House: Upton, Bishop offer conference committee assurances

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

Two top House chairmen yesterday pledged to work with wary Democrats in conference committee talks to produce a final energy bill that President Obama would sign.

In a joint statement, Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said they were committed to working with members from both parties on both sides of the Capitol to sort out the thorny differences between the chambers’ competing energy bills.

While brief, the joint statement released yesterday afternoon addresses a key concern by Democrats, which has stalled the launch of formal negotiations. Members of the minority worry about Republicans pushing poison pill provisions.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to get something to the president that he will sign into law,” said Upton and Bishop. “From our perspective, a bill that the president will veto is a waste of time and effort and casts aside the hard work we’ve put in up to this point.”

They added, “We remain committed to working in a bicameral, bipartisan manner and remain hopeful we can set aside our differences and move ahead with a formal conference between the two chambers.”

The joint statement comes as the pair are expected to meet again this week with their respective ranking members, Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to talk about a possible conference (E&E Daily, June 20).

The House named conferees to merge both chamber’s energy bills last month, but the Senate has not yet set a vote to launch the talks (Greenwire, May 26).

Cantwell has repeatedly criticized the House for adding bills to its energy packagethat have drawn White House veto threats.

She has also compared the House’s bill, which passed the chamber with a handful of Democrats, with the Senate’s S. 2012, which passed the chamber 85-12 in April.

The Upton-Bishop statement stops short of taking the veto-threatened House bills off the table for conference talks but states the obvious — that ultimately any final bill the conference passes will need to garner the support of the White House. Murkowski has emphasized the point repeatedly in recent weeks (E&E Daily, June 9).