Outlook dims for waste bill

30 April 1998

Although both houses of Congress have overwhelmingly passed bills to build an above-ground, interim storage facility for spent fuel and nuclear waste in Nevada, the legislation has run into yet another snag, one that could kill any hopes for passage this year.

The sticking point this time is a provision of the Senate bill (S 104), which passed 65 to 34 in April 1997 to replace the fee on nuclear-generated electricity that helps fill the coffers of the Nuclear Waste Fund with a user fee.

Critics of the Nevada site, led by Rep John Ensign (Republican-Nevada), argue that the fee provision violates a requirement of the US Constitution that all tax legislation originate in the House.

House Republican leaders decided against fighting the procedural challenge in part because they expect President Clinton to veto the measure anyway. They have asked the Senate to vote on the House version (HR 1270), which passed 307 to 120, rather than send the two versions to a House-Senate conference committee. The House adopted a resolution to this effect, known as the “blue slip” resolution, by voice vote in early March.

Now, the Senate must initiate the legislative process all over again, which will give another opportunity for Nevada senators Harry Reid (Democrat) and Richard Bryan (Democrat) to filibuster a new bill. A tight legislative schedule is also in favour of opponents of the legislation.

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