This week: Senate heads toward energy fight

The Senate is heading toward a battle over energy reform as it returns to Washington after a historic snowstorm.

Senators are expected to formally start debate Wednesday on wide-ranging legislation from Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann Murkowski'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again MORE (R-Alaska), after a brief session Tuesday.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi mum on when House will send impeachment article to Senate Democratic senator: COVID-19 relief is priority over impeachment trial The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (R-Ky.) teed up lawmakers last week to move to the proposal, suggesting it could be an area of bipartisanship for the Senate.

"It'll be open for amendment, and since it came out of committee 18-4, I hope we'll be able to replicate what we did on frequent occasions last year with the re-write of No Child Left Behind, the highway bill and other matters," he told reporters last week, announcing his intention to move to the proposal.

The legislation, which came after months of talks between Murkowski and Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Texas, other states bring antitrust lawsuit against Google | Krebs emphasizes security of the election as senators butt heads | Twitter cracks down on coronavirus vaccine misinformation Senators press federal agencies for more information on Russian cyberattack New FCC commissioner's arrival signals gridlock early next year MORE (D-Wash.), could give senators an early opportunity to push back on President Obama's recent announcement that he would temporarily halt new leases for coal mining on federal land.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters that the administration's decision "is going to just be sending pink slips to thousands of people who earn their living and their livelihood with coal."

Senators on both sides of the aisle are planning to introduce amendments that could sink the bipartisan support for the energy legislation.

In addition to trying to get a vote on Obama's moratorium, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) suggested that he could use the bill to get votes on Democratic policies, but declined to go into specifics.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBipartisan group of senators: The election is over Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 How Congress dismissed women's empowerment MORE (D-N.H.) also suggested that she could link the legislation to her long-standing push to make energy-efficient homes more affordable, after the provision was left out of the Energy Committee's proposal.

The energy bill comes after Republicans have repeatedly used the Senate floor to battle with the Obama administration on its energy policies, including a failed attempt last week to override his veto that preserved a controversial water rule.

House Democrats' Baltimore retreat

While a historic snowstorm forced House leadership to cancel votes for this week, it isn't stopping House Democrats from gathering for their annual retreat.

The caucus is expected to meet in Baltimore starting Wednesday to discuss its legislative strategy, which could spill over into the 2016 presidential race and the battle between Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMillennials and the great reckoning on race Biden chooses Amanda Gorman as youngest known inaugural poet Can Biden encompass the opposition he embodied? MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal Former Sanders spokesperson: Progressives 'shouldn't lose sight' of struggling Americans during pandemic MORE (I-Vt.) days before the Iowa caucus.

Democrats are hoping to use the conference's theme, “united for opportunity,” to contrast themselves with a fractured Republican Party ahead of the 2016 election.

The retreat is expected to be a star-studded event, with President Obama and Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenAzar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments House Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE scheduled to speak to lawmakers. The conference could mark one of their final times to speak in front of the entire House Democratic caucus before they leave office early next year.

A Democratic aide told CNN earlier this month that comedian and “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah is also scheduled to speak to House Dems during their retreat.

In addition to Noah—who took over for long-time Daily Show host Jon Stewart—Democrats have also invited wealthy businessman Tom Steyer and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.