'Snowzilla' Sidelines House, Delays Senate

Carolyn Kaster/AP

The “Snowzilla” storm has wreaked hav­oc on the con­gres­sion­al sched­ule, as the House has scrapped its en­tire ses­sion for the week—es­sen­tially cre­at­ing an un­planned re­cess—while the Sen­ate has pushed its own plans back a day.

In­stead of start­ing its work Tues­day, as ori­gin­ally sched­uled, the Sen­ate will vote Wed­nes­day night on the nom­in­a­tion of John Mi­chael Vazquez for a U.S. Dis­trict Court judge­ship. Then the Sen­ate is set to dive back in­to the high-in­tens­ity en­ergy de­bate with ex­pec­ted floor con­sid­er­a­tion of a bi­par­tis­an en­ergy bill, cov­er­ing is­sues such as en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, in­fra­struc­ture mod­ern­iz­a­tion, and crit­ic­al-min­er­als min­ing.

But it’s un­clear wheth­er co­oper­a­tion on en­ergy that marked the end of 2015, when Con­gress and the White House struck a deal on al­low­ing crude-oil ex­ports while ex­tend­ing green-elec­tri­city tax breaks, will carry over in­to the new year.

The bill ar­rives on the floor with sup­port across party lines. Last year, it cleared the En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee on a bi­par­tis­an 18-4 vote, but the floor de­bate could get tricky (a sim­il­ar House bill lost its Demo­crat­ic co­oper­a­tion on its path to pas­sage). Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell has prom­ised an open amend­ment pro­cess, which means the bill could see de­bates over tough is­sues like cli­mate change, fossil fuel de­vel­op­ment and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision to put the brakes on new coal leases on fed­er­al lands.  

Already, GOP Sen. John Bar­rasso, a mem­ber of the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship team, has signaled that he wants a floor battle over Pres­id­ent Obama’s coal-leas­ing morator­i­um. And Her­it­age Ac­tion, a prom­in­ent con­ser­vat­ive polit­ic­al group, came out swinging against the bill Fri­day. The group says pro­vi­sions on en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency job train­ing, elec­tric vehicles, and oth­er meas­ures are in­ap­pro­pri­ate, tax­pay­er-backed in­tru­sions in­to en­ergy mar­kets.

Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the chair­wo­man of the En­ergy Com­mit­tee, made the case for the bill when she gave the GOP’s weekly ad­dress re­leased Sat­urday. She touted pro­vi­sions to ex­ped­ite li­que­fied-nat­ur­al-gas ex­ports, pro­mote hy­dro­power, over­haul the En­ergy De­part­ment’s con­tro­ver­sial loan pro­grams, and more.

“It will help Amer­ica pro­duce more en­ergy. It will help Amer­ic­ans pay less for en­ergy. And it will firmly es­tab­lish Amer­ica as a glob­al en­ergy su­per­power,” she said.

HEALTH

The Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is sched­uled to take a look Tues­day at Ma­jor­ity Whip John Cornyn’s men­tal health pro­pos­al—just one of sev­er­al bills that have been in­tro­duced this con­gres­sion­al ses­sion. Re­form­ing the men­tal-health sys­tem is a top is­sue this year, and the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing last week on the mat­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee will tackle an­oth­er hot-but­ton is­sue—heroin and pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use. It’s one that’s cropped up quite of­ten on the cam­paign trail, as sev­er­al can­did­ates, such as Carly Fior­ina and Jeb Bush, have talked openly and in­tim­ately about their chil­dren’s struggles with ad­dic­tion.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama won’t stray far from the White House this week while Wash­ing­ton digs out from the week­end’s massive snowstorm. He’ll be in­doors un­til Wed­nes­day when he goes to a ce­re­mony at the Is­raeli Em­bassy for a ce­re­mony present­ing the pres­ti­gi­ous “Right­eous Among the Na­tions” award. On Thursday, he is sched­uled to go to Bal­timore to ad­dress House Demo­crats at their an­nu­al Is­sues Con­fer­ence.

Rachel Roubein and George E. Condon Jr. contributed to this article.

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