‘Beyond frustrating.’ Murkowski-sponsored energy bill stalls in U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

When Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski rolled out the American Energy Innovation Act in late February with ranking energy committee member U.S. Joe Manchin, it was expected to be headed for speedy and bipartisan passage.

But as things are with Congress, nothing is quite that simple.

The legislation hit a roadblock on Monday night when a stalemate over amendments to the fast-moving energy bill led to senators voting against closing debate and reaching a vote on the bill, which was expected as early as today. According to a report by The Hill, senators are divided on several floor amendments to the bill and it’s unclear exactly what the path forward is.

Democrats, with the support of some Republicans, have focused their efforts on two main amendments to the bill: One phasing down the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas, in refrigerators and air conditioners and another that would step up energy efficiency standards for new homes.

Despite the amendment dealing with hydroflourocarbons having bipartisan support–sponsored by Sens. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.)–the proposal ran into opposition from the White House and a handful of Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of barring a vote on an otherwise popular measure and threatened to filibuster the bill.

“They’re thousands of times more damaging to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Phasing out these HFCs is very important. And it will go a long way in fighting climate change and protecting the environment for future generations,” Schumer said, according to The Hill, calling the bill “a real rare opportunity to make tangible progress.”

The legislation hadn’t specifically been introduced as a climate change measure but seeks to increase investment in renewable energies and energy efficiency measures. It also contains measures that call for investment into cleaner natural gas technologies, directs mining for critical minerals and would start a pilot program for small-scale nuclear reactors.

Murkwoski told the Alaska Legislature earlier this year that such small-scale nuclear reactors could be a boon for Alaska, cutting down on the need for frequent fuel shipments.

As for Monday’s delay, Murkowski said “it is beyond frustrating” to see the bill stall over a last-minute fight on the Senate floor.

“I am incredulous the Senate did not vote to invoke cloture on our substitute amendment after a year of regular process in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee,” she said in a prepared statement. “It is beyond frustrating to have our bill, which contains priorities from more than 70 Senators, held up by an unrelated dispute that was never part of our discussions in the lead-up to this floor process. We will regroup and look for a path forward but finding one will require members to be more reasonable and accommodating than they have been in the last week, and certainly more so than they were today.”

When–or if–that might happen is unclear.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune told The Hill that “We’ll probably end up having to pivot something else, until we figure out if there’s a way we can get this back on track,”

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