House Republicans’ new energy bill — which they’ve labeled H.R.1 and slated for a vote at the end of the month — is helping fuel the GOP’s political messaging against President Biden and giving the party a major piece of legislation to unite around.
But Republicans say it could also lay a marker for future negotiations on potential permitting reform and even the debt ceiling.
Given the designation of H.R. 1 — a symbolic marker of being a top priority for the GOP majority — the “Lower Energy Costs Act” aims to boost domestic oil and gas production, speed up the approval process for energy and infrastructure permits, and repeal several programs that were approved in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act package of climate, tax and health care measures last year.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), lead sponsor of the bill, said in an interview the H.R. 1 designation “shows the country how important smart energy policy is.” And he took aim at Biden, who he alleged had “declared war on American energy.”
“Frankly, it’s following through on our promises that we made and the commitment to America,” Scalise said. “We told the country, ‘If you give us the majority, we will go bring forward good, smart policies that focus on helping families who are struggling from the Biden agenda.’ So let’s lower costs for families, both at the pump and in their household electricity bills, which both are up dramatically since Joe Biden took office.”
The bill is not likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate or get support from Biden. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Wednesday that the “partisan” and “unserious” proposal would be “dead on arrival” in the upper chamber.
Scalise brushed off Schumer’s comments.
“They said that the D.C. crime bill, too,” Scalise said, referring to the resolution disapproving of changes to the District of Columbia’s criminal code that Biden reversed course to support after its passage in the House — blindsiding House Democrats who voted against the measure. The measure ultimately passed the Senate by a wide margin.
“I think when Schumer starts hearing from people in New York who are tired of paying incredibly high prices for energy and realizes that people don’t like buying our energy from countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela when we can make it here at home a lot cleaner and a lot less expensive, then hopefully he’ll come around,” Scalise said. “I’m an optimist.”
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) chalked Schumer’s comments up to “stock talking points.”
“Let’s keep in mind this bill was designed to pass the House,” Graves said. “Is this the opening salvo on negotiations? Yeah, I think that’s fair to say.”
Permitting reform is one major subject in the bill that is the subject of ongoing bipartisan negotiations. Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) efforts to pass a permitting form proposal failed last year and Schumer said Thursday that he supported ongoing talks about a permitting reform deal.
But Graves said the bill might also play into Republicans’ demands for spending cuts and other measures as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, which Congress will have to take action on later this year in order to avoid default and severe economic consequences.
“In my mind, this is part of [the] debt ceiling, because this bill turns the spigot back on for billions of dollars in revenue to the United States Treasury,” Graves said. “This bill checks so many boxes.”
Though Graves acknowledged that there are still some details to hammer out before Republicans bring the bill for a vote with a slim five-seat majority, the bill is likely to get wide support in the House GOP Conference.
“It’s an appropriately placed priority for the Republican Party, and it does show a very stark contrast between the hard left and the reasonable right,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), chair of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.
“But I would also say this,” Perry added. “We want all voices to be heard. And there’s some things that I’d like to see included as well.”
Scalise said leaders will discuss later this month whether the bill would be considered under any kind of open rule that could allow amendments on the floor, a process Republicans clamored for during several years of the Democratic-led House and has the potential to complicate major legislative packages.
Perry, for his part, said that he hopes several of his own amendments will be considered, either in the House Rules Committee or elsewhere.
One of those amendments, Perry said, would eliminate the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s renewable energy program, linking an offshore wind farm in New Jersey to marine life washing up dead on beaches. Federal authorities have said they have found no credible evidence linking the wind program to the phenomenon, but are monitoring the situation.