Transportation Bill: Money Behind the Senate Amendments

After a long series of delays and amendment votes, the Senate passed its version of the Surface Transportation Bill with a bipartisan vote of 74-22, mere weeks before the Highway Trust Fund that pays for the nation's highways and bridges is set to run out.

As part of a deal reached last week, the Senate voted on about 30 amendments to the bill, many of which were unrelated to transportation or had been previously offered as stand-alone bills. As for the House of Representatives, it was announced last week that their version of the transportation bill will most likely be scrapped in favor of taking up the Senate's version.

MapLight has conducted an analysis of campaign contributions from interest groups invested in the votes on selected amendments to current members of the U.S. Senate between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2011.

Oil and Gas Drilling and Keystone XL

Several of the amendments were related to oil and gas policies and mirror the provisions considered as part of the PIONEERS Act already passed by the House. The Senate amendments included approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a ban on exporting oil delivered through the pipeline, should it be approved, and authorization to issue offshore oil and gas drilling leases in the outer continental shelf (OCS) and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). All of the oil and gas-related amendments failed to reach the required 60 votes, although the vote on the Keystone XL pipeline was a close 56-42.

  • Senators who voted YES on the amendment that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline received on average 4.5 times as much ($190,743) from oil and gas interest groups as those who voted NO ($42,110).
  • Senators who voted NO on the amendment to approve the Keystone XL pipeline received on average 5.3 times as much ($57,563) from environmental policy groups as did members who voted YES ($10,910).
  • John Hoeven, sponsor of the Keystone XL amendment, received $251,789 in contributions connected to the oil and gas industry, which is his largest contributing interest. David Vitter, who sponsored the OCS drilling amendment, received $536,000 in contributions connected to the oil and gas industry, which is his second largest contributing interest. Pat Roberts, who offered an amendment similar to the PIONEERS Act, received $229,200 in contributions connected to the oil and gas industry, which is his fifth largest contributing interest.

The NAT GAS Act

An amendment offered by Bob Menendez and Richard Burr would provide tax credits for natural gas-powered vehicles and refill stations, with an emphasis on heavy and fleet vehicles. It is very similar to the NAT GAS Act, offered in both the House and Senate in 2011, and is the pet project of billionaire T. Boone Pickens. The NAT GAS Act is supported by the American Gas Association, U.S. Postal Service, and Clean Energy Fuels Corp. It is opposed by Republican/Conservative groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Foundation, and also by certain industry groups such as the Petroleum Marketers Association of America and The Fertilizer Institute. The amendment received a majority vote of 51-47, but did not receive the 60 votes required for passage.

  • Senators who voted NO on the amendment received, on average, 3.8 times as much ($233,171) from interest groups that opposed this amendment as those who voted YES ($61,956).
  • Senators who voted YES on the amendment received an average of 10 percent more ($156,214) in campaign contributions from interest groups that supported this amendment than did senators who voted NO ($141,604).
  • Co-sponsor Richard Burr received over $50,000 in contributions connected to natural gas and electric utility provider Duke Energy, $224,600 from oil and gas groups and $18,450 from trucking interest groups.
  • Co-sponsor Bob Menendez has received $35,300 from gas and electric utilities, $45,600 from natural gas and petroleum companies and $34,200 from the trucking industry.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits

This amendment offered by Debbie Stabenow would extend a number of tax incentives geared toward promoting renewable energy projects and energy efficiency, including the Production Tax Credit (PTC). The extensions are supported by alternative energy production & services interest groups such as American Wind Energy Association, Renewable Fuels Association, and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The vote failed 49-49, short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

  • Alternative energy production and services interest groups gave on average 136 percent more ($13,737) to senators who voted YES on this amendment than to those who voted NO ($5,819).
  • Debbie Stabenow has received $15,900 from alternative energy production and services interest groups. DTE Energy, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors, who stand to benefit from the renewable tax credits, are all among Senator Stabenow's top 10 contributing organizations.

Boiler MACT

An amendment offered by Susan Collins would delay implementation of the EPA's new MACT regulations on industrial boilers. A large coalition of industrial, labor, and conservative interest groups have supported delaying the MACT rules, such as the American Chemistry Council, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Environmental policy and health and welfare policy interest groups have opposed delaying the MACT rules, including the American Lung Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and US Climate Action Network.

  • Senators who voted YES on the Collins amendment received an average of 63 percent more ($709,997) from interest groups that supported this amendment than did those who voted NO ($434,579).
  • Senators who voted NO received, on average, 9.1 times as much ($66,135) from environmental policy and health and welfare policy groups that opposed this amendment as those who voted YES ($7,264).

About MapLight

MapLight, a political money tracker, allows users to gain unique insights into how campaign contributions affect policy so they can draw their own conclusions about how money influences our political system.