LNG export rider likely out of House foreign aid bills

By Andres Picon, Kelsey Brugger | 04/17/2024 06:22 AM EDT

A provision to reinstate gas export permitting had been a priority for House Republican leaders.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) encountered intense conservative opposition Tuesday to his plan for Ukraine and Israel assistance. Francis Chung/POLITICO

House Republican leaders are plowing ahead with a slate of contentious national security bills that appear poised to exclude a key Republican energy priority.

The four bills — to support Israel, Ukraine, allies in the Indo-Pacific and address miscellaneous GOP concerns — could be voted on before the end of the week without a provision popular among congressional Republicans that would undo, or at least roll back, the Biden administration’s pause on liquefied natural gas export approvals.

While text of the bills had yet to be released Wednesday morning, a number of House Republicans whose home states rely on LNG export revenues have expressed a sense of defeat.


“Of all the things that came up this morning, that wasn’t one of them,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), vice chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, after a contentious meeting among House Republicans Tuesday morning.

Still, language reversing the pause could later get attached to the bill as an amendment, said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials.

Asked exactly what such a provision would look like, he could not say for sure, he stressed the importance of ensuring the language is enforceable rather than just a promise from the president.

“That’s what we got to figure out — how to make it work,” Carter said. “Aside from just trusting someone who is untrustworthy, and that would be President [Joe] Biden.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, both Louisiana Republicans, had made overturning the temporary LNG pause a personal priority given the pause’s impact on their state’s Calcasieu Pass 2 plant. Johnson had recently listed such a provision among the items he hoped to attach to any legislation that the White House wanted passed.

“We’ve pushed and pushed and pushed for that. It does not appear that that’s going to happen,” Texas Republican Rep. August Pfluger said Tuesday.

His stand-alone legislation to undo the export review pause — H.R. 7176, the “Unlocking our Domestic LNG Potential Act” — passed the House earlier this year, with several Democrats breaking with their party to support the measure.

“I think that would have been a good Republican win, but it would have been a good win for the country,” Pfluger said. “It would have been a good win for our partners and allies.”

The rider’s apparent demise, for now, represents a victory for the Biden administration, a majority of congressional Democrats and environmentalists who have supported the permitting moratorium amid concerns about LNG’s contributions to climate change.

It’s a disappointment for Republicans and industry leaders, who have touted LNG exports as a boon for energy security, industrial communities across the country and allies trying to wean themselves off of Russian gas.

“I think the LNG export ban has been disastrous,” said Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

The Biden administration implemented the pause on new permits for LNG export facilities in January in order to evaluate its analyses of LNG exports’ economic and climate impacts.

On Tuesday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that the pause would conclude by the end of the year.

Republicans and some moderate Democrats want it to end sooner. The White House has shot down media reports that top officials are open to the idea.

It’s unclear if an LNG provision would be enough to draw Republican support for money for Ukraine anyway. And if it did help unite Republicans, it could come at the cost of Democratic votes Johnson will need to pass the bills.

“I don’t know if it’s germane,” Armstrong said of a possible LNG amendment. “I don’t know how many Democrats you lose.”

Armstrong said, “I think if it were offered as an amendment, every Republican would vote for it.”

In the Senate, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy, said that while “the politics” of Johnson’s bills remained murky, “it’d be better to have that — absolutely better — to have that reversed.”

Five influential House committee chairs, including Foreign Affairs Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Appropriations Chair Tom Cole (R-Okla.), threw their support behind Johnson’s plan amid increasing outcry from key conservatives.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters the White House is awaiting additional details on the House’s foreign aid plan.

“They need to move this week,” he said, “and as for the details, we’ll wait and see what the speaker comes up with.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both urged House leaders Tuesday to pass the foreign aid package that the Senate approved earlier this year.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “The House needs to pass what the Senate has already done. The ego and the politics have delayed this too long.”

That doesn’t seem likely, as conservative members of the House continue to oppose foreign aid that’s not paid for — particularly for Ukraine. And Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) is joining Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in wanting to oust Johnson.

Leaving a conference meeting Tuesday morning, Armstrong alluded to the chaos, saying, “I think we’re nowhere.” But, he added, “We still got till Friday.”