A Meaningful First Step for The GOP on Energy | Opinion

In light of the Democrats' narrow hold of the U.S. Senate and the tiny, but consequential, Republican victory in the House of Representatives, it would be very easy for both parties to misinterpret the American electorate's messages. Although more than 100 so-called "election deniers" won office, it would be foolish of Republicans to believe that denialism suffered anything other than an unambiguous rejection in the midterms. GOP candidates largely won safe GOP seats; that is, they won almost everywhere other than where it mattered. Democrats would be similarly foolish to conclude that their results last week reflected any sort of endorsement for their progressive agenda.

While inflation and the economy dominated voter concerns, and despite running against a historically unpopular Democratic president, Republicans greatly underperformed expectations. The message that Republicans should take away from the midterms was well-articulated by The Wall Street Journal editorial board: "Americans are unhappy with Democratic governance, but they aren't sold on the GOP as an alternative.

What can the GOP do to begin to regain the trust of the American center? It can, and should, demonstrate that it is ready again to govern—to look to the future and stop looking to the past. The first order of business for the new Republican-led Congress should be to introduce and pass—as a GOP initiative—the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022 (EISA), the legislation promised by presumptive Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to Senator Joe Manchin in exchange for his vote for the clean energy wish-list cynically named the Inflation Reduction Act.

Kevin McCarthy
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 15: U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (C) speaks to members of the press after the House Republican Conference voted for him to be its nominee for Speaker of the House in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on November 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. McCarthy was elected leader of the caucus, paving the way for his election to Speaker of the House if the GOP wins control of the House of Representatives. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The EISA would make significant changes to the National Environmental Policy Act process, which would expedite environmental reviews for major energy projects—currently the single largest impediment to greater energy exploration and development. It would also create a more transparent and streamlined federal environmental review process for energy and infrastructure projects. Finally, it would expedite the review, permitting, and licensing process undertaken by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for energy projects under its purview and would spur the development of regional and interstate electricity transmission lines. In an appreciative nod to Manchin (who deserves it), the legislation would require the federal government to issue permits for the long-delayed $6.6 billion Mountain Valley Pipeline to take natural gas between West Virginia—Manchin's home state—and Virginia.

Republicans should not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. The EISA is not a comprehensive solution to our energy issues (the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, introduced in February by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and co-sponsored by 146 Republican House members, is a much better bill). But it is a meaningful step in the right direction of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's "Commitment to America," which promises to "maximize production of reliable, cleaner, American-made energy and cut the permitting process time in half." It would also be following the suggestions by JP Morgan CEO James Dimon, former (Democratic) Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and the Business Roundtable that the U.S. should have an "all-of-the-above" (Manchin's term) energy agenda.

There is a faction in the new GOP Congress that thinks the only thing Republicans should do these next two years is investigate the Biden administration. And there are, to be sure, many unanswered questions that the American people deserve answers to: What really happened with the disastrous Afghanistan pullout? Why can't—or won't—the administration control the southern border? And what corruption, breaches of national security, or abuses of power did Hunter Biden and members of his family engage in?

But first, Republicans in Congress should lead a bipartisan coalition to pass the EISA. Both Leader Schumer and President Joe Biden have agreed to it, so, with Republican leadership, it should be able to be enacted. Passage would demonstrate to the American people that the GOP is serious about governing again, lowering energy costs, and securing America's energy future. Democrats who oppose it, in the face of the president and majority leader's endorsement, would be exposed for their devotion to an extreme green-only ideology over American energy and national security.

David F. Eisner is an operating partner of a private equity firm and was the Assistant Secretary for Management at the Department of the U.S. Treasury from 2018-2021.

The views expressed in this article are the wrier's own.