Energy bill fails; Murkowski blames House

Photo by Liz Ruskin
Photo by Liz Ruskin

It was two years in the making, but it seems Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s energy bill is now dead.

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The office of House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday there was no time left to pass an energy bill, according to the publication “The Hill.”

Murkowski took to the Senate floor today to refute that. She said there was time, but House leaders didn’t want to reach an agreement. Months of negotiations over the sprawling bill were nearly successful, she said, with just two easily resolved issues still in dispute.

“We were really on the right track until just a couple of weeks ago when it became pretty apparent that the House was done,” she said. “The House was done. They stopped negotiating in good faith.”

Murkowski says House leaders should reconsider, because the package includes the priorities of dozens of House members.

But the bill isn’t all House Republicans want it to be, and after the election, it seemed desire for compromise left the building, at least on the House side.

Murkowski’s bill was crafted with help from Democrats, particularly from the Senate Energy Committee, which she chairs. It had support for renewable energy as well as research, and faster permitting for LNG exports. The bill passed the Senate in April by a vote of 85-12.

The House version of the bill is more partisan and drew veto threats from the Obama White House.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, who sat on the bill’s House-Senate negotiating committee, says some House leaders wanted the bill to fail so they can start anew next year.

“I happen to agree with Lisa,” Young said.

He said he argued to House colleagues they should pass the energy package this year, and then try for a bill next year that includes more Republican priorities, like opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Young likened it to seeing two peaches on a tree: one low, and a better one out of reach.

“So you take the little peach, eat that peach and then go get a ladder and pick the big peach,” Young said. “That’s what I’d like to see done.”

House leaders say they’ve taken their last vote for this Congress. The Senate is planning to meet over the weekend to pass a spending bill to keep the government operating.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.