Jun 21, 2007

Senators From One State, but of Two Minds, Agree to Disagree

By Lois Romano - Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, June 21, 2007; Page A21

In an unusual turn of events, the omnibus energy bill on the Senate floor this week is being led by both the Democratic senator from New Mexico and the Republican senator from the same state -- who despite partisan disagreements must not be seen squabbling by the constituents back home. It would just be unseemly.

But Senate energy committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, chief sponsor of the bill, found himself pushing up against ranking committee Republican Pete Domenici last week. Domenici was threatening a filibuster of a Bingaman amendment.

"There is no animus between Senator Bingaman and Pete Domenici," the Republican felt compelled to say during the debate. "New Mexicans ought to be wondering what's cooking. But they also ought to know that he has an idea and I have a different idea built on it, and that's all there is to it."

The duo have been rotating the chairmanship of the committee since 2002 -- depending on which party is in power -- which is not all bad for a state that is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other key Energy Department facilities.

Bingaman and Domenici have been trying collaborate on the energy bill, which could receive a final vote as early as tomorrow. In a system built on seniority, it is not often that both senators from one state would find themselves the senior members of the same committee.

In an interview yesterday in his office, Bingaman, like Domenici, dismissed talk of tension between the two.

"We try to find those things we can agree upon substantively," he said. "We also try to reach agreement on how to proceed. People expect us to try and work together and get something done and I think we try very hard to do that."

Bingaman seemed a tad more concerned about the fate of his complicated bill, which has been weighted down with amendments and fought over this week. He said he hopes the bill will retain its main mission.

"This is the way I look at it: There are a variety of measures in the bill that move us toward domestically produced renewable energy," he said.

"All we are doing is trying to process as many amendments -- and trying to accommodate as many senators -- as we can we can to bring this thing to closure. . . You never know until it's done."

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