With the Senate on the cusp of debating significant energy legislation for the first time this year, intense lobbying and negotiating machinations are under way on a wide range of topics, from pipelines to ceiling fans.
A window into all that maneuvering was opened at a morning-long CQ Roll Call forum on “America’s Energy Future,” which I moderated on July 25. It featured insightful appearances by three of the more important congressional players in energy policy, along with a vigorous debate by independent experts on the costs and benefits of federal energy subsidies and regulations.
The tone was set by the opening speaker, Sen. John Hoeven. Now nearing the middle of his freshman term, the North Dakota Republican is steadily emerging this year as a prominent Republican centrist swing vote. He’s become a sought-after player on a wide array of debates that can advance whenever a core group of GOP moderates is willing to cuts deals with the Democratic leadership.
Most prominently, Hoeven was part of the group that negotiated the terms creating the solid bipartisan majority for the immigration overhaul in June. He was also in the scrum that diffused this month’s “nuclear option” showdown over filibusters of executive branch nominees. (During a break at the conference, Hoeven worked to woo another speaker, House Energy and Commerce Democrat Paul Tonko of New York, to support the student loan compromise in which Hoeven also had a hand.)
Hoeven was previously governor of his state for a decade, during which North Dakota surged toward its new status as the No. 2 producer of oil and gas in the country. (It overtook Alaska but is still behind Texas.) Hoeven is eager to help ensure the state’s continued economic renaissance with construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would become a main conduit for getting his state’s crude to the refineries along the Gulf Coast.
At a time when combustible and confrontational conservatives in the Senate are getting so much of the attention, Hoeven’s talk of compromises that promote private-sector “empowerment” are a reminder that different strains of Republicanism still have representation on the Hill. A look at the videos from last week will be instructive: