ENERGY POLICY

Murkowski aims for bill signing before August break

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday she was aiming for a quick conference with the House to produce a final energy bill that President Obama could sign before the August congressional recess.

The Senate last night worked through the remaining amendments to the committee's bipartisan energy package, S. 2012. It set the vote on final passage for this morning.

In an interview ahead of yesterday's vote-a-rama, Murkowski said she was ready to get going on reconciling her version with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton's H.R. 8. The House passed the Michigan Republican's legislation in December.

"My hope is sooner rather than later, of course, but I understand it's going to take the House a few days," Murkowski said. "But I've already been in touch with Upton, and he is anxious and excited to get to work."

With appropriations bills expected to consume much of the legislative calendar for the next several months -- as well as an extended August recess -- Murkowski said she wants to avoid the final product slipping into the lame-duck session.

"I really really, really do not want to be in that situation," she said. "I'm going to be pushing to try to move this as soon as possible. I'd like to see it done and out before we break at summer."

Ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said yesterday that she expected informal discussions with House counterparts to resume "as soon as the bill passes."

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The chamber worked through a slew of fairly noncontroversial amendments to the bill yesterday, adopting 29 en bloc -- including some that conservative group Heritage Action for America this week criticized as adding to the "big government interventionism embodied in the underlying bill."

Yesterday's votes ended a two-month hiatus after Senate leaders pulled the bill from the floor over logjams on aid for Flint, Mich., and a fight over offshore drilling.

Both obstacles were removed from the energy debate last week in a surprise agreement that set up yesterday's amendment votes and today's final passage (E&E Daily, April 14).

More controversial amendments were subject to 60-vote thresholds, although the chamber voted to adopt 97-0 a public lands package sponsored by Murkowski and Cantwell. It addresses conveyances in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

Senators voted 66-31 to adopt the "SAVE Act" -- sponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) -- despite conservative opposition (E&E Daily, April 19).

The proposal would allow federal mortgage underwriters to consider the energy savings from efficiency upgrades when determining a homebuyer's ability to make payments. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday expressed support for the amendment in its own key vote letter (E&ENews PM, April 19).

Senators adopted by voice vote an amendment by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) to require the Fish and Wildlife Service to write a new management plan for the Corolla wild horse in his state's Outer Banks.

Conservation groups strongly opposed the amendment, which had been slated for a roll call vote. Murkowski drew laughs when she neighed loudly during the vote.

The chamber rejected on a 34-63 vote an amendment by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) that would have limited land acquisition under the Land and Water Conservation Fund until the administration meets certain requirements on public land maintenance.

An amendment by Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) to require a study of the Clean Line transmission project fell 42-55.

New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall's amendment to direct the Treasury Department to submit a report to Congress on the establishment of Clean Energy Victory Bonds failed 50-47.

Sen. Rand Paul's amendment to establish "economic freedom zones" -- strongly opposed by environmentalists -- was unable to surpass a budget point of order raised by Cantwell. The Kentucky Republican's motion to waive the budget rules failed 35-62.

An amendment from Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to authorize the Department of Energy to increase drawdowns and sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to maximize the financial return to the Treasury passed by voice vote.

Twitter: @geofkoss Email: gkoss@eenews.net

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