Week ahead: Energy bill, Flint aid -- take two

Senators are growing increasingly bullish on the prospects of returning to a major energy reform bill and a Flint, Mich., aid package.

Lawmakers negotiating a deal to bring the two items back to the Senate floor say they're trying to resolve final disputes over the packages in hopes of calling them both up for votes in the coming week.

"We need to get it all ironed out, but the thing that I find encouraging every day, and one of the reasons I have not lost my optimism, is because everybody is continuing to talk, continuing to work through things, and as long as all that is happening, you can achieve a desired result," Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiMcAuliffe: I wouldn't want a 'caretaker' in Kaine's Senate seat Big Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Thursday.

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Murkowski said she expects the energy bill and Flint aid to come back to the floor after senators finish up work on a measure to address opioid abuse early in the week. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said the Flint legislation is "hopefully" set to hit the floor after opioid bill is done.

"That's still a work in progress," he said this week. "We're down to very few [complaints]. I don't recall the number, but very few, not many at all."

"We're ready to go, we're ready to vote," Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowDem sen: Clinton 'focused and prepared to keep us safe' Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense Dems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president MORE (D-Mich.) added. "We have a great bipartisan proposal. We have bipartisan support. Now it's just a matter of getting the energy bill squared away."

Lawmakers agreed on a $250 million package to upgrade infrastructure for communities across the country struggling with contaminated water, including Flint. The deal opened the door for the Senate to resume considering the energy bill, which faltered last month amid negotiations over Flint, where residents are suffering from a severe lead contamination.

But work both bills has since stalled, with several Republicans placing holds on the legislation. Republican Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeObama signs opioid bill Thiel said to explain support for Trump in convention speech Convention erupts at Cruz snub MORE (Utah) and David VitterDavid VitterTim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense David Duke will bank on racial tensions in Louisiana Senate bid Former KKK leader David Duke running for Senate MORE (La.) are both blocking the water agreement, two Senate aides told The Hill this week.

Senators can use holds to stall legislation or a nomination without having to publicly announce their opposition. Lee is reportedly upset over funding levels and Senate procedure and believes the drinking water crisis is a local issue. Vitter said last week he was "quite hopeful" the Senate would soon be able to move forward on the matter.

"There is scheduled to be some people who won't support the overall bill, understand that," Murkowski said. "What we want to try to do is get them to the place where everybody else can express their views and opinions on the overall bill. That's what we're doing, that's what we've been working on."

Off the floor, senators are scheduled to continue examining President Obama's 2017 budget request.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell is scheduled to testify on his agency's budget proposal before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. 

The following day, the Environment and Public Works Committee plans to hold a hearing on "EPA regulatory actions and the role of states as co-regulators."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to visit Washington for a meeting with President Obama and a state dinner at the White House. Among other issues, the visit will reportedly yield a U.S.-Canada climate change strategy, though American officials have yet to detail what that might look like. 

 

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