By the OGJ Online Staff
WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 27 -- A key Republican said Thursday said the Senate should stay in session until it completes work on a comprehensive energy bill.
"We ought to vote on a stand alone bill," said Larry Craig (R-Ida.), the Republican Policy Committee chairman and a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
He said that if Congress stays in session until the end of October, that is enough time to debate and vote on a bill. He added that Congress should stay in session until early November, if need be, in order to pass an energy bill.
"And shame on us if we don't," he said.
Congressional leaders indicated earlier this week they plan to leave town by the end of October, after legislators complete work on the budget, an economic rescue bill for business, and anti-terrorism measures. They may recess on the condition that they be recalled before their planned return in January.
Acknowledging the compressed legislative calendar, Craig said he would be willing to support a proposal by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) that would attach the House energy bill (HR 4) as an amendment to the defense authorization spending bill now before the Senate (OGJ Online, Sept. 26, 2001).
Craig also suggested that any energy legislation that passes Congress this year is not likely to include sweeping electricity restructuring language, although some issues such as federal siting authority may be included.
The White House supports giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission clearer authority over the location of electric transmission lines but the issue is controversial because many states want to continue local control over siting.
Senate Democratic leaders have not said when that body could debate an energy policy bill. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the energy committee chairman, began markup up the research and development section of the bill before the summer recess.
But most of the controversial items, including the proposal in the House-passed bill to lease the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, have not been tackled. If Republicans are willing to drop ANWR, Democrats may offer to include nearly $8 billion in tax incentives for domestic production as part of the pending economic package.
A coalition of industry and labor groups say there are enough votes in the Senate to pass an energy bill that includes ANWR. Environmental groups disagree.