Lawmakers plot endgame on spending; energy bill appears stuck

Source: Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lawmakers are increasingly vocal about the likelihood of needing to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past the end of the fiscal year.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said yesterday evening he would like to see a shorter CR to give lawmakers time to move forward with more spending bills.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would not entertain questions about a CR yesterday. “We’ll get back to that work and continue to move forward to get as much done as possible,” he said. “I think we’ll work all the way through to get as many as we can do before September 30.”

The House and Senate have passed three of 12 spending bills, and lawmakers are scheduled to leave town next week for the summer recess and political conventions.

The House may finish work this week on the financial services legislation, which includes riders to block Obama administration climate priorities. The Senate may proceed today with its defense bill.

Rogers said he hoped to finish the bill to fund U.S. EPA and the Interior Department, which has for years been contentious, by next week. “I’m sure there will be debate,” he said with a smirk.

Republican leaders’ decision to change their strategy for passing appropriations bills will make it more likely the House will indeed finish work on the legislation. The Rules Committee now has more say over which proposed amendments reach the floor.

“I believe the House should do its work, and I think you’ll see the House be very productive in appropriations, especially with the new structured rule,” McCarthy said.

The House pulled its energy and water spending bill in May over a controversial Democratic amendment to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT workers (Greenwire, May 26).

Rogers said he was looking forward bringing the bill back up. “I want to. I hope to,” he said, but couldn’t provide a timeline for potential action.

Energy talks

Also in limbo are talks to merge House and Senate versions of energy reform legislation. The House named conferees weeks ago, but the Senate has yet to act.

“We’re sort of like the Maytag repairman. We’re waiting for the call that they’ve named conferees,” said House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) yesterday.

While it was always clear that work on a final bill wouldn’t be completed before Labor Day, Upton said, “the only way to get to second base is to name conferees first.”

Many Senate Democrats, however, are skeptical of moving forward with a conference committee as long as House lawmakers insist on pushing provisions that President Obama has threatened to veto.

“We’ll be as flexible as we can,” said House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

Bishop and Upton have been part of bicameral meetings to get the Senate on board with going to conference. But, as of last night, no meetings had been set.

New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of his party’s leadership team, has suggested informal negotiations could produce a better product than a conference.

Reporters Sean Reilly and Hannah Hess contributed.