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Did House GOP Leaders Stop Working on an Energy Bill to Go to a Party?
12/23/2016 Legislation Seth L
keywords: Energy hydropower

As the holidays approach, the urge to stop working and start relaxing can become overwhelming, and with Congress, things are no different as some lawmakers in the House can attest regarding an end-of-session vote on a recent energy bill which was passed in the Senate under the Energy Policy Modernization Act title (S.2012).

A frustrated Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) related to the Alaska Journal that some of her compatriots in the House were unwilling to resolve policy differences with their Democratic peers on December 8 because the National Republican Congressional Committee was holding its annual "Bright Lights and Broadway" fundraising event in New York that weekend.

Many of the lawmakers ended the Congressional session so they could catch the "party train" to New York and didn't want to take final action on the bill, killing its chances of passage in the House this year. This was after two years' worth of combined work crafting and refining the measure, which would streamline federal energy rules and expand energy production.

The bill was intended to be the first major energy reform legislation in over a decade. The energy industry had high hopes for the legislation's passage this Congressional session, but the House and the Senate had gone in different directions with the bill. Murkowski said it had been held up over a major issue — a provision to increase liquefied natural gas exports. The Senate wanted to include the measure, but the House had removed it during negotiations. The House had included provisions conservative members had sought, such as relief for the drought in California and measures to circumvent environmental regulations regarding energy projects developed on Native American land. In the meantime, the Senate wanted to lock in federal conservation's efforts permanently.

The two chambers held a conference committee to try to reconcile their differences in September but were unable to compromise on all issues. Murkowski stated in November that there still major differences over forest management, wildlife funding, carbon benefits, innovation, manufacturing, natural gas pipelines, gas exports, hydropower and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The House had just passed a water reform package and a spending bill, and Murkowski was expecting the energy bill to be the last piece of business the chamber dealt with before adjourning for the holiday recess. The senator spoke to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about the matter, but according to Murkowski, "the Speaker said ‘We’ve run out of time’ because they wanted to get on the party train."

AshLee Strong, Speaker Ryan's press secretary wrote in an email statement, "The conferees were not able to come to agreement on various outstanding issues in time for the House to consider a conference report.”

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