1991 Scorecard Vote
This year concern about our national energy security reached an all-time high with American troops fighting in the Persian Gulf. The war created a legislative push for a long-needed national energy policy. Unfortunately, the massive energy bill introduced by Senators Bennett Johnston (D-LA) and Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) relied on increased development of fossil fuel and nuclear energy and offered only token efforts to increase efficiency.
The bill, S. 1220, became best known for its provision to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and its failure to include any increase in automobile fuel efficiency, one of the most effective means of reducing our deepening dependence on foreign oil. Other environmentally damaging aspects of the energy bill included reduced citizen participation in the nuclear licensing process, reduced federal regulation of hydropower projects, and restricted state oversight of electrical utilities.
In one of the most significant environmental victories of 1991, a filibuster, led by several pro-environment senators against the Johnston-Wallop bill, successfully prevented the bill from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. The repudiation of the Johnston-Wallop bill this session breathed new life into the energy policy debate. Environmentalists will continue to push for a national energy strategy that stresses energy conservation and efficiency.
To end a filibuster, the Senate must vote to end the debate, known as "invoking cloture." If 60 senators vote to invoke cloture, the debate over the bill is limited; the Senate can then vote on the measure.
The motion to invoke cloture was rejected 50-44 on November 1, 1991. NO (or absence/abstention from the vote) is the pro-environment action. In this instance, if a senator was absent for the cloture vote, that absence or abstention was counted as a pro-environment action because the supporters of S. 1220 needed to find 60 YES votes to bring the legislation to a vote.
This vote was so significant in determining the future of this country's energy policy that LCV has given this vote double weight in the Scorecard.