Congress May Produce Electric Bills by Recess
Key pieces of comprehensive legislation aimed at restructuring
the electric industry could very well come out of both the House
and the Senate before lawmakers leave for recess in early August,
Capitol Hill observers say.
Top House Republicans - Majority Leader Richard Armey (T-TX),
Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas
Bliley (R-VA) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) - are drafting a
restructuring measure, which they hope to introduce in "the next
week or so," according to one industry source.
The House Republicans "aren't sharing" any of the details of
their proposal with Democratic colleagues, which "has caused a
tremendous amount of distrust," he said. Democrats on the Commerce
Committee's energy and power panel are especially concerned that
Bliley is trying to turn electricity restructuring into a "partisan
Also, "I think DeLay and Armey are inclined to do things that
are more intrusive into the states" than what the Democrats would
prefer, the source noted. That "puts into question quite a bit the
issue of [federal] preemption" of states' rights.
In the House, "we could seek a bill before the August recess.
The question is whether the Democrats will agree to it or not. It
appears there's a greater chance for partisan fighting in the House
than the Senate" over this issue.
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate Energy Committee
Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) reportedly is looking to draft his
own bill on electricity restructuring, then circulate it among
committee members and go straight to mark-up. He is trying to
elicit the support of Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the ranking
Democrat on the committee.
"The Senate has a very ambitious schedule. They want to mark
this bill up before the August recess. But whether it will be
reported out or not, I don't know," the observer said. The message
from both chambers is that "electricity restructuring is clearly
beginning to move."
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