Senate Will Check Lots of Legislative Boxes Tuesday

Alexander expects some riders on the Senate's first appropriations bill. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

The Senate is poised to conclude a lot of unfinished business on Tuesday. Its work will cover aviation, energy efficiency, and eventually land on annual appropriations. On that last step, whether the chamber manages to get past the first bill to fund the government’s environmental agencies will forecast the relative ease that lawmakers will face on other appropriations bills.

But first, the chamber will vote on final passage of a modest reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration at noon on Tuesday. The bill is expected to easily pass. It will keep the agency functioning for more than a year.

Following that midday vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday the chamber will take up S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act.

That legislation, co-sponsored by the chairwoman and ranking member on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, was on the back burner for months because of disputes over offshore drilling and how to respond to the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Those disagreements were resolved last week, clearing the way for the Senate to conclude debate on the legislation.

A spokesman for McConnell said senators had already agreed to adopt a number of amendments as well as a procedural vote and final passage Tuesday afternoon, teeing the measure up to briskly clear the chamber. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the Democratic co-author of the legislation, said she hopes the business will be finished by the end of Tuesday.

McConnell has scheduled the Senate to move to its first spending bill of the year, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, after work on the energy policy bill concludes.  Senators are not expected to get to that bill before Wednesday.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who chairs the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Energy and Water spending bill, said Monday that the amendment process is already underway and “going very well.” He told reporters that the bill does not yet have “controversial riders,” but he expects perennial disputes — such as over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule — to be aired through amendment votes on the floor.

“That’s appropriate,” he said. “Senators have a right, in my view, to bring their amendments up on the floor if they’re related to the bill.”

Still, Alexander did not say whether such additions would be subject to a 50- or 60-vote threshold, a vital difference in a chamber where the GOP rules with a 54-seat majority.

–Ryan Rainey contributed