Senate reaches deal on long-stalled energy bill

Greg Nash
The Senate is moving forward with a long-stalled energy bill after two Democratic senators dropped their holds on the legislation. 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) locked in votes on a slate of amendments, as well as the underlying energy reform bill, on Wednesday evening. 
{mosads}The move could allow for the energy bill to be back on the Senate floor as soon as next week, though the exact timing is up to McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).
“It will be up to the two leaders to determine. We kind of hoped, thinking, maybe we could do something this afternoon,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters Wednesday evening. “There will be a couple days next week.” 
The Alaska senator wants the energy bill to be completed before the Senate starts its work on appropriations bills and suggested it could be wrapped up in as little as a day.
Reid suggested while the legislation wasn’t “perfect,” he supported moving forward with the bill.
“I’m gratified that we’re able to reach this agreement. This is an important piece of legislation,” he said. “We’re trying to work things out through compromise. This is a good opportunity for us to show that we can do that.” 
The Senate is currently working on a long-term reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, but Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he wants to finish work on the legislation this week.
The move comes after Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) dropped their holds on the energy reform bill. 
Nelson had pledged to block the legislation over concerns about an amendment from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on offshore drilling. 
Cassidy, however, withdrew his amendment, with Nelson calling the move “yet another small victory today in our ongoing fight to keep oil rigs away from Florida’s coast.” 
The energy bill has drawn pushback from Heritage Action, a conservative outside group, which argues it would be a “significant expansion of the federal government.” 
The group threatened earlier this year to make the energy bill a “key vote in our legislative scorecard.” Dan Holler, the group’s vice president for communications and government relations, said Wednesday evening that he was “re-upping” the warning after Senate leadership announced the deal. 
Stabenow, separately, had blocked the energy bill that she otherwise supports in an effort to make progress on a separate deal on aid for the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis. 
Despite the announcement on the energy bill, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is still blocking the separate Flint aid package. 
Stabenow slammed Lee Wednesday but pledged to continue to try to find a way forward. 
“It’s totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully paid-for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have serious lead and water problems,” she said. “We will not give up until this gets done using whatever legislative vehicle it takes.”
The bipartisan energy bill stalled earlier this year after a floor fight erupted over providing help to Flint. After Democrats initially pressed for $600 million, lawmakers have spent weeks negotiating a $250 million package to to pay for water infrastructure repairs in Flint and elsewhere. 
Tags Bill Nelson Debbie Stabenow Harry Reid John Thune Lisa Murkowski Mike Lee Mitch McConnell
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