Energy Conference Update #2 (Illusion of Inclusion)

September 15, 2003
12:00 AM
Today, Senate Energy Committee’s majority staff briefed reporters on Sen. Domenici’s decision regarding the conduct of negotiations for the energy conference. As we understand it, the negotiations will be conducted, to arrive at a preliminary version of each section of the conference report, only involving Republican committee staff representing Sen. Domenici and Rep. Tauzin. Beginning next week, completed sections will be released to the public and to staff of all conferees. Democrats will be given the opportunity to provide feedback for changes to the Republicans at that point. They will take any suggestions and recommendations for change under advisement, and promise to consider them carefully. There may be additional formal conference meetings, but none are scheduled at this time and it is likely that there will be none next week. This is not a process to which Sen. Bingaman can agree, and he has written to Sen. Domenici putting his objections on Democrats being cut out of the process on the record. Here is the letter. September 11, 2003 The Honorable Pete V. Domenici Chairman Committee on Energy and Natural Resources United States Senate Washington, D.C. 20510 Dear Mr. Chairman: My staff was informed this morning of your decision to write the preliminary version of the conference report on H.R.6, the energy bill, without any substantive involvement by Democratic conferees or their staff in either the House of Representatives or the United States Senate. I believe that this is a deeply flawed strategy. If the goal is to achieve true bipartisan consensus on the important energy challenges facing the Nation, this is a mistaken way of going about it. A process in which the duly appointed conferees for 49 Senators get only to react to legislative text that has been negotiated without their input would not seem to constitute a real effort to find common ground on crucial and complex issues that are not inherently partisan. There is no substitute for actually being involved when key decisions are first made, and no amount of labeling of the resulting text as draft or provisional can mask this fact. The procedure that you have decided on is also a marked departure from the treatment given to Republican conferees and their staffs in the last two major conferences on energy legislation, last year and in 1992. I am deeply disappointed that the courtesy and cooperation in conference afforded by me and Senator J. Bennett Johnston, when Republicans were in the minority, is not being reciprocated. Sincerely, Jeff Bingaman Ranking Minority Member