Overnight Energy: Fight over Flint aid stalls energy bill

DEMS BLOCK FLINT-FREE ENERGY BILL: Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked ending debate on a bipartisan rewrite of federal energy policy because lawmakers couldn't come to an agreement on aid for the Flint, Mich., water crisis.

Democrats, led by Michigan's two senators, had hoped to attach a $600 million package for Flint water infrastructure to the energy bill.

Lawmakers, led by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, had tried to negotiate the aid into the energy package, but those efforts fell flat as Thursday morning's cloture vote neared. Stabenow said that with a little more time, negotiators could reach a deal on Flint funding.

"Let us get this done together," she said in a floor speech. "If we vote next week, next Tuesday, we'll be OK. ... We can take a couple extra days to do something that will dramatically change the opportunity for a future in a city that's important."

Lawmakers had hoped the energy bill -- crafted by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and cleared by their energy panel on an 18-4 vote -- would sail through the Senate like other bipartisan policy bills did last year.

Instead, it failed on a 46-50 vote on Thursday.

Murkowski proposed an amendment to provide $550 million for Flint, funding she said was offset and allowed under congressional rules. Stabenow objected to the measure, saying it couldn't get the votes it needed on the floor.

"Our problem is not about whether we should offset the cost of this assistance, it's about how we do so in a manner that does not destroy the underlying energy bill and does violate the Constitution and the rules we have here in the Senate," Murkowski said.

Senators and staff are expected to talk through the weekend to try to get a deal that could resurrect the energy bill by early next week.

"Hopefully we'll be able to salvage this important bipartisan legislation in the next few days," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who used a procedural tactic that will allow him to bring the bill back up if they get an agreement.

Read more about the Senate vote here, and the path forward for the energy bill here.

Dems press Snyder to testify on Flint: House Democrats are pressing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to testify next week at a hearing they're hosting on Flint's water crisis.

The invitation Thursday follows repeated angry calls from Democrats to compel Snyder to answer for his role in the lead contamination crisis.

Democrats repeatedly pressured Republicans on Wednesday at a House Oversight Committee to bring in Snyder, but they never did.

"As the governor of the state of Michigan, the families of Flint and all Americans deserve to hear testimony directly from you on how this man-made crisis happened, and what is being done at the state level to make it right," Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Flint's own Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) wrote to Snyder on Thursday.

Snyder appointed Darnell Earley, Flint's emergency manager during the 2014 switch in Flint's water source that caused the lead problem, and Earley reported directly to him.

Snyder's staff also repeatedly told Flint that it did not need more corrosion controls for its water and downplayed residents' concerns.

OBAMA PROPOSES 'DEAD ON ARRIVAL' OIL TAX: President Obama will include a $10-per-barrel tax on oil in his final budget proposal next week, the White House announced on Thursday.

The funding raised by the tax would go toward a new effort to green the American transportation sector. But Republicans have already come out strongly against the proposal, promising that it's "dead on arrival" in Congress.

The proposal would fund a $32.4 billion annual effort to increase public transit funding, an urban planning initiative and clean vehicle research, the White House said.

"The president's plan does what we need to once again have a transportation system that is a source of American strength while at the same time taking steps to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change," Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, said.

Zients said "we look forward to working on the details with Congress," but Republicans indicated Thursday that the proposal will never get that far.

"The president should be proposing policies to grow our economy instead of sacrificing it to appease progressive climate activists," Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

"The good news is this plan is little more than an election-year distraction. As this lame-duck president knows, it's dead on arrival in Congress, because House Republicans are committed to affordable American energy and a strong U.S. economy."

Read more here.

ON TAP FRIDAY: James Woolsey, head of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995, will give a lecture on energy security as part of an Institute of World Politics event.


Morocco's king on Thursday activated the first phase of what will eventually become the world's largest solar power project, the Guardian reports.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to increase the solar power capacity on city-owned buildings fivefold, CBS New York reports.

The Washington Post looks at the financial problems facing Minnesota's Iron Range.


Check out Thursday's stories...

-Offshore drilling safety rule nears completion
-NOAA proposes reporting rule for at-risk fish imports
-Pelosi rejects broader FEMA role in Flint
-Obama to push $10-per-barrel oil tax for green transportation plan
-White House to SCOTUS: Bid to block climate rule 'unprecedented'
-Obama looks to fully fund federal conservation program
-Senate fight over Flint aid goes into overtime
-Flint fight blocks energy bill

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