House panel heads for partisan showdown on bipartisan bill

By Emma Dumain | 11/15/2021 06:35 AM EST

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Capitol Hill. Francis Chung/E&E News

Rep. Paul Gosar could be censured by Congress and sidelined from key renewable energy legislation he has long championed — all in the same week.

The Arizona Republican, first under scrutiny for his sympathies toward the violent rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, is now under fire for tweeting an animated video in which he is featured attacking Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and President Biden.

As House Democratic leaders mull their response to Gosar’s latest offense, the House Natural Resources Committee will meet Wednesday to consider a bill Gosar has championed for the past eight years, but which no longer bears his name.

H.R. 3326 — the "Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act," or "PLREDA" — would streamline the permitting for renewable energy projects while also creating a revenue-sharing system to allow host states to recoup money for local conservation efforts.

Gosar, the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, was the lead Republican co-sponsor of iterations of this bill through his previous four terms in office. In the last Congress, he introduced the measure with Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.).

But earlier this year, Levin — who faces a tough reelection fight in 2022 — announced he would be going it alone, claiming Gosar’s political brand was now toxic following his actions surrounding the Jan. 6 attacks.

In addition to making sympathetic comments about the violent demonstrators who sought to disrupt Congress’ certification of President Biden’s 2020 electoral victory over Donald Trump, Gosar also participated in “stop the steal” rallies and ultimately voted against certifying the election results.

“I think it’s fairly self-evident that some of my colleagues might take exception to moving legislation where he’s leading it," Levin told E&E News back in May. "I have the sense that the best path forward for this legislation is to introduce it by myself and allow people to sign on as sponsors and go from there” (E&E Daily, May 24).

At the time of Levin’s split from Gosar on “PLREDA,” the coalition of outside groups backing the legislation were divided on whether Levin had done the right thing in politicizing a bipartisan bill (E&E Daily, June 8).

Some organizations urged for a détente, while the Wilderness Society made clear Gosar’s actions around the insurrection were disqualifying.

"The events of January 6 matter, as does how lawmakers choose to respond," the group said in a statement to E&E News this spring. "We also had concerns about working with Rep. Gosar after his troubling response to the events of January 6."

It’s not clear whether the new controversy in which Gosar has become embroiled will change the dynamics within the coalition or on Capitol Hill.

When the Natural Resources Committee convened a hearing on “PLREDA” back in May, Republicans expressed fury with Democrats for turning a bipartisan priority into a partisan exercise. It’s far from certain if the GOP will actually vote to advance the bill at Wednesday’s markup or choose to oppose it in solidarity with Gosar.

Democrats, however, are all but guaranteed to remind their colleagues across the aisle as to why it’s important to move ahead on the bill without Gosar.

As for a potential censure vote, a senior House Democratic aide told E&E News that leaders continued to discuss the path forward with members.

Two senior members of the Natural Resources Committee — full committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife Chair Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) — are co-sponsors of H. Res. 789, the Gosar censure resolution.

Gosar continues to insist the animated video was intended to be a metaphor for the conservative fight against open borders and illegal immigration.

Other bills

The House Natural Resources Committee is also due on Wednesday to mark up the following other bills:

  • H.R. 3197, from Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), to convey National Park Service land connected to the historic Liberty Theatre over to the city of Eunice, La., to allow the city to restore the property.
  • H.R. 4648, also from Johnson, to modify the boundary around the Cane River Creole National Historic Park in the state of Louisiana.
  • H.R. 5001, from Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), to authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to continue implementing endangered fish recovery programs in the Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins through 2024.
  • S. 2923, from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), to streamline the federal response to fishery disasters, as well as the process by which the secretary of Commerce must determine the scale and scope of such disasters.
  • H.R. 5345, from Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), to authorize the director of the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a regional program to monitor saline lakes in the Great Basin and dependent migratory birds and other wildlife.
  • H.R. 404, from Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), to phase out unsustainable commercial fishing gear in federal waters within five years for the purposes of protecting marine life.
  • H.R. 2026, from Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), to launch a competitive grant program housed within the Interior Department to help conserve endangered amphibians around the world.
  • H.R. 2793, from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), to boost investments for conservation efforts in the areas surrounding the Mid-Atlantic Highlands of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
  • H.R. 3600, from Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.), to designate Route 66 as a national historic trail.
  • H.R. 3128, from Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), to direct NOAA to establish an advisory committee to advise on an existing grant program to address the needs of U.S. fishing communities.
  • H.R. 4706, from Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), to establish the Blackwell School as a national historic site and one of the first national parks dedicated to preserving Latino history.
  • H.R. 667, from Rep. Raul Ruiz (R-Calif.), to authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services to purchase land along a dirt road leading to the Desert Sage Youth Wellness Center in Riverside County, Calif., for the purposes of improving access to the state’s only Indian Health Services Youth Regional Treatment Center.
  • H.R. 1931, from Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), to permanently reauthorize a $38 million-a-year program dedicated to preserve Japanese American internment camps around the country, plus create a $2 million federal grant program to promote education of their history.
  • H.R. 3531, from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), to establish a memorial on federal land in Washington to honor women who supported the World War II effort from the home front.
  • H.R. 4494, from Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), to authorize the Interior secretary to purchase land in Fredrick County, Md., to further development the Historic Preservation Training Center there.