Conference vote may come this week

Source: Hannah Hess and Manuel QuiƱones, E&E reporters • Posted: Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Senate vote to launch negotiations with the House on energy reform legislation could happen as soon as this week.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski said this afternoon she hasn’t scheduled meetings with other lawmakers looking for a path forward.

“Hopefully we won’t need any more meetings,” the Alaska Republican said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to just find time to go to a vote.”

The House already appointed conferees, but the Senate has yet to do so, in part because of Democrats’ objections to provisions in the reworked House bill.

Murkowski said the timing of a Senate vote to launch conference negotiations depends on the chamber’s packed agenda.

This afternoon, senators were set to take procedural votes to move forward with legislation on genetically modified organisms and defense spending.

Because lawmakers agreed to debate the GMO bill, the chamber put off consideration of the defense measure.

Asked about a conference vote, Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said, “Well, that’s why we keep talking.” She did not discount the possibility of another meeting.

Today, the American Chemistry Council sent Senate leaders a letter urging them to agree to conference negotiations. Other groups have done the same. Environmentalists, however, want Democrats to balk at House bill provisions.

Zika

Separately, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there would be another Senate vote on legislation to provide funds for combating the Zika virus and weaken some pesticide-permitting requirements.

McConnell said a roll call would happen “certainly before we go to convention.” Both the House and Senate are scheduled to leave for their summer break and the party conventions next week.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called the Republican Zika deal “a waste of Senate time.”

“It’s unfortunate when we have issues out there that are so important,” he said.

Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.