Still Waiting for Senate to Move on Energy Reform Bill

Originally published by: The HillJune 29, 2016

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The Senate is the only show in town in the coming week, meaning the energy world's eyes will be trained on the chamber, looking for signs of movement on an energy reform package.

After a climactic two-day confrontation regarding gun legislation on the floor last week, the House left Washington for the Independence Day recess, leaving senators alone to go about their work. In this case: trying to find a path forward on the energy bill.

The House has sent the Senate an energy reform bill chock full of conservative proposals that have turned Democrats against the legislation, and in some cases, against the idea of even going to a conference committee to try writing a compromise package. 

There was some movement on the matter last week. First, two top House Republicans --Energy Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (Utah), both would-be conferees for the bill -- put out a Monday statement saying they want to "get something to the President that he will sign into law" this year. The two indicated a willingness to cut out some of the GOP energy measures that have upset Democrats.

Then, on Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of Democratic leadership, told Bloomberg News, "we'd like to have a conference. The Energy Committee pushed the two developments to reporters on Thursday, claiming "continued progress" toward a Senate vote on going to conference with the House.

Even so, the legislative calendar is dwindling, making it tougher for an energy bill to come together before electoral politics consumes Washington.

The Senate breaks for a short weekend Fourth of July recess on Friday, and when it and the House return after the holiday, they will have only about nine legislative days before an extended August recess -- and the beginning of campaign season.

Sensing the need to hold the line just a little bit longer, 23 green groups wrote the Senate to file their objections to going to a conference committee, saying the House bill "undermines the progress our nation needs."

As it stands, rank and file Democrats will be pressed between their leadership  -- including top Energy Committee Democrat, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) -- and a major constituency next week as they consider what steps to take, if any, on energy reform.