The Senate’s consideration of the Keystone bill (S.1), which resulted in a flurry of amendments being filed (Senators had filed 142 amendments by week’s end) will continue this week after the Senate was unable to reach a time agreement that would have allowed completion on the bill. Therefore, in order to finish the bill, Leader McConnell (R-KY) filed cloture on the original bill and the Chairman’s substitute. Those cloture votes will be at the forefront of the Agenda early this week. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will have up to 30 hours of post-cloture debate and will be able to consider only germane amendments. If cloture is not invoked, insiders anticipate the following three options: (1) continue working on the bill as before; (2) try to find a “deal” to attract the necessary votes for another cloture vote; or (3) pull the bill. At this juncture, it appears that any initial cloture vote could fall along party lines, despite the initial motion to proceed that garnered more than 60 votes.
Items of Interest:
Additional Areas of ANWR Recommended by President for Wilderness. In a move that drew a prompt and strong rebuke from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair, Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK), the Obama Administration announced on Sunday, January 25, 2014 its recommendation that additional Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) areas be designated as wilderness. Currently, about 7 million acres of the ANWR is managed as wilderness. The announcement came amid a Department of Interior recommendation that close to 12.3 million acres should receive the wilderness designation. If approved, the new CCP that Fish and Wildlife has been working on for years would designate 98 percent of ANWR as wilderness, banning oil and gas development, new road construction and other activities. Congress, which has the sole authority to make wilderness designations, is unlikely to approve the proposal. Congress has been unsuccessful for decades in its efforts to open ANWR to oil exploration. The refuge is currently managed by the administration in a manner that closes it to fossil fuel development.
LNG Exports Hearing. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing this week focused on the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, S. 33. The bill would, among other things, require the Secretary of Energy to issue a final decision on an application to export LNG to countries without a Free Trade Agreement with the United States within 45 days from the publication of the required environmental report. In terms of agenda, Chairwoman Murkowski at the onset of this Congress announced that the export of LNG would remain at the forefront of her legislative priorities.
In related activities, the House will consider the House companion to the Senate bill, the LNG Permitting Certainty and Transparency Act, later this week. The bill is expected to pass in the House.