Transportation Bill Roundup: Money Behind the Senate Amendments

March 15, 2012 - After a long series of delays and amendment votes, the Senate passed its version of the Surface Transportation Bill (S 1813) on Wednesday 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 & Gas Drilling and Keystone XL

Several of the amendments were related to oil & 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 & gas drilling leases in the outer continental shelf (OCS) and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). All of the oil & gas-related amendments failed to reach the required 60 votes, although the vote on the Keystone XL pipeline (Amdt. 1537) 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 & 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 & gas industry, which is his largest contributing interest. David Vitter, who sponsored the OCS drilling amendment (Amdt. 1535), received $536,000 in contributions connected to the Oil & gas industry, which is his second largest contributing interest. Pat Roberts, who offered an amendment (Amdt. 1826) similar to the PIONEERS Act, received $229,200 in contributions connected to the Oil & gas industry, which is his fifth largest contributing interest.

The NAT GAS Act, Amdt. 1782

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% 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 & electric utility provider Duke Energy, $224,600 from Oil & gas groups and $18,450 from Trucking interest groups. 
  • Co-sponsor Bob Menendez has received $35,300 from Gas & electric utilities, $45,600 from Natural gas & petroleum companies and $34,200 from the Trucking industry.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits, Amdt. 1812

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.

Boiler MACT, Amdt. 1660

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 & 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% 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 & welfare policy groups that opposed this amendment as those who voted 'YES' ($7,264).

METHODOLOGY: Includes reported contributions to congressional campaigns of senators in office on day of vote, from interest groups invested in the vote according to MapLight, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2011. Contributions data source: OpenSecrets.org.

About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.