Senate: Conference vote possible this week — Murkowski

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Senate this week could vote to go to conference with the House on energy legislation, Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said yesterday.

“I’m really hopeful that we’re going to be able to have a vote on it this week,” Murkowski told E&E Daily last night, saying she was encouraged by the meeting of the six House and Senate lawmakers who will play a key role in reconciling the chambers’ competing bills.

“I think we had a good conversation last week, amongst the six of us,” she said of the closed-door meeting with Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).

The same six key players are expected to meet again this week.

“I think it was made very clear that while we weren’t entirely clear how we were going to get there, there was consensus that we get to a product that not only has the support of all the conferees but the president’s going to sign into law,” she added.

She has made similar optimistic comments about a vote for weeks, but Murkowski conceded last week that there was more work ahead in winning the support of 60 senators for the conference vote (E&E Daily, June 16).

Her remarks last night suggest that support may be forthcoming — or at least within reach. They also follow a joint Upton-Bishop statement issued yesterday in which the pair affirmed their desire to negotiate a bill that President Obama would sign (E&ENews PM, June 20).

Cantwell, who yesterday declined to comment on the Upton-Bishop statement as she headed toward a meeting in the Capitol, is unhappy with bills added to the House energy measure that have already drawn veto threats from the White House.

Of the House provisions that have elicited veto threats, Murkowski said last night: “We’re probably not going to be starting with those.”

She said she has not yet spoken this week with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about securing floor time for a conference vote, which she said would take about two hours.

But she noted that the Senate last week voted to go to conference with the House on Zika funding. “If we can do a detour like that, why can’t we do a detour for energy?” she asked.