The House appointed 34 Republican and 18 Democratic conferees to the omnibus energy bill (HR 6), just hours before the first conference committee on the measure got under way on Thursday.

The House conferees came from 12 committees, including the Energy and Commerce, Armed Services, Agriculture, Education and Workforce, Financial Services, Government Reform, Judiciary, Resources, Rules, Science, Transportation and Infrastructure and Ways and Means. The conferees’ task will be to reconcile the widely divergent versions of the House and Senate energy bills.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will chair the conference. Other Republican members of the House energy panel who were named as conferees were House Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, Reps. Charles Bass of New Hampshire, Michael Bilirakis of Florida, Paul E. Gilmor of Ohio, Ralph Hall of Texas, Charles “Chip” Pickering Jr. of Mississippi, John B. Shadegg of Arizona, John M. Shimkus of Illinois, Cliff Stearns of Florida and Fred Upton of Michigan.

Democrats from the House energy panel who were selected were Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, Henry Waxman of California, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Rick Boucher of Virginia, Bart Stupak of Michigan, Albert Wynn of Maryland and Hilda Solis of California.

Republicans Duncan Hunter of California and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and Democrat Ike Skelton of Missouri were appointed as conferees from the House Armed Services Committee. Picked from the Agriculture Committee were Republicans Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Frank D. Lucas of Oklahoma, and Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota. Republicans Charles Norwood of Georgia and Sam Johnson of Texas, and Democrat Ron J. Kind of Wisconsin were chosen from the House Education and Workforce Committee.

Other conferees included Ohio Republicans Michael G. Oxley and Bob Ney, and Democrat Maxine Waters of California from the Financial Services Committee; Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (R-VA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Diane Watson (D-CA) from the Government Reform Committee; Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) and Steve Chabot (R-OH), and John Conyers (D-MI) from the Judiciary Committee; Reps. Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Barbra Cubin (R-WY), and Nick Rahall (D-WV) from the Resources Committee; Reps. David Dreier (R-CA) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY) from the Rules Committee; Reps. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY) and Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Bart Gordon (D-TN) from the Science Committee; Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Thomas E. Petri (R-WI), and James L. Oberstar (D-MN) from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Reps. William M. Thomas (R-CA) and Dave Camp (R-MI), and Charles B Rangel (D-NY) from the Ways and Means Committee.

The House and Senate conferees held their first conference on the comprehensive energy Thursday, during which conferees offered remarks, but no votes were taken.

The Senate earlier this month selected 14 conferees for the energy bill from two committees, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senate Finance Committee. The chief negotiators on the Senate side are Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), chairman of the Senate energy panel, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the ranking Democrat on the energy committee.

Barton said Thursday that House and Senate conference leaders have tentatively scheduled four sessions, with the first two coming on July 19 and July 21 at 10 a.m. at a location to be decided.

“We have also agreed that, if necessary, we will meet next weekend so all members should be put on notice that if we have issues that are pending, especially on the House side where we don’t allow proxy voting, you may have to be here next weekend,” he noted.

In the meantime, Barton said that House and Senate staffs will meet on a continual “bipartisan, bicameral basis to funnel amendments that need to be addressed by the membership and need to be voted on in conference.” He also noted that he and the three other senior members of the conference, Domenici, Bingaman and Dingell, will meet on a regular basis to try to resolve the various differences that crop up during conference.

“I am going to do everything I can as chairman to conduct a bipartisan, bicameral, open process that results in a very good energy bill that the majority of the conference and both parties on both sides of the Capitol can vote for,” Barton said.

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