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July 31, 2015

Lawmakers Get Punch Drunk on Energy-Water

As the hours dragged on while the House debated the Energy-Water spending bill Thursday night, proposals got less serious and leadership patience waned, teetered and at points seemed to snap.

In response to a proposal to reduce the funding in the bill to 2008 levels, Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, rattled off:

“I guess the first question I would ask is, why 2008 spending levels? Why not 2006? Or 2004? Or 2000? Or 1998 spending levels? Or 1972? Or 1900? What we need to do is look at what we are spending now and create savings by deciding what is important and what we ought to be doing and what are those things we might like to do but we don’t have the money to do.”

An amendment from Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, would bar the Energy Department from blocking offshore drilling permits. Only problem is, there is no funding in the bill that has anything to do with blocking offshore drilling permits, said ranking Energy-Water Democrat Rep. Marcy Kaptur from Ohio, who objected to the amendment.

“Literally, it is extraneous, it has no relationship to the bill before us,” she said. “There are no funds related to this purpose in our bill at all.”

Well then there’s nothing to lose, Stockman reasoned. “If that’s accurate, then it shouldn’t be a problem supporting it if it doesn’t have any impact on the bill,” he said. “I believe it does and from what I understand, it would be germane.” Perhaps reluctant to add yet another roll-call vote to the end of the night, Kaptur didn’t challenge a voice vote and the amendment was adopted.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., won a similar standoff after bashing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a decision to set aside a separate capacity market in New York.

“I’m hearing from my neighbors about how awful this decision is and their fears of how they’ll pay for their energy,” he said, offering an amendment to overturn the FERC ruling. Simpson objected, wishing to not rush into something as complex as FERC and capacity markets.

“I’m concerned that such a blunt action as this amendment may have unintended consequences,” he said. It is just one narrow order, Maloney countered, joined by fellow New York stater Republican Chris Gibson. The two seemingly convinced Simpson – the voice vote was awarded to the ayes without challenge and the amendment was adopted.

Perhaps the largest eye-roll of the night was elicited by Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., who, when offering an amendment to require liquefied natural gas ships to be carried by U.S. flagged vessels, flirted with the idea of a filibuster. Garamendi offered three amendments, all of which fell after a point of order.

“The gentleman always has thoughtful amendments, which always seem out of order,” Simpson said.

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