Conference ‘doomed to failure’ — top Dem

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2016

President Obama would veto whatever comes out of a potential conference committee on energy reform legislation, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat predicted yesterday.

“It’s doomed to failure,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told E&E Daily yesterday when asked about negotiations on a possible framework path forward.

Last month, the House voted to appoint conferees to merge competing energy reform bills, but the Senate has held back. Many Democrats worry about provisions in the updated House language.

“They put through some proposals that have no bipartisanship that are doomed to fail to begin with,” Schumer said.

Several items in the House’s revised energy package have received veto threats from the White House. Controversial provisions deal with drought, wildfire and riders related to the National Environmental Policy Act.

Republican negotiators say a conference committee is the ideal place to work out disagreements. But Democrats, who helped write the Senate’s S. 2012, say they would be at a disadvantage.

“Instead of going to conference — where they can freeze us out just like they did on Zika — we ought to have a bipartisan negotiation, [otherwise] nothing will get done. The president will veto whatever they come up with,” Schumer said.

As partisan wrangling continues, the Senate could leave as early as today for its Independence Day recess. Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday there was no news yet on scheduling a vote on going to conference.

The issue did not come up at the Democrats’ weekly caucus lunch, Energy ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said on her way out of the Capitol yesterday afternoon.

When asked what the next step would be, Cantwell boarded a Senate train headed toward her office and said, “I’m going to find out.”

For the second time in a seven days, environmental groups urged senators to oppose any motion to go to conference on the House-passed version of the bill (E&E Daily, June 22).

The Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters were among two dozen groups that signed onto the latest letter, citing “troubling provisions.”

They wrote: “We appreciate your efforts to return to regular order and work across party lines on energy policy. But process isn’t the same as progress.”

The groups added that the House-passed legislation “would undoubtedly take our country down the wrong track and contains so many controversial and problematic provisions it is impossible to see how agreement could be found.”

They added, “Rejecting a conference with the current House offer is essential to protect against harm to our environment.”

Schumer said nothing will get done unless Congress works in a bipartisan way.

“That’s plain and simple. That’s how it works,” Schumer said. “And if the Republicans don’t want to do things in a bipartisan way, they’re just going to tie the place in a knot, whether it’s energy, Zika or anything else.”

Reporters Hannah Northey and Nick Sobczyk contributed.