Deadline nears for Murkowski energy bill

first_imgPhoto by Liz RuskinTime is running out on one of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s top priorities: a far-reaching energy bill. Murkowski had hoped the legislation would serve as her crowning achievement after two years as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.Listen NowBut Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday listed a substantial number of priorities for the remaining weeks of the lame duck session. The Kentucky senator sounded both hopeful and doubtful about negotiations with the House over Murkowski’s bill.“We still have some hope the energy conference report will come together before the end of this week,” McConnell told reporters at a press conference outside the Senate chamber.Sen. Lisa Murkowski (File photo by Skip Gray, 360 North)To craft the bill, Murkowski deployed a strategy that’s become somewhat rare in Congress: She let the minority participate. The result is a bill that would help the fossil fuel industry and also promote renewables and efficiency. Getting it into law is a test of Murkowski’s legislative ability and of her moderate approach.Since the election, some Republicans see less need to compromise. Murkowski said she met with her House counterparts before Thanksgiving and explained why, as she sees it, it’s unwise to ditch the bill and try again next year, when Republicans will control the White House as well as Congress.“Because it doesn’t get easier next year, and we will have foregone all of the hard work that has gone into, I think, a pretty significant product that we built over two years,” Murkowski said.House Republicans trying to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate bills have proposed a stripped-down version. Murkowski and the top Democrat on her committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, are pushing for provisions designed to appeal to both sides of the aisle, like speedy approvals for natural gas exports, renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and help for hydropower.In the Senate, it takes at least 60 votes to pass most significant bills, and Murkowski points out, the Republicans lost two Senate seats in the election. So Murkowski said lawmakers can’t afford to ignore the Democrats.“In order to gain the support that we need, we’re going to have to make sure that we’re building bridges, not blowing them up,” Murkowski said.And for her bill, time is short. The Senate is scheduled to be in session until mid-December, but a spokeswoman for Murkowski said the senator is trying to negotiate an agreement by the end of this week so it has time to pass both chambers.last_img read more