Chairman Murkowski: Senate Earning Back Reputation as ‘World’s Greatest Deliberative Body’

January 16, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today reiterated her commitment to having an open amendment process on the Senate floor on legislation related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

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“All of the folks up in the galleries today, and all of the viewers watching on C-SPAN, are about to see something that has been quite rare in recent years,” Murkowski said. “By that, I mean the open amendment process we are now engaged in, where members from both sides can offer their ideas and secure votes on them.”  
An open amendment process is an opportunity that senators have rarely had for the last eight years while the Senate was under Democratic control. Murkowski welcomed amendments, but described some of the measures that have been filed so far by Democrats as attempts to score political points, rather than improve the bipartisan, 60-sponsor Keystone XL legislation.
“There will be amendments we like and some that we don’t. That’s going to be the case with the first three that are pending,” Murkowski said. “The key is that we are returning to regular order. We are going to vote on amendments – perhaps quite a few – as we move toward final passage of this bipartisan bill. And, slowly but surely, we are going to earn back our reputation as the ‘world’s greatest deliberative body.’”
Murkowski pointed to the amendment offered by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., which she described as a “poison pill” designed to derail the Keystone bill.
“This amendment would block the export of finished products and be a reversal of existing law and current practices,” Murkowski said. “In the case of Keystone XL, it would be virtually impossible to enforce, which could create havoc – perhaps intended – for the project. It is certainly creative, but the Department of Energy has already determined that there wouldn’t be an economic incentive to ship Canadian oil overseas.”
When President Obama claimed that Keystone XL’s oil would be exported, The Washington Post gave him three Pinocchios, which is reserved for “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” Politifact, meanwhile, assigned a rating of “Mostly False” on its “Truth-O-Meter.”
Murkowski also mentioned an amendment to require the steel, iron, and manufactured goods used for the construction of the pipeline to be made in America. Murkowski said such a provision was unheard of for a private project that would not receive taxpayer dollars.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the government to decide what the pipeline is actually built with,” Murkowski said. “I buy American and buy local whenever I can. I strongly support the use of American materials in American projects, whether in Alaska or somewhere else. But in considering whether we – Congress – should mandate specific materials for the Keystone XL pipeline, my answer is no. If we mandate materials for pipelines, why not renewable energy, why not vehicles, why not everything?”
The American Iron and Steel Institute has long been a supporter of the Keystone XL pipeline. It has 19 member companies – major producers like U.S. Steel – and 125 associate members. 
“Keystone XL will be built to the government’s specifications, but it is not appropriate for the government to decide what it is actually built with,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski said she would be supporting an amendment by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, aimed at improving energy efficiency and energy cost savings.
“This is a common-sense effort to fix a real problem for our rural cooperatives and promote voluntary efficiency gains. Identical language recently passed the House this week and passed the Senate in the previous congress,” Murkowski said.
The Senate is expected to vote on amendments to the Keystone XL bill beginning on Tuesday.