Senate energy bill negotiations could be delayed until after recess

Senate energy bill negotiations could be delayed until after recess
© Camille Fine

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrat calls on EPA to withdraw 'secret science' rule Blame game heats up as Senate motion fails Democratic senators, attorneys general slam proposal to roll back protections for birds MORE (D-Del.) said Wednesday that negotiations on sweeping and bipartisan energy legislation will cool down over next week’s recess amid disputes over a potential amendment to the legislation. 

A proposal introduced by Carper and Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) has held up negotiations on the energy package put forth by Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP senators urge Saudi Arabia to leave OPEC Schumer: Senate should 'explore' remote voting if coronavirus sparks lengthy break Turning the virus into a virtue — for the planet MORE (R-Alaska) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinWhite House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package Some Democrats growing antsy as Senate talks drag on Senate fails to advance coronavirus stimulus bill for second time in two days MORE (D-W.Va.).

“Sen Kennedy's advice was ‘Why don't we just all go home to our home states and let people calm down and come back,’” Carper told The Hill. “And I think there's actually some wisdom in that.” 

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Opponents of the measure to reduce the use of the heat-trapping chemical have pushed for the addition of language that would prevent states from adding additional regulations on top of the federal rule. 

A Senate aide told reporters that Carper and Kennedy have offered a compromise that would preempt states from putting their own laws in place for two years. 

A spokesman for Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate MORE (R-Wyo.), one of the most vocal opponents of the HFCs measure, told The Hill in a statement that this compromise isn’t “real preemption.”

“The minority office offered a two-year pause on state regulation,” said spokesman Mike Danylak. “That will only delay the issue two years.”

He added that Barrasso “has concerns with any legislative effort that will layer new federal rules on a patchwork of current or future state rules – including state rules in two years. Chairman Barrasso still awaits a counter offer from the minority that includes real preemption language.”

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A Carper spokesperson, however, pushed back, saying that Barrasso wants “permanent removal — from both states and EPA — of the authority to regulate the uses of HFCs.”

“Senator Carper does not support a policy approach that permanently leaves no one with the authority to regulate HFC usage,” his spokesperson told The Hill in an email. 

Meanwhile, Murkowski said Wednesday that while her legislation is delayed, it is still in play. 

“What I’m trying to figure out right now is how we end up with what we started to do which is to put in place energy reforms,” she told reporters. “We’re stalled out right now, but we are not dead.”

She also said that Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHillicon Valley: Apple rolls out coronavirus screening app, website | Pompeo urged to crack down on coronavirus misinformation from China | Senators push FTC on price gouging | Instacart workers threaten strike Trump signs T coronavirus relief package Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing MORE (R-Ky.) has made a “good” and “solid” commitment to her on the bill. 

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“We will work through this, but I also recognize that you have limited daylight in an election year to legislate,” she said. 

The Murkowski-Manchin legislation would spur research on a number of types of energy and is the first major package on the topic in more than a decade.

The HFC amendment has become a sticking point on the legislation, with Kennedy and Carper pushing for a vote. Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing COVID-19, Bill Barr and the American authoritarian tradition MORE (D-N.Y.) has threatened to filibuster if it's not considered.

The White House, meanwhile, is among those expressing opposition to the amendment, citing a lack of preemption language. 

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.