The Senate voted Monday to begin consideration of a $1.9 trillion bill to overhaul the nation’s energy sector, with a big question hanging over it: Can it get done?
The Senate has voted on five different bills this year, with two advancing to the House.
The latest, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, would give President Donald Trump the power to bypass Congress and create an independent commission to look at the nations energy problems.
The bill would allow for energy exploration and development on public lands and in public waters.
The White House had been pressing senators to get the Energy Department’s budget for the fiscal year ending in September approved.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said the House needs to approve the bill first, and Democrats have repeatedly said they would oppose any bill that did not pass.
But the Energy Committee chairman, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), has signaled that he might wait until after the budget is approved to take a hard look at his bill.
“We’re going to have to see what happens in the Senate and then we’ll see what the House does,” Walden said Monday on MSNBC.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), a leading advocate of the bill, said that if the House passes the bill before the end of the fiscal month, she will send it to the Senate to be considered.
She said the committee could then work with the Senate on a final bill.
The Energy Department said Monday that it would work with Congress to determine if the bill is in the best interest of the nation and the environment.
The bill would authorize a $5.2 trillion energy stimulus bill to be used for clean energy investments and infrastructure upgrades, including energy-efficient building and maintenance, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing.
The spending would be offset with additional tax cuts and other measures to encourage investment in the countrys infrastructure.
The spending package is a key element of President Donald J. Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package, which would help the country make investments in roads, bridges, ports and railways.
The president has said the stimulus bill would be paid for by cutting taxes for businesses, cutting regulations and increasing incentives for private investment.
But some Republican lawmakers have said they do not think the stimulus is necessary, given that many of the investments are being made in the United States.
They argue that the country needs the infrastructure spending because the economy is stagnant, the government is running out of money and it needs to have a plan to get us back on track.
Senators are set to consider the Energy Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act in the coming days, and Republicans have expressed optimism that the spending bill will pass.
Sen.(R-Wyo.), who has repeatedly criticized the energy spending bill, called it “an important and necessary step toward addressing our nation’s infrastructure and job creation needs.”