Senate backers of 11th-hour push on renewable power mandate predict victory

A bipartisan group of senators leading a revived effort for Senate approval of a renewable power mandate this year predicted victory Tuesday.

“The beauty of this is it’s not cap-and-trade,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told reporters. “It’s a responsible — it’s a bipartisan — approach.”

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Brownback stood alongside Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and others at a media event introducing a renewable electricity standard (RES) that, aside from a few technical changes, echoes a mandate Bingaman’s panel approved as part of a larger energy strategy last year.

It would require electricity companies to produce 15 percent of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and a list of other green sources by 2021. A quarter of that mandate could be met through energy efficiency activities, also echoing last year’s version on Bingaman’s panel.

The plan is to gain enough support to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell not yet ready to change rules for Trump nominees The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Trump to press GOP on changing Senate rules MORE (D-Nev.) to move it during a post-election lame-duck session. “We are not in a position to urge that yet,” Bingaman said. He said they need a little more time to “demonstrate the support that many of us think is there.”

Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (D-La.) said Tuesday she would not vote for a renewable electricity standard (RES) unless offshore oil-and-gas drilling is allowed to move forward.

The mandate was considered all-but-dead before a recent marketing and advocacy blitz by environmentalists, renewable energy groups and other supporters. Reid recently reversed course and said the measure has a chance to come up during a lame-duck session.

Brownback was one of only three Republicans on the Energy and Natural Resources panel — along with then-ranking member Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senators introduce bill to measure progress in opioid fight Dems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game MORE (Alaska) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerAdministration works to assuage critics over ZTE deal Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (Tenn.) — who supported the energy package that included the RES last year. Corker Tuesday said he will not support the RES by itself and Murkowski’s spokesman has said she is unlikely to do so either.

The RES “was one of the pieces that I disliked the most,” Corker told The Hill. “To bring it up on its own would not be a good plan in my opinion and it is certainly not something I could support.” He said a standard should give credit to existing nuclear power and hydroelectric generation.


Brownback is one of three Republicans – along with Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE of Maine and John Ensign of Nevada – who are cosponsoring the stand-alone bill so far. Nevada – home state to Reid – has strong solar and geothermal production.

Reid has said an RES may be considered as part of a lame-duck session. He is not yet cosponsoring the bill introduced Tuesday. Other original cosponsors are Democrats Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Mark UdallMark Emery UdallSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Democratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDem senator presses EPA over reporter 'intimidation' Dems expand 2018 message to ‘draining the swamp’ Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus MORE (N.M.) and Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Twitter CEO meets with lawmakers to talk net neutrality, privacy Senate Dems urge Trump to remain in Iran deal ahead of announcement MORE (Wash.).

Brownback said he is working to attract more Republican support. That may be contingent on whether Reid makes a move to “fill up the tree” and not allow any amendments to be offered to the measure.

Sen. Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee Dem leaders request bipartisan meeting on Russia probe Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals MORE (R-Iowa) Tuesday said he would support an RES but only if amendments are allowed to be offered.

"If [Reid] is going to fill the tree then I am not going to vote for cloture," Grassley said.

Brownback’s support for the RES without amendments being allowed depends on whether Reid “loads it with anything else,” he said. “People can’t get cute with this,” he said. 

Ben Geman contributed to this article.

This post initially incorrectly identified Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy Senate reaches deal on new sexual harassment policy Washington governor to make Iowa debut MORE (D-Minn.) as an original co-sponsor of the new legislation. She has her own RES bill.