GOP energy negotiator accuses Senate chairman of ‘bizarre’ promise

A House chairman assigned to an energy bill conference committee said it was “a little bit bizarre” to hear a Senate Republican promise to cut provisions from the bill that could earn a presidential veto. 

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said it defeats the purpose of going to a joint House and Senate conference committee if Republicans are going to preemptively agree to remove controversial, conservative provisions from the bill. 

{mosads}“As far as I understood, I was not privy to any conversations in which somebody made a deal that said this stuff will not be in or will be in,” Bishop told reporters Thursday. ”A conference is a conference. You handle it as a conference.”

Senate negotiators — primarily the the chairwoman and ranking member on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), respectively — have said the energy bill conference committee should produce a bill that can get to President Obama for his signature this year. 

The statements mean, implicitly, that certain provisions are going to have to come out of the House-passed energy bill. Among the controversial provisions are GOP-backed measures to help relieve the California drought and prevent wildfires, for example.

When the Senate voted to go to a conference committee on Tuesday, Murkowski said, “I will reiterate my personal commitment to a final bill that can pass both chambers and be signed into law by the president. Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re going to unilaterally disarm ourselves in conference negotiations, but my objective here is to deliver a law.”

Asked whether he was confused by that and other statements, Bishop said, “Yes.”

“That is a statement that is a little bit bizarre, but it kind of defeats the purpose of a conference committee before you start a conference committee,” he said.

The conference committee, which is looking to forge the first energy reform package in almost a decade, is likely to begin its formal meetings on the measure once members return in September from their summer recess. 

Bishop predicted work will last long into the lame-duck session after November’s elections. 

“There will definitely be some meetings in September, but yeah, it’s not a whole lot of time,” he said. “But we do have a whole lot of session left. I expect to be buying Christmas gifts here again.”  

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