Can a bipartisan energy bill pass in the current political climate? During today's OnPoint, Dave Hoppe, president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates and a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), and Kevin Kayes, a director at QGA and former chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), discuss the prospects for bipartisan energy legislation during the 112th Congress. They also explain how the shift in leadership in Congress will affect efforts to delay U.S. EPA's regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today are Dave Hoppe, president of Quinn Gillespie & Associates and a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and Kevin Kayes, a director at QGA and former chief counsel to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining me.
Kevin Kayes: Thank you.
David Hoppe: Nice to see you.
Monica Trauzzi: Dave, there's so much speculation about what this new Congress will be able to do on energy and environment policy, especially since it shifted so far to the right now. Is bipartisanship on energy possible with this new makeup?
David Hoppe: I think it is, but I think where you have to look is in terms of energy production. I don't think there will be a lot of subsidies for energy production, but I think in terms of letting, particularly the shale oil and to the degree that there could be market money raised to do things in the green energy spectrum, I think you'll see those things go forward. They tried to do a bill on the House side that went a little bit farther afield in terms of oil pollution. If they pull that back and just do something dealing with oil pollution in the Gulf and offshore drilling, I think they can get something there. I think offshore drilling also is an area where they might be able to get it. And, oddly enough, I think you'll see some things that the administration may not be too happy about as bipartisan items, and that is reining back the EPA. I think there is certainly the votes in the House to do that, and I think if you look in the Senate, there's over 50 votes in the Senate to pursue the type of policy that Senator Rockefeller has set out in a bill to delay the EPA regulations on carbon. So for that reason, I think that there's a number of areas where you can find it, but there may be some that the administration is excited about and some they're less excited about.
Monica Trauzzi: I didn't hear you mention a renewable electricity standard. Is that something you think we could see happen?
David Hoppe: I don't think so.
Monica Trauzzi: No?
David Hoppe: I just think you've got regional issues there, and if you look at the House of Representatives, where most of the new members are from, they're from this -- many of them from the South. And RES was a particular problem in the Southern region, and in some Southern states there really aren't alternatives, or at least that's what the members have said, and, in fact, when there were Democrats in those seats, they said that. Now that there are Republicans in those seats, I expect you'll hear the same things from them. So I don't believe that RES is going to be one of the leading items of a bipartisan bill that will move very far next year. In fact, I would be surprised if the House took up an RES bill at all.
Monica Trauzzi: Wow, Kevin, your take on that.
Kevin Kayes: I don't disagree with Dave. I have a little different take, though. I think two significant things have happened in the last couple of months. One was there was a huge change, an election where the Republicans took over from the House. And from an energy standpoint, I think Murkowski looks like she's going to win, Senator Murkowski, her election. And she said she intends -- she expects to be ranking member on that committee. And she also said in a recent interview that she'd like to start from the bill that they reported on a bipartisan basis last Congress. So, to me, she's signaling to everybody that she wants to do a bill and she wants to work in a bipartisan way. And I think it's in the interests of both Republicans -- I mean, I think the message folks sent in this election was they want to see Washington get some things done. So I think it's in the interest of both Republicans who have taken over the House and the White House to try to make that happen. And I think what you're going to see going forward is the Republicans are going to pull energy policy to the right. The administration, through regulatory actions, is going to pull it to the left. And you're going to have a Senate that's sort of going to become, again, the fulcrum on policy. And I think what you're going to see -- I think if both parties are smart, what you're going to see are people compromise on some of these major issues so they can get some legislation passed. And it's not going to be perfect. It's not going to be everything the White House wants, and it's not going to be -- it's probably going to be farther to the left than what House Republicans want. But I think we're in a political climate where it's in everybody's interest to sort of work together and get something done.
Monica Trauzzi: And is there a climate to pass some kind of legislation that would stop EPA?
Kevin Kayes: Yeah.
Monica Trauzzi: From regulating emissions?
Kevin Kayes: Well, I don't know. That's a difficult question. I think the first question is, how hard does the administration push? I think this is almost like the dog that caught the car. I think they pushed hard last Congress from a regulatory standpoint to create some pressure on the Congress. And I don't think it worked particularly well. I think it just complicated the process in the Senate. So I think the first question is, does the administration push and actually do a final reg? My take is, that's probably not great politics for Democrats. I think what you want in this area right now -- because there's so much movement and there's so much uncertainty, and what we're trying to do really is create some new industries -- I think you want some consensus, and I don't think you want to be doing it by regulatory action. That, quite frankly, it's not easy. The last time the Republicans controlled the House and the Senate, they created a regulatory review process that's not really used very often, and it's not that effective. But what it does is, it gets you in quick vote in the House and Senate -- you know, that can be vetoed by the president, but it's a strong statement. And what you're able to do with a vote like that is sort of create wedge issues. And I just think this area is too important to do that. And I really would like to see the administration and Congress try to reach some kind of consensus on an emissions policy.
Monica Trauzzi: And Dave, one of the things we've been hearing from Republicans is that they want to push for more oversight in this Congress. Do you think we'll see that? Do you think there's going to be --
David Hoppe: Oh, yes.
Monica Trauzzi: A shift within the committees?
David Hoppe: I think so. I think one of the areas of oversight will be going through EPA, what they've done, why they did it, what the reasons were, what the people were saying, what the internal memos were. I think Congressman Issa will be very aggressive in doing that. And in the next two years, "Energy equals jobs" is going to be something the Republicans will repeat again and again and again. If you haven't got energy, you cannot create and grow the number of jobs we need in this country. So I think many things Kevin said I think are right, but there is going to be a point when the administration is going to have to decide. For example, if they do move a bill like Senator Rockefeller's, the president can veto it, and there are not the votes in the House and the Senate, in my opinion, to override that veto. But that will be a huge fight and a huge division if he does it, because the fight will then be set up, OK, he is saying that the regulation and pushing regulation hard and aggressively in these areas is what he wants to do, and it may result in fewer jobs or at least a restriction in the growth of jobs. And that will be a question that will be very important. So you've got set up for potentially a very big fight here, but, as I said earlier, I think that there are a majority in both houses. Not a supermajority to override a veto, but a majority in both houses for reining in the EPA as far as when they start this regulation and how quickly they move forward with that regulation on carbon.
Monica Trauzzi: Which committees, Kevin, do you expect to see the biggest changes in, and how is that going to impact the policy that we see coming out of them?
Kevin Kayes: You know what, I think energy policy, for the most part, on the Senate side, is written by the Energy Committee. And I think Bingaman will still chair that committee. I'm assuming he does, and it looks like Senator Murkowski will be ranking minority member. So I think there will be some continuity there. What will happen in the Senate, because the ratio has closed so dramatically from last Congress, is that more Republicans will have to be added or some Democrats dropped off the bottom of the committee so the ratios are sort of closer to what the ratio is in the Senate.
Monica Trauzzi: Dave, similar thoughts?
David Hoppe: Yeah, I think Kevin is exactly right on that. You'll have a committee that's closer in number than it was before in terms of the division between Republicans and Democrats. And I would expect that you will -- certainly, Senator Bingham will be the chairman. And as it appears now, Senator Murkowski appears to have the votes to win the Alaska race. I would expect that she would retain the ranking position. Having said that, how far she can go on certain issues where she would divide herself from the majority of the Republican conference in the Senate is another question. Because she may not be followed by some of them if she goes further than some of them want to go. But she'll retain the position, but she won't have, if you will, the number of votes that she might have had before this.
Monica Trauzzi: Sure, OK, we'll end it there. Thank you both for coming on the show.
David Hoppe: Thanks a lot.
Kevin Kayes: Pleasure.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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