Political Loose Ends Greet Landrieu on Energy Committee

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) speaks to reporters at a joint session of Congress for President Obama address on February 24, 2009.
National Journal
Ben Geman
Add to Briefcase
Ben Geman
Feb. 13, 2014, 10:10 a.m.

Mary Landrieu’s snowy first day lead­ing the Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee was polit­ic­ally and pro­ced­ur­ally un­tidy.

The Louisi­ana Demo­crat on Thursday opened a ses­sion that was sup­posed to in­clude a vote on Rhea Suh, the nom­in­ee for a seni­or In­teri­or De­part­ment role whose se­lec­tion is sud­denly play­ing a role in Landrieu’s 2014 reelec­tion cam­paign.

Suh has drawn cri­ti­cism from Re­pub­lic­ans who cast her as an en­emy of fossil-fuel pro­duc­tion on fed­er­al lands — and these Re­pub­lic­ans in­clude Rep. Bill Cas­sidy, who is chal­len­ging Landrieu in what’s shap­ing up as a tight con­test.

GOP polit­ic­al op­er­at­ives have pounced on Landrieu’s sup­port for Suh, while Landrieu has re­turned fire at Louisi­ana’s House Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing Cas­sidy, who this week called on her to op­pose the nom­in­a­tion.

Look for the polit­ic­ally charged nom­in­a­tion battle to drag on longer. There was no com­mit­tee vote Thursday, as only four sen­at­ors showed up for the meet­ing.

The snowstorm that sent sen­at­ors scram­bling for flights home Wed­nes­day de­prived the com­mit­tee of a quor­um, ex­tend­ing the battle over Suh’s nom­in­a­tion to be­come In­teri­or’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for fish and wild­life and parks.

Landrieu plans to sup­port Suh, who is In­teri­or’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for policy, man­age­ment, and budget.

But Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Re­pub­lic­an who is the En­ergy Com­mit­tee’s rank­ing mem­ber, op­poses the nom­in­a­tion.

“I am not sure what she has achieved or what she has learned in her cur­rent ca­pa­city that would mer­it a new and high­er-rank­ing po­s­i­tion,” Murkowski said Thursday.

She told re­port­ers later that she’ll keep bat­tling. “If she does make it through markup, I’ve got some pro­ced­ur­al ways to slow things down,” Murkowski said.

But she con­ceded that Demo­crats’ Sen­ate rule change last year to pre­vent fili­busters on nom­in­ees has stripped her of some op­tions.

Murkowski said she doesn’t un­der­stand why the abor­ted markup was held at all, giv­en that it was clear that few sen­at­ors would at­tend, and giv­en that oth­er, less con­tro­ver­sial nom­in­ees have already cleared the com­mit­tee and are await­ing floor votes.

But she be­lieves the de­cision came from above the com­mit­tee’s Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship level, in­clud­ing the White House and Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id.

“The re­la­tion­ship that I have with Sen­at­or Landrieu and Sen­at­or Wyden is not im­pacted at all by this Rhea Suh stuff,” Murkowski said in an in­ter­view Thursday, ref­er­en­cing Ron Wyden of Ore­gon, who is tak­ing his gavel from the En­ergy pan­el to the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee in the wake of former Sen. Max Baucus’s move to China, where he will be U.S. am­bas­sad­or. “But I think it is very un­for­tu­nate that the ad­min­is­tra­tion and Sen­at­or Re­id have put the two of them in a place where I think it is fair [to say] they clearly didn’t want to be.” 

Landrieu, as the pan­el’s newly min­ted chair­wo­man, opened the markup but de­ferred to Wyden to preside. But, giv­en the snowstorm and lack of a quor­um, she’ll have to re­turn later to the nom­in­a­tion that’s now elec­tion-sea­son polit­ic­al fod­der.

It was an un­usu­al first day atop the com­mit­tee for Landrieu, who is ex­pec­ted to work closely with oil-state col­league Murkowski on a range of top­ics.

Wyden, Landrieu, and Murkowski posed for a photo after the com­mit­tee ses­sion ended Thursday. “Those two,” Wyden said of Landrieu and Murkowski, “are go­ing to change the world.”

What We're Following See More »
CNN/ORC Has Clinton Up 5 Points
4 hours ago

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump 49%-44% in a new CNN/ORC poll out Monday afternoon. But it's Gary Johnson's performance, or lack thereof, that's the real story. Johnson, who had cleared 10% in some surveys earlier this fall, as he made a bid to qualify for the debates, is down to 3% support. He must hit 5% nationwide for the Libertarian Party to qualify for some federal matching funds in future elections.

Rapper Jay Z to Perform Concert for Clinton
4 hours ago
Log Cabin Republicans Don’t Endorse Trump
4 hours ago

While the organization praised him for being "perhaps the most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party," the Log Cabin Republicans refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. The organization, which is the largest gay organization in the United States, said that Trump failed to earn its endorsement because he surrounded himself with anti-LGBTQ people "and committed himself to supporting legislation such as the so-called 'First Amendment Defense Act' that Log Cabin Republicans opposes."

Congress Needs to Deal With Impending Nuclear Plant Closures
5 hours ago

Energy Secretary Ernesto Moniz is warning Congress "that Congress and businesses need to act with more urgency to work out a medley of challenges in promoting nuclear power." A number of nuclear plants are currently on track to close around 2030, unless their licenses are extended from 60 years to 80 years, something that could jeopardize the success of the Clean Power Plan. Moniz called on Congress to pass legislation creating interim storage facilities for used nuclear power.

Trump Pocketed Insurance Money Following 2005 Hurricane
5 hours ago

Donald Trump has said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma, which he claimed did severe damage to his private club in Florida. However, an Associated Press investigation could not find any evidence of the large-scale damage that Trump has mentioned. Additionally, Trump claimed that he transferred some of the $17 million to his personal account thanks to a "very good insurance policy."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.