when there's a spill. The oil industry had argued that the provision would force all but the largest drillers out, and Republicans said the bill would be a job-killer as a result.
Also, Sen. Bob Casey's section on hydraulic fracturing was not greeted warmly by the natural gas industry. Casey's language -- taken from the larger FRAC Act -- would require companies to disclose all the chemicals they use to fracture natural gas. Some of those chemicals, according to reports, have ended up in drinking water in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The industry claims it already voluntarily discloses which chemicals it uses, and the bill would put an unfair legal burden on drill operators who purchase the fracking fluids elsewhere and don't know the compounds.
But who knows whether the fracking section will remain in whatever emerges in September. Reid expressed optimism that an energy bill could move forward next month, saying there were "some very good conversations" about energy in the last two weeks with Republicans -- though he noted he wasn't a party to them.
"We need time for Republicans to understand," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., hopeful that GOP senators' constituents would pressure them to act against BP during the August recess. "I'm hopeful that this little break when everybody goes home will breathe new life into the effort to get 60 votes."
At this point, it's hard to believe 60 of them could agree that it's Tuesday.