In July 2015, comprehensive bills that would modernize U.S. energy policy for the first time since 2007 were introduced in the House and Senate. Notwithstanding their respective controversies, both bills started their legislative journeys with bipartisan support. That same month, the Senate reported their bill (S. 2012) out of Committee 18-4, and the House bill (H.R. 8) passed unanimously through the Energy and Power Subcommittee.
In the House, the bipartisan spirit appeared to wane in August and September. The House’s bill lost much of its bipartisan support in the wake of a substitute amendment offered by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). On September 30, the Energy and Commerce Committee marked the Upton substitute, which was reported out of committee on a largely party-line vote, 32-20. Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) promised the Republicans that without the bipartisan concessions, H.R. 8 could be vetoed by the President. And, indeed, after the bill passed through the full Committee, the White House released an official veto threat against the legislation. Democrats’ attempts at amending the bill on the floor largely failed. The bill ultimately passed the House in December by a predominantly party-line vote of 249-174, with only nine Democrats voting in favor.
Back in the Senate, S. 2012 first received floor consideration in late January 2016. The bill’s sponsors and party leadership were hopeful that, in spite of the anticipated introduction of potentially controversial amendments, the bipartisan spirit of the bill would remain intact throughout floor consideration. This spirit did largely prevail until the Senators from Michigan insisted that the bill’s passage be contingent on Federal funds for Flint, MI, to address its lead water crisis. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) eventually pulled the bill from the floor after it failed to overcome a procedural motion. The Michigan Senators continued negotiations with Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to come to an agreement on Flint. Finally, in April, an agreement came together and S. 2012 was brought back to the floor. After the consideration of final amendments, the chamber passed the bill by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 85-12.
Up next, the two chambers will form a formal conference committee where they will reconcile the many differences between the two bills. Both Rep. Upton and Sen. Murkowski have expressed eagerness in getting the bill to the President before the summer recess, which starts July 16. There is a lot of work yet ahead, but it is expected that efforts will get underway within the coming weeks. As the Chairperson of the Senate’s committee of jurisdiction, Sen. Murkowski will “hold the gavel” for the conference committee since the House held control of the proceedings during the last major energy bill conference in 2007. Sen. Murkowski’s optimism and perseverance during the months-long Flint negotiations highlight her ability and willingness to work with her Democratic partner, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), to accomplish this overhaul legislation and present a final package to the President that is not only comprehensive but bipartisan in nature.
In preparation for conference, we updated our side-by-side comparison of the House- and Senate-passed energy bills. Our analysis shows 20 issue areas that overlap between the House and Senate energy bills. Those commonalities are charted in the attached side-by-side comparison. This overlap highlights that while the House Democrats cried partisanship during their markup, the House bill still has plenty of similarities to the bipartisan Senate bill.
Following the chart of commonalities is a list of provisions unique to S. 2012 and then a list unique for H.R. 8.
To view the side-by-side comparison, click here.