A Challenging Legislative Environment - Democratic and Republican Staff Directors Provide Legislative Outlook for Energy Policy
Climate Change Insights 2016-12-05
In a Politico sponsored event this morning, the Republican and Democratic Staff Directors for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (SENR) Committee both called this current Congress “the most difficult legislative environment” since either one of them has worked on Capitol Hill. This sentiment is common on the Hill with a divided Congress and deep ideological and partisan divides.
Yet, the SENR Committee historically has worked well together on a bipartisan basis. For instance, Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) worked together last year to pass through committee the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which would have established a renewable energy standard, authorized additional offshore development and created a Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA). The full Senate, however, never considered this bill.
As discussed at today’s breakfast, Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Murkowski are again working together on attempting to pass bipartisan legislation. The SENR Committee will hold a markup on Thursday where it could consider a number of bills related to energy efficiency, alternative vehicles, and small modular nuclear reactors. Additionally, Bingaman and Murkowski have worked to address concerns regarding legislation that would establish a CEDA. As noted by Democratic Staff Director Bob Simon, this legislation can spur clean energy development and create jobs by providing needed capital to some clean energy projects.
There are, however, some issues that the committee will likely be unable to find consensus on this year. At the breakfast, Simon indicated that committee Democrats and Republicans are unlikely to find a compromise on a clean energy standard (CES). Republicans are arguing that any standard should also preempt EPA’s GHG rules. Nonetheless, Simon stated that Senator Bingaman will likely float a CES bill later this year, and the Committee could hold hearings.
Despite the impasse on a CES, the Committee will likely act on a number of bills at Thursday’s hearing. It is unclear, however, whether the Senate can find time in its schedule to take up these measures. Even if these bills were to pass the Senate, the ideological opposition by many House Republicans to any enhanced role for the government in energy markets would make it difficult for these measures to pass. As the Staff Directors stated, a challenging legislative environment indeed.