House GOP Leaders Hope Senate, Biden Will Adopt Energy Bill

House GOP Leaders Hope Senate, Biden Will Adopt Energy Bill
An oil refinery displays an American flag in Wilmington, Calif., on Sept. 21, 2022. (Allison Dinner/Getty Images)
Lawrence Wilson

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) believes the sweeping energy bill passed by the House has a chance of becoming law despite the statement that it will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and indications from the White House that President Joe Biden would veto the measure.

The Lower Energy Costs Act (H.R. 1) passed the people’s house on March 30 by a vote of 225–204, with four Democrats joining the majority and six others not voting.

Both Biden and Schumer may well change their minds on the legislation, McCarthy said in a March 30 press conference, noting that they did so recently on the decision to overturn the revised Washington criminal code that was passed by the city council.

“That’s what we heard from the President when he said he wanted to stand with the 172 Democrats that are so extreme in this House, that they thought they could decriminalize carjacking and some forms of murder, but they changed their minds,” McCarthy said at the press conference.

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks during a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 28, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks during a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 28, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Although many people believed Biden would not sign the resolution because he had said he opposed it, “it got signed by the president.” McCarthy said.

“I think at the end of the day, if Schumer would even ask his own conference, there’s a lot of people there that want to make American energy want to make America stronger.”

Speaking of the president’s threat to veto the bill, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said, “We’ve seen how he’s changed his mind in the past.”

Lower Cost, Less Dependence

Touted as a bill to reduce fuel prices for working Americans, the 175-page bill consolidated 18 separate pieces of legislation that would loosen regulations on oil and gas production, expand mineral leases on public lands, and spend money on pipelines and refineries, as well as roll back some climate-related provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Proponents of the bill argued that it is necessary to increase fuel production, which will both lower costs for working families and decrease U.S. dependence on foreign energy.

People are “sick and tired” of paying 50 percent more at the pump and 40 percent more for electricity due to our dependence on Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela for fuel, according to Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the bill’s sponsor.

“It’s about time we opened up America for business [and] said to all those foreign dictators in the world, ‘We’re not going to buy your energy that’s dirty. We’re going to get clean energy here in America,’” Scalise said.

Democrats who opposed the bill said it would actually increase taxpayer costs while raising corporate profits, leaving the American people to pay for environmental cleanup.

A driver unloads raw crude oil from his tanker to process into gas at Marathon Refinery in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 24, 2022. (George Frey/Getty Images)
A driver unloads raw crude oil from his tanker to process into gas at Marathon Refinery in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 24, 2022. (George Frey/Getty Images)

“While the majority claims this bill would lower America’s energy costs, this bill would directly result in policies that would add to the deficit and incur billions of dollars in environmental costs. This bill puts polluters over people,” Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) said during the floor debate.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the provision of H.R. 1 would increase the deficit by $2.4 billion over the next 10 years and would increase budget deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four subsequent decades.

Moderate Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), who had introduced several failed amendments to make H.R. 1 more environmentally friendly, was the only GOP member to vote against it.

Bipartisan Support

One Democrat who voted for H.R. 1 did so believing its benefits outweighed its drawbacks.

“In order to fully realize the benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, remain competitive on the world stage, and ensure the American people have access to safer roads and bridges and reliable and affordable energy, we must improve federal environmental review and permitting processes,” Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) said in a statement.

“While this package is far from perfect, it is a step forward,” he said.

Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, and Jared Golden of Maine also voted for the bill.

McCarthy hopes to build on that desire for progress in lobbying for Senate passage of the bill. “I talk to Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) often, and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Those seem like two people that want to do a lot of things,” McCarthy said.

Though most House Democrats voted against the bill, many found something to like in amendments to the legislation.

An amendment to prevent China from acquiring any interest in lands leased for oil or gas passed 405–24. An amendment to prohibit the Department of Energy from implementing a proposed rule limiting the use of gas stoves passed with 251 votes.

Amendments aimed at speeding up the permit application process were also adopted.

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) said bipartisan support combined with strong public opinion may cause the president to reconsider his position.

“That’s going to put Biden on a very warm seat,” Babin said.

“I’m hoping that our senators can really get some common sense over there and get a little consensus, and have a little bipartisan activity like we’re seeing on the House side. The American people are ready for relief. And so I think Mr. Biden better really give some serious consideration to sign this bill.”
An array of solar panels and wind turbines. (Soonthorn/Adobe Stock)
An array of solar panels and wind turbines. (Soonthorn/Adobe Stock)


A coalition of 19 advocacy groups led by libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity hailed the passage of H.R. 1 as “landmark legislation to unleash America’s energy abundance.”

“Today’s passage of The Lower Energy Costs Act marks an important step toward addressing the high costs Americans are facing,” the organizations said in a March 30 statement.

“The Lower Energy Costs Act will streamline the permitting process to fast-track the construction of energy infrastructure projects throughout our nation ... More energy means more prosperity for every American.”

The statement was cosigned by Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Advancing American Freedom, Concerned Veterans for America, National Taxpayers Union, Independent Women’s Voice, The LIBRE Initiative, Cornwall Alliance, Roughrider Policy Center, Energy & Environment Legal Institute, Rio Grande Foundation, The Heartland Institute, 60 Plus Association, Caesar Rodney Institute, John Locke Foundation, American Commitment, Heartland Impact, and American Energy Alliance.

Environmental groups have opposed the bill in part because it repeals some portions of the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at reducing climate change.

“They’re trying to promote and speed up extraction projects for fossil fuels and other minerals and metals. Because having more projects that get approved faster translates to drilling and mining companies making more profit,” the Wilderness Society said in a statement.

“If passed, this legislation will keep us tied to an unstable and unhealthy dependence on fossil fuel energy and irresponsible mining development while filling the pockets of fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, and their allies in Congress and doing little to actually lower costs for communities.”

H.R. 1 will now move to the Senate for consideration, where Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) introduced a companion bill on March 22.

“Energy production is the key to America’s national security and economic success. Louisiana has always served our country by helping bring affordable, sustainable energy to market, and this bill would remove the burdensome, bureaucratic handcuffs that have been hurting the industry and millions of Americans,” Kennedy said.