Senate bill’s fate up in the air

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Senators are huddling with their respective caucuses this afternoon to try to sort out a path for salvaging the chamber’s bipartisan energy package, after overnight negotiations on aid for Flint, Mich., appear to have failed to clear the chief hurdle to finishing the bill.

Aides from both parties said it was unclear what’s next for the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s package (S. 2012), which remains stalled over Democratic demands for assistance to help Flint residents cope with their lead-contaminated drinking water.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this morning did not reference the energy bill or the Flint standoff in his opening remarks, but he noted that the chamber will move to North Korea sanctions legislation tomorrow morning.

In his own opening comments, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) noted that 9,000 children under the age of 6 in Flint have been exposed to lead, and he mentioned that the American Academy of Pediatrics yesterday sent a “long letter” to him and McConnell urging help for the town.

“We need help from the Republicans,” Reid said. “Nothing’s happened because we haven’t had enough Republican support. In the meantime, the people of Flint, Michigan, are using bottled water to bathe, to drink, to brush their teeth, to cook with. That’s really too bad.”

However, Reid noted ongoing negotiations with Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who yesterday said he was working on identifying new offsets for his proposal to steer grants and loans to Flint (E&E Daily, Feb. 9).

“Now we are once again waiting on Republicans to step forward and support the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee,” Reid said.

“It’s incumbent upon the Republican majority to get to ‘yes,’ help the people of Flint [and] end this man-made emergency that’s simply beyond their control,” he added.

While the Senate is scheduled to vote on a pending nomination this afternoon, it’s unclear what will happen next on energy.

Democrats last week filibustered two procedural votes on the energy bill, and McConnell reserves the right to bring up both for a vote at any time.

The chamber could also move to the North Korea bill tomorrow and return to the energy package later, should McConnell be willing to commit additional floor time to energy, which has already consumed a week and a half of floor action.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said she is awaiting a Congressional Budget Office score on a compromise Flint amendment that has bipartisan support. However, she said it was unclear if there is sufficient support within the Senate for adoption.