The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee goes back to work next week, holding votes on four of President Trump's energy nominees and getting back to the nitty gritty of examining agencies after this week's withdrawal from the Paris climate deal.
The committee announced Friday that it will hold votes Tuesday on two members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the deputy secretaries of energy and the Interior.
Energy committee Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, wants to advance the nominees without obstruction from Democrats. Ahead of the Memorial Day recess, the committee held confirmation hearings, where she forewarned that any senator with an issue or concern regarding any of the nominees voice their issue then to avoid further delays on votes.
Of particular concern are Trump's picks to serve on FERC, Neil Chatterjee, senior energy adviser to Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Robert Powelson, a regarded member of Pennsylvania's state utility commission. The commission, which oversees the nation's electric grid and energy infrastructure, has been effectively shut down for four months because it lacks at least three members to form a quorum and continue to operate.
A number of industry groups have prodded Trump to name nominees to restore the commission so that it can approve backed-up natural gas pipeline development required to meet the nation's energy demands. The Chamber of Commerce sent a letter this week urging Murkowski and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, the committee's top Democrat, to hold votes on the nominees as soon as possible, moving them to the Senate floor for final approval.
The committee also is scheduled to vote on David Bernhardt to be the Interior Department's deputy secretary. Bernhardt faced some grilling from Democrats over his ties to the fossil fuel industry during his confirmation hearing. Bernhardt worked for the Interior Department under former President George W. Bush and has been working in the private sector as an industry adviser and lawyer.
Dan Brouillette, Trump's pick to serve as the Energy Department deputy secretary, also will have a vote on Tuesday.