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Tangled in amendments and process, Senate energy bill pushed to next week

Delay caused by multitude of amendments, focus on coronavirus legislation

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks with reporters in the Senate subway as she leaves the Senate Republicans’’ caucus meeting to discuss witnesses for the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Jan. 28.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks with reporters in the Senate subway as she leaves the Senate Republicans’’ caucus meeting to discuss witnesses for the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Jan. 28. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of the Senate reached an impasse over the energy bill before them this week, delaying floor action on the legislation until next week, the Republican senator behind the bill said Thursday.

Speaking on the floor, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said members could not agree on amendment votes this week, adding that she and Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.V., the top committee Democrat, have been working to reach a deal behind closed doors. The bill includes “priorities” from nearly 70 senators, she said.

“We could not reach agreement to have votes throughout the course of this week,” Murkowski said. “It’s been frustrating.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on a substitute amendment that Murkowski introduced to the underlying energy bill and on the bill itself. Murkowski said that substitute includes 18 new amendments, from Republicans and Democrats, and a vote would occur Monday night.

The bill hit snags this week, as legislation to address the coronavirus-caused disease COVID-19 took over both chambers and members jockeyed to get their amendments — now about 200, according to Murkowski — into the energy bill.

[Fast-moving Senate energy bill draws dozens of amendments]

If enacted as drafted, the bill would address a swatch of energy and technology topics, including utility-scale battery storage, cybersecurity, critical minerals, natural gas exports, infrastructure licensing and nuclear power.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told reporters Wednesday night that he would object to every offered amendment on the bill to get a vote on a bipartisan bill, co-sponsored with Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, which are highly potent greenhouse gases.

“I don’t have any choice,” Kennedy said. The White House has signaled it opposes that legislation. 

Murkowski said she would like this legislative dance to have played out differently this week. “This is not my preferred approach,” she said. 

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