Senate Republicans think they’ve found a way to win over Democrats on legislation to end the nation’s oil export ban — which would provide a new legislative victory for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) according to The Hill.com.
According to the report; Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is shopping the idea of pairing the oil export ban with legislation backed by Democrats to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Hill.com writes:
Hoeven hopes that by merging the two bills, he can attract Democrats such as Sens. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Cantwell is among a bipartisan group of senators pushing to quickly renew the conservation fund.
Hoeven’s plan would look to buoy the export ban by tying it to a program that traditionally wins bipartisan support.
Hoeven and his home-state colleague, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), want to end the oil export ban to help North Dakota’s oil producers and their state’s economy, though the proposal has little Democrat support beyond Heitkamp right now.
Ending the ban will require a handful of Democrats to back the measure in the Senate, and likely the support of President Obama — something the White House has been hesitant to offer.
The House last week passed legislation 261 to 159 to lift the 40-year ban, which ran promptly into a veto threat from Obama. In a veto letter to Congress, Obama officials said the White House opposed the House bill, but didn’t flatly rule out allowing exports if some type of deal were cut.
Heitkamp told The Hill last week that the administration’s position on the subject might be malleable.
In the Senate, the main opposition comes from Democrats representing manufacturing states, such as Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is a close ally of Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the future Senate Democratic leader. Manufacturers depend on cheap domestic energy supplies, especially when the strong dollar is hurting exports.
Senate Democratic leadership sources say lifting the ban won’t happen unless Republicans agree to major concessions on green energy.
In September, Heitkamp proposed tying a series of green energy tax credits to her export bill as a way to Democratic support. The tax incentives represent the dominant method under consideration in the Senate thus far to beef up votes on the left for the exports.
But Hoeven, who has warned such a tactic could be off-putting to Republicans who oppose the tax credits, and others think pairing a lift of the ban with the Land Conservation bill might work.
The fund’s authorization expired for the first time in 51 years at the end of September.
Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965 to maintain and acquire national parks, refuges and forests with revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling. Energy companies pay nearly a billion dollars a year into the fund from revenues collected through activity on the Outer Continental Shelf.
The fund tends to find bipartisan support, though a dispute over federal land control and funding has stalled it in the House. Hoeven hopes that, by tying its renewal to an issue as popular on the right as oil exports, it will help get both bills over the finish line.
All 54 of the Senate’s Republicans are expected to back lifting the oil export ban, meaning supporters need to attract six Democrats to overcome a filibuster. They’d need a total of 67 votes to overcome an Obama veto.