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Energy Bill Likely to Slip to December

Although Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said energy legislation could return to the House floor as early as this week, senior Democrats said it is unlikely the bill will move before the chamber’s Thanksgiving recess begins on Friday.

“I would like to see the bill come up [this] week,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday. “But … we are still maybe hoping against hope that we could have a conference on the bill.”

Rather than appoint conferees from each chamber to hash out differences in the approximately 1,100 pages of legislation, the House and Senate are expected to vote on identical bills without allowing amendments and then send the measure to President Bush.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to do it — I would like to do it before we leave,” Pelosi said. “I’d like to do it because it’s Thanksgiving.”

House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) declined to be interviewed about the progress of negotiations on the energy legislation, but Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, said he remains skeptical the House will be able to move before the two-week recess.

“There’s still a lot of distance to be traveled … It’s far from certain that will happen,” Boucher said. In particular, the Virginia lawmaker cited disagreements over mileage standards included in the Senate’s version of the bill and renewable energy requirements mandated in the House legislation, as well as efforts to roll back billions in tax breaks for oil companies.

“My goal would be to get it done properly. … The timing is more a leadership issue,” Boucher added.

House Republicans, who assert they have been left out of negotiations on the bill, also have criticized the legislation.

“The Speaker says we’re going to have an energy bill by [this] week. As it turns out, next week, we’re going to have the 58th vote on [the] Iraq [War], the 58th vote in this Congress, in either the House and Senate, on Iraq [this] week,” Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Friday. “When we ought to be talking about, how do we increase supply; how do we take advantage of our resources, our coal resources; what do we do about nuclear; how do we encourage more renewables; how do we encourage more domestic production, as we clearly should be in a transition between a fossil fuel economy and whatever the next economy of the future is?”