Paradise Lost: The Energy Committee Lovefest That Wasn’t

Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowsk's working relationship is off to a contentious start. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
March 27, 2014, 12:09 p.m.

When Mary Landrieu took the gavel on the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee, every­one ex­pec­ted that she and rank­ing mem­ber Lisa Murkowski would get along.

The sen­at­ors may be from both sides of the aisle, but there’s a lot they agree on. Both rep­res­ent en­ergy-rich states and cast them­selves as staunch de­fend­ers of the oil and gas in­dustry. And they have a his­tory of work­ing to­geth­er in the past. Today, however, they did not see eye to eye.

Landrieu and Murkowski came in­to con­flict over Rhea Suh, the pres­id­ent’s nom­in­ee to be the In­teri­or De­part­ment’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for fish and wild­life and parks, dur­ing a com­mit­tee meet­ing this morn­ing.

Murkowski sus­pects Suh is an en­emy of oil and gas and wouldn’t sup­port the nom­in­a­tion. Landrieu, on the oth­er hand, dis­putes the claim and cast a vote in Suh’s fa­vor. The nom­in­a­tion ad­vanced on a party-line vote of 12-10.

The spat sig­nals trouble in para­dise for the pair. “I’m sorry that we’re start­ing this new era of the com­mit­tee on such a troub­ling note,” Murkowski told Landrieu dur­ing the meet­ing.

It also opens Landrieu up to at­tack from her Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger, Rep. Bill Cas­sidy. “A vote in fa­vor of Ms. Suh is a vote against Louisi­ana fam­il­ies and against our en­ergy in­dustry,” Cas­sidy said yes­ter­day.

Landrieu’s as­cen­sion to the En­ergy pan­el top spot is a double-edged sword. The perch lets her preach the gos­pel of oil and gas. Landrieu’s bank­ing on her new­found star power to pull in cam­paign cash as she heads in­to a tough reelec­tion fight. But the spot­light also makes her more vul­ner­able to cri­ti­cism.

All eyes are on her now, for bet­ter or worse

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