Senate begins work on energy overhaul

Senate begins work on energy overhaul
© Greg Nash

The Senate began considering a rewrite of federal energy policies on Wednesday, with both Democratic and Republican leadership pledging to move the overhaul bill forward this week. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers What if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? Senate votes to eliminate Obama-era retirement rule MORE (R-Ky.) hailed the energy bill — a product of work between Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiPence casts tiebreaking Senate procedural vote on funding for abortion providers Elle honors 10 at annual 'Women in Washington' event Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing MORE (R-Alaska) and Maria CantwellMaria CantwellDem leaders give centrists space on Gorsuch Senators move to bolster cyber resources for small businesses Path to 60 narrows for Trump pick MORE (D-Wash.) — as “a good way forward” on energy policy. 

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“It will help Americans produce more energy. It will help Americans pay less for energy. It will help Americans save energy,” he said on Wednesday. 

“Not only will this bipartisan legislation help bring our energy policies in line with the demands of today, it will also position us to benefit from the opportunities of tomorrow. So let’s work together and pass it.”

The legislation changes a slate of federal energy policies, including provisions to speed up the export of liquefied natural gas, indefinitely expand a conservation fund, update the electricity grid and reform and update other energy policies.   

Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWhat if there’s no 'Nuclear Option' in the Senate? Republican failure Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral MORE (D-Nev.) praised the bill on the floor Wednesday for the conservation provision and its expansion of energy efficiency programs and investments into clean energy and vehicles. 

“As written, the Murkowski-Cantwell energy bill could win bipartisan approval on the Senate floor and can do it right now,” Reid said.  

The energy bill is the product of months of work between Republicans and Democrats on the Senate’s energy panel, which approved it on an 18-4 vote last summer. The legislation, Murkowski said on Wednesday, contains provisions from 50 different bills proposed by senators on both sides of the aisle.

“This is a good bill, it is a timely bill and it is a bipartisan bill and it deserves overwhelming support from this chamber,” Murkowski, the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said. 

“I am hopeful that the collaborative effort that got this bill to the floor here today will be reflected in the debate that goes before us,” she added.

The bill will be open for amendments on the floor, leadership said, a prospect that both sides warned shouldn’t be used to hurt the underlying bill’s appeal to both parties.

Cantwell, the ranking member on the energy panel, said members should look to propose measures that “improve the bill but not sink the bill with poison pill amendments that will either get it vetoed or stop it from getting across the finish line.”