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Speaker Johnson Floats End to LNG Permit “Pause” in Ukraine Funding Package

Analysis by Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

LNG export
Energy Workforce President Tim Tarpley

The House remains back in their districts until April 9, but there are significant behind-the-scenes discussions going on that may have significant implications for ending the Biden Administration’s LNG “pause” that is heading into its second month. Notably, during an appearance on FOX on Sunday, Speaker Johnson talked about several options for additions to the supplemental appropriations package he plans to bring up after recess in the House. This package will contain funding for Ukraine to continue its defensive war against Russia. The Speaker has been working hard to bring along a vocal minority of his caucus that has opposed additional Ukraine funding; some have opposed it unless border security funding was included in any package, and others have opposed additional funding altogether.

While the speaker certainly doesn’t need full Republican support (a straight up or down vote on Ukraine funding would likely pass with a strong margin), it is important that he bring along as much of his caucus as he can as he already faces a potential discharge petition from Rep. Greene which was filed before the recess break. Passing a package that relies heavily on Democrats in order to pass could prove to be a threat to his Speakership. Speaker Johnson has been floating a number of ideas to get the Ukraine funding package more support from the Republican side, one being a package that is structured as a loan to Ukraine although this may not get adequate Democrat support and the ability for Ukraine to repay a loan during the conflict and/or during a rebuilding of the country seems unlikely. Second, he has been looking into the possibility of seizing Russian oligarch assets (about $300 billion frozen in Western banks) to pay the Ukrainians to fight the war. Unfortunately, with this option, much of the cash is located in Europe where allies have been hesitant to use the money to give directly to Ukraine. Legislation along these lines (H.R. 4175 REPO for Ukrainians Act introduced by Rep. McCaul) has already gotten 80 cosponsors in the House.

The third option that is being floated, and certainly the most relevant for our sector, is the possibility of tying an end to the LNG permitting pause into the package. There is some precedent for tying concessions for domestic provisions onto a larger funding package; in fact, in 2007, this approach was how Democrats landed a deal with George W Bush to increase the federal minimum wage by including it in an Iraq funding bill. It sounds like this strategy is gaining some traction, and a draft of the proposal may be available at some point this week, with Speaker Johnson signaling he wishes to move a potential package early next week. It is so far unclear if the language would be directed at the approval of a specified number of target permits or if it would target the actual pause itself. As more details emerge, EWTC will keep members informed on these important developments.

Tim Tarpley, Energy Workforce President, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.



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