© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Capitol building is seen early on the day of U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2023. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a Republican energy reform bill intended to bolster U.S. oil and gas production while scaling back climate initiatives, the first major legislation of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s majority.
The House passed the Lower Energy Costs Act by a mostly partisan 225-204 vote.
The bill would deliver on a top 2022 Republican campaign pledge to lower Americans’ energy costs but faces little chance of making it through the Democratic-led Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has declared it “dead on arrival.”
“The Senate is not going to waste our time on a bill that sets America back decades on our transition to clean energy,” Schumer said in a Senate speech shortly before the House vote. Democratic leaders in both chambers have been calling the bill one that “puts polluters over people.”
The White House has also said President Joe Biden would veto the measure if it were to make it to his desk.
But the vote was a symbolic victory for McCarthy that demonstrated his ability to hold his narrow 222-213 Republican majority together, as Congress prepares for bigger fights in coming months over the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt ceiling and funding for the federal government.
Republican leaders secured passage after overcoming reservations from at least five party members, which would have been enough to block legislation.
Party disagreement over the House bill partly reflected gaping divisions over how to streamline permitting for energy projects, a goal otherwise shared by both Republicans and Democrats.
Democrats want a permitting bill that will pave the way for a swifter adoption of clean energy technologies like solar and wind power that have received lucrative new subsidies under the Inflation Reduction Act, while Republicans are pushing for a renewed focus on fossil fuels.
Republicans billed the legislation as a solution to high U.S. gasoline prices that would bolster oil and gas production by reducing regulations, promoting energy development on federal lands and eliminating climate initiatives imposed by Democrats.
Democrats decried the legislation as a giveaway for the oil industry. They warned that it would also repeal a greenhouse gas reduction fund aimed at reducing pollution and creating green energy jobs, while also eliminating a methane reduction program that charges polluters for releasing the greenhouse gas.
With the bill’s future in doubt, Republicans said they hoped to include provisions from the legislation in any agreement with Biden and his fellow Democrats to lift the federal government’s borrowing limit.