The request came as a steady stream of senators alternately praised and condemned the Energy Policy Act of 2003 that Republican members of Congress spent two months crafting behind closed doors.
In a letter to the Senate, NCGA President Dee Vaughan called upon senators to vote for cloture and finish the bill. In encouraging the Senate to act on this vital legislation, Vaughan said in the letter “corn farmers across the country look forward to being a part of the solution to our energy problems.”
The letter asked senators to oppose any procedural effort to further delay or defeat H.R. 6, the Energy Policy Act.
“Congress has taken three years to reach the point where enactment of a national energy policy is but a handful of votes from reality,” the letter said. “Our nation is more dependent on foreign sources of energy now than when an energy bill was passed by the Senate in the last Congress.
“By doing nothing and failing to pass this legislation, our nation will be even more dependent on foreign energy by the end of this Congress. It is time to act on this vital legislation.
NCGA leaders, meanwhile, urged its members to call their senators at the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask them to support the bill.
On Wednesday, the NCGA’s Vaughan, First Vice President Leon Corzine, Chairman Fred Yoder and Ethanol Committee Chairman Duane Adams met with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who presented a “barometer” of how he expects the Senate to proceed on the energy bill.
The Majority Leader’s primary concern is the need to have 60 votes for a cloture motion, said Vaughan. The motion will stop a possible filibuster by senators from New York and California and allow the Senate to proceed to finish the bill, Vaughan said.
“Chairman Frist told us he was able to hold the majority of the Republican Caucus together to vote for cloture and passage of the bill,” said Vaughan. “However, he also said we need to get about 15 of the Midwest Democrats to support the bill. If we can round up the votes from the Midwest, we can secure cloture and get this energy bill passed through the Senate.”
Last evening Frist filed for cloture to end debate on the conference report, clearing the way for a final vote.
Adams noted the importance of the bill to corn growers. “I think we did very well with this bill,” he explained. “We got the starting number at 3.1 billion (gallons in 2005), which was more than we expected six months ago, and we got the 5 billion (gallons) in 2012. People can always ask for more, but considering the circumstances, I think this is a very good bill for corn growers. I think our people did very well on this.”
“We need to get a lot of calls into our senators, especially in the Midwest -- both Republicans and Democrats -- to support the comprehensive energy bill that contains the RFS,” said Vaughan. “We need to do this within the next 24 hours, this thing is moving and we do definitely have to get the calls in.
“We are never going to get another opportunity like this,” he said. “There’s a strong possibility that if this is defeated, this is the end of it. We will not be able to get another bill this favorable out of the House or Senate.”
Adams noted grassroots activity has been key to getting the energy bill this close to reality. “Our people have been following this issue for three years, and each time there has been a major vote, our people have really come forward and supported this issue,” he said. “The grassroots from all the states – especially in the Midwest – have been very important in getting this done, and, as Dee said, we need to make these phone calls today.”