Senate Yet to Approve Conference Committee for Energy Bill

Originally published by: The HillJune 13, 2016

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is encouraging senators to join a conference committee with the House on an energy overhaul bill. 

In a Monday letter to senators, the Chamber said an energy reform bill is “crucial” to “maximize and prolong the benefits the recent energy renaissance is producing.” 

The only way to overhaul those energy laws now is to merge the rewrite packages already passed separately by the House and Senate. The House voted in May to create a conference committee to do so, but the issue remains open in the Senate. 

“The Chamber urges the Senate to move to formal conference and begin work resolving differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions of S. 2012 so that Congress can expeditiously approve legislation to improve energy efficiency, energy infrastructure, overall American energy policy and energy policy involving tribal lands,” wrote R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber’s executive vice president of government affairs. 

The Chamber says it will score a Senate vote on going to conference, the first time in at least a decade the business group has considered a conference committee procedural vote important enough to include in its legislative scorecard. 

The Senate passed its energy reform bill, a collection of policy changes aimed at tasks like electric grid modernization and natural gas exports, in April. The House in May voted to send members to a conference committee to write a compromise package. 

The Senate, though, has yet to take that step, despite Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) hope that such a vote would come shortly after Memorial Day. 

Industry supporters say their hopes for a reform package were buoyed by a deal on a bill changing chemical safety laws, a major legislative victory that came together after months of behind-the-scenes deal-making. 

But lawmakers have a constricted legislative calendar this year, making it tougher for an energy bill deal to come together before November’s elections.