Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., a staunch ally of oil and natural gas companies, may soon take the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
White House plans to tap Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., as the next ambassador to China will knock over leadership dominoes that could pull the energy panel rightward.
The current Energy chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is widely believed to covet the powerful Finance Committee gavel when Baucus — who was not seeking Senate reelection next year anyway — steps aside.
That could leave Landrieu on deck to chair the Energy Committee, which has oversight over an array of oil-and-gas drilling, energy-research, and conservation matters.
Landrieu would get the chance to push pro-drilling bills and advance a top priority: legislation that expands the amount of federal offshore oil-and-gas royalty payments given to Gulf Coast states.
That plan, which she crafted with Energy Committee ranking member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would also authorize offshore royalty-sharing with Alaska and with other coastal states if drilling is ever allowed in federal waters off their shores.
More broadly, the Landrieu-Murkowski pairing would put two oil-state senators atop the panel as the industry pushes to make more federal lands and waters available for drilling, and battles administration plans to expand regulation of oil and gas “fracking,” among other goals.
“The senators have a good relationship, and that would obviously continue if Senator Landrieu’s position on the committee was elevated. However, this is all just speculation at the moment,” said Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Murkowski.
Getting the gavel could also boost Landrieu’s reelection campaign. Already, she was seen as Wyden’s heir to the chairmanship in the next Congress if she won her own 2014 reelection race.
But now, with the chance for the gavel sooner than expected, she could reap political rewards ahead of the 2014 election.
“If Landrieu becomes Energy chair in 2014, it will help her campaign since its more effective to say that she IS chair than she WILL be chair,” said one energy expert in an email exchange.
Having Landrieu atop the panel would also make the Energy Committee among the more conservative in the upper chamber.
Committee member Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is also often conservative on energy policy and has for years alleged that White House policies are an assault on his home state’s coal industry.
To be sure, all the leadership shuffling remains hypothetical for the moment.
“Senator Wyden looks forward to Senator Baucus’ comments on his future plans and will not comment further at this time,” Wyden’s committee spokesman said.
But here’s how the dominoes might fall:
Landrieu is the third-most senior Democrat on the panel after Wyden and Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
But Johnson is also not seeking reelection next year, and he already chairs the powerful Banking Committee, so he’s seen as unlikely to want the Energy Committee gavel, especially on such an interim basis.
Similarly, retiring Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., would be next in line behind Baucus on Finance, but he indicated to reporters Wednesday that he’s not interested in a cameo role atop Finance.
While Landrieu was already seen as next in line for the Energy Committee chairmanship before the Baucus-to-China news surfaced, her ascendancy would have been dependent on Democrats holding the Senate in 2014, which is hardly a sure thing.
Now, if Baucus is confirmed as ambassador, Landrieu would likely get some time as chairwoman regardless of what happens in next November’s elections.
President Obama’s reported decision to tap Baucus as ambassador to China arrives the same day that Baucus floated a sweeping plan to overhaul energy-tax policy — a long-shot proposal that now looks even less likely to advance.
What We're Following See More »
"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."
Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.
The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.
The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.