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Nov. 9 (BNA) - Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is set to continue her leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, following Democrats’ failure to win the Senate in the election.

The major energy bill currently in conference remains a priority on all sides to get to the president’s desk in the lame duck, former and current Senate energy committee aides and observers told Bloomberg BNA.

But under a Murkowski chairmanship, some issues from the bill could be revisited in another energy bill in 2017.

“Sen. Murkowski feels like this was certainly a good step forward,” Kaleb Froehlich, former senior counsel to Murkowski on the Senate energy committee and now vice president at Cassidy & Associates in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA, referring to the energy bill (S. 2012). “This shouldn’t be a once-in-a-decade exercise.” As of midday Nov. 9, Republicans kept the Senate by a 51-47 margin and, less surprisingly, preserved their majority in the House in the Nov. 8 election. A spokeswoman for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail the senator hopes to retain her position as ranking member on the Senate energy committee.

Energy Bill to Be Completed

The energy bill, which the Senate and House are currently working on in conference, is still a top priority for the current chairman and ranking member to get to the president’s desk this session, Froelich and a Cantwell spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA.

Chris Vieson, partner at Public Strategies Washington Inc. who served as director of floor operations for former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), told Bloomberg BNA there appears to be a good chance of getting it done in the lame duck.

Given the incentive to finish the bill and what is largely status quo in Congress after the election, the bill likely won’t be significantly reopened or shifted, Froelich said. Vieson agreed.

Froelich said areas where Murkowski sees room for improvement or some major issues such as permitting reform in the energy bill, could be revisited in 2017.

Other areas Murkowski sought to address, such as getting a 20-mile gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Alaska built, could remain on her agenda depending on whether an omnibus funding package is put together by the Dec. 8 deadline or if another continuing resolution is sent to President Barack Obama’s desk.

Murkowski may also look to focus on additional priorities more intensely in 2017. Western water issues, oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a funding fix for firefighting are all also possibilities for her agenda, Froelich said.

Presidential Dynamics? Who is president matters, as well, Froelich said. However, it isn’t clear how well Murkowski will work with Donald Trump. Murkowski in October came out against the then-Republican presidential nominee following the release of a video in which Trump made comments objectifying and degrading women.

However, nominees that must go through the Senate energy committee could face a tougher vetting by Murkowski in 2017.

She will likely be securing firmer commitments from Interior Department and Energy Department officials up for confirmation, after having major disagreements with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s handling of Western issues such as King Cove road issues, Froelich said.

“She sort of didn’t feel the reciprocation from this administration at times,” Froelich said, adding the ideal nominees will know Western issues and Alaska or be “willing to learn.”


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