A deal signed late Monday by 14 centrist senators to avert a showdown over judicial nominees “bodes positively” for the chances for energy legislation in the Senate next month, said energy analyst Christine Tezak. She believes the outlook for energy legislation in Congress this year would be particularly good if the cooperative spirit continues.

The compromise clears the way for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to continue marking up its omnibus energy bill on Wednesday, and wrap up before lawmakers leave for the Memorial Day recess later this week. The panel is expected to leave the oil and gas title of the measure for last, taking it up on Thursday.

If all goes well, the energy bill could be considered on the Senate floor in June and possibly be passed by the July 4 recess, said Tezak of the Stanford Washington Research Group in Washington, DC. This would set the state for a House-Senate conference on the energy bill in July and August, she noted. President Bush has called on Congress to deliver an energy bill to him by late summer.

“While we think that the odds are very high that an energy bill will emerge from the Senate, we caution again that this is far from the only hurdle. The real test will be in conference where bills that lack common provisions (no defective product liability protection for MTBE manufacturers, no drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Senate bill, possible offshore drilling provisions and more renewables in the Senate bill) will need to be reconciled,” Tezak said.

“We still think that the odds are still slightly more in favor of a bill passing this year, instead of against (about 60% chance of enactment), but it is far from a slam dunk. The resolution of the contentious judiciary issues in the Senate is an encouraging sign. If that kind of moderation and deal making continues, we’d increase our odds of enactment this year.”

Some believe that the Senate has merely postponed the partisan crisis, and that it could rear its ugly head again when the White House sends a Supreme Court nomination to the Senate, which could occur this summer. In that case, it could disrupt conference negotiations on the energy bill.

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