Senate leaders may force energy bill’s return

Source: Geof Koss and Hannah Hess, E&E reporters • Posted: Friday, March 11, 2016

The Senate’s No. 2 Republican signaled yesterday that the chamber’s leaders were considering filing cloture on energy reform legislation to circumvent objections by some lawmakers that continue to bog down the measure.

Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) this afternoon said cloture on the energy bill was an option, with leaders looking to wrap up work on the package and a separate aid bill for Flint, Mich., next week before their recess.

The procedure would allow supporters of the energy bill moving forward to overcome holds by individual lawmakers as long as those backers can muster 60 votes.

“There’s no announcement, but that could happen,” Cornyn told reporters, adding that a genetically modified organism bill was also in the queue.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) acknowledged that cloture is one possibility but noted it “just takes longer.”

“It is clearly an option and has been for a while,” she told reporters. “My preference would be to see what we can’t work out and to get a clear path forward that is expedited.”

At least one holdout remains.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) firmed up his vow to block progress on the measures as long as an amendment to expand offshore drilling revenue sharing remained in the mix (Greenwire, March 10).

“Well, I’m not going to let drilling start off of Florida,” Nelson said. “That’s nonnegotiable.”

Forty years ago as a “green, wet-behind-the-ears congressman,” Nelson said, he fought Interior Secretary James Watt over a proposed oil rig off the coast of Cape Canaveral. Nelson won that fight, with the backing of the Department of Defense and NASA.

The amendment by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) would not expand drilling, and it may not have 60 votes to pass. Still, Nelson said he’s “not taking any chances.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told reporters she respects Nelson’s position. She said the fate of the energy bill and aid to her home state were now in the hands of those who control the floor schedule.

“The leadership has to decide what they want to do at this point,” she said.

The situation is “like Jell-O,” Stabenow said. “It just keeps moving.”

Reporter Amanda Reilly contributed.