The Republican Party is preparing to introduce its first major legislation since it took control of the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections. The GOP wants to use its House majority to push through a major energy bill that will serve as a key part of the party platform for the current term, setting the scene for the upcoming presidential election in November 2024. The problem is that the party is more fractured than ever while the GOP has the floor. Multiple contentious and competing interests are reflected in the kitchen-sink-style energy package.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is attempting to unify his party under a common mission through the banner bill, which is slated to include ideas from around 20 different popular GOP bills new and old, such as ramping up drilling on federal lands, condemning President Joe Biden’s Keystone XL pipeline pause, and easing environmental reviews of energy and mining projects. While this grab-bag of popular GOP platform points could bring sparring Republican Party members under the same big tent, it could also backfire in a big way. As Politico reported earlier this week, the energy package’s “wide-ranging appeal across the GOP’s ideological spectrum also creates more pressure points for McCarthy to manage. He’ll have zero room for error and face a herculean task in preventing last-minute changes on the floor that could risk unraveling the entire plan.”
While Republicans have a 5-vote lead over democrats in the House of Representatives, they could easily fail to secure more than five votes in the current fractured climate. Each of the bills that make up the new package has a support committee, but uniting these committees around the amendments process is going to be a tall order. If the bill loses the support of just one of these support committees, it loses the vote.
And losing just one committee would be a pretty good result compared to the current House’s voting track record. So far, nothing in the new congressional session has been easy for the Republican party. Electing McCarthy as the Speaker took 15 rounds of voting to gain enough buy-in from the various GOP factions. In light of these challenges, critics think that McCarthy’s target to vote through the proposed energy bill at the end of March is likely wishful thinking.
Even though the bill could be gridlocked for the foreseeable future, it has already drawn a lot of heat and pointed criticism from across the aisle. Democratic Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez has referred to the proposed package as a “fossil fuel industry wishlist.” While the GOP has argued that measures boosting fossil fuel production are necessary for shoring up U.S. energy independence, Cortez argued that their real interest is in increasing profits. It is true that, according to Yahoo!Finance, “America is more energy independent than ever.”
The bill hasn’t fared much better in the public eye. This week, an opinion piece published by Esquire dismissed the ‘marquee’ energy plan as phoned-in and toothless, saying that the bill merely “reheats tired ideas.” But not all of the ideas in the bill are tired.
The proposed bill will represent the party’s first big pushback against current energy permitting rules, which are in such legitimate need of retooling that this provision alone could garner bipartisan support. The hope is that permitting will be the big ticket issue that wins Joe Biden’s signature on the bill's final version – assuming that it ever gets through the amendment stage to earn the “final version” title. Permitting is a major issue in energy expansion, and is currently keeping billions of dollars in clean energy subsidies from Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act tied up in red tape.
But for now, a bipartisan deal is far from materializing, the GOP continues to fight amongst its own ranks, and the rhetoric around the package continues to heat up by the day.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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