Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered a motion Friday to go to conference on the energy bill, a Senate committee staffer said. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) objected to the motion due to the number of senators who were traveling.

Although there was no action on the motion Friday, “we view this as an encouraging step toward enactment of energy legislation,” said energy analyst Christine Tezak of Stanford Group Co.

“While we’re not yet lifting our odds of enactment above our current 20-30% chances at this time, we consider the possibility of conference far more likely to result in enacted energy legislation than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (DCA) plan to attempt a legislative cram-down by crafting a new bill and trying to pass it without conference,” she noted.

Reid’s action came one day after three top Republican energy policymakers in the Senate called on the leadership to hold a formal conference committee to reach compromise energy legislation this year.

In a letter to Reid and Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Thursday, Sens. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Ted Stevens of Alaska and James Inhofe of Oklahoma said they were concerned that Pelosi’s decision to forego a formal conference committee could jeopardize passage of an energy bill (see Daily GPI, Oct. 12).

“We regret the Speaker’s decision to do this and we are deeply concerned about the integrity of long-standing procedures in the Congress if [her] decision is allowed to stand,” said the senators, who are the ranking Republicans on the energy, commerce and environment committees.

At the start of the 110th legislative session, Reid vowed that this Congress would have “real, public conferences in which public issues would be debated and voted upon,” they said. Pelosi’s decision to bypass a conference committee “is putting that promise to the test.”

In 2005, Republicans and Democrats in both houses worked to craft the “first bipartisan, comprehensive energy bill in over a decade” — the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the three senators said. Members of the conference committee met five separate times in a public forum, and produced a conference report signed by the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, they noted. In the end, the conference report received the majority support of both parties in both houses.

But as a result of Pelosi’s decision, “we are left to start a new, unprecedented process of drafting comprehensive energy legislation without the benefit and expertise of a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee. We are still hopeful that a bipartisan energy bill is achievable this year.”

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