Energy Bill Passes Senate, Faces Small Window for Reconciliation

Originally published by: The HillApril 20, 2016

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The Senate and House have little time on their calendars this year to hammer out an agreement on an energy reform bill, the lead sponsor of the Senate’s bill said Wednesday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who led the process of writing and passing the bill with Sen.Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), said the limited schedules in both chambers might make it hard to convene a bicameral conference for the measure.

“One of the concerns that I think that we have, or the obstacles that we have in front of us, is time on the calendar, and the fact that in order to have a conference, the House and the Senate have to be in town at the same time,” Murkowski said in a news conference after the bill passed.

“So we can look at the calendar, and we’ve got some work to do. … We’re going to be needing to move quickly. I think as quickly as we can.”

Murkowski said she plans to convene a formal conference to resolve differences between the Senate’s bill, passed Wednesday, and a more limited bill the House passed last year.

Leaders from both parties in both chambers would appoint senators to hash out differences and produce a negotiated bill that would then come up for a vote in both chambers.

Murkowski said there are some major hurdles that the House and Senate have to clear to resolve differences.

“We have a differences with some members on the House side that perhaps view the land-acquisition aspects a little bit differently,” she said, referring to the existing powers the Land and Water Conservation Fund has to acquire land for the federal government. Many House Republicans want to reduce those powers.

Murkowski predicted that the House GOP might also want to eliminate the Energy Department’s loan programs.

Neither difference is insurmountable, she said, adding that she’s optimistic there will be a successful conference.

Cantwell said the main difference between the bills is that “we have a big, bipartisan bill in the Senate,” in contrast to the House measure.