WASHINGTON -- For the second time in a week, the Senate tried but failed to advance a wide-ranging energy bill that includes a 40 percent increase in vehicle fuel economy standards.
Senators of both parties predicted a different outcome later today.
Earlier today, senators voted 59-40 for the bill but were still one short of the 60 yes votes needed under Senate rules to end debate on the measure. The vote last Friday, Dec. 7, was 53-42.
Since then Democratic leaders removed a provision requiring utilities to use more renewable fuels, but they made only modest changes to tax provisions.
The White House has threatened a veto over the tax provisions.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Congress has an obligation to do what is right, not to simply bow to the will of President Bush.
But Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, accused Democrats of seeking a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
He said that if they make the changes sought by the administration, they could claim a major win in raising fuel economy standards for the first time in three decades -- to 35 mpg by 2020.
Reid said the Senate will consider a third version of the bill today. McConnell said it likely will pass.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is making a last-ditch attempt to add to the bill a provision that would make clear that federal fuel economy standards would take precedence over greenhouse gas rules expected soon from the EPA.
Environmental groups call the attempt a bid to kneecap federal and state rules that will help prevent global warming.
Automakers now support the 35 mpg standard by 2020 because they say they need some regulatory certainty for product planning.
The House already voted 235-181 for a bill with the 35 mpg standard.