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Republican Senators Prepare for Energy, Environmental Chairmanships Post Election

As the balance of power in the U.S. Senate shifts from Democrat to Republican, GOP ranking members are gearing up to lead their respective committees or make a move to a more promising option.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) intends to chair the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee while Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters election day that he plans to chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A Senate Energy committee led by Murkowski may not be so different from one led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), as they both support fossil fuels and expanded drillings, with the exception that Murkowski will have an easier time of rallying her Republican colleagues.

The Senate Environmental committee on the other hand will be night-and-day as Inhofe steps into the role currently held by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Boxer, a strong supporter of the environment and advocate of clean energy, is mirrored by Inhofe, a holdout on science, who has called climate change a hoax and opposes President Obama’s energy and environmental policies.

“We could be totally [energy] independent in the state of Oklahoma and in the United States of America if we didn’t have Obama’s war on fossil fuels,” Inhofe said.

He has also pushed back on other environmental policies, such as increased nuclear energy safety, efforts to fight ozone layer depletion, and funding for cleanup of environmental contamination.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is currently the top Republican on the committee; Inhofe is ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. It has been reported that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who holds seniority over Inhofe, wants to lead the Armed Services panel.

The House GOP’s approach – ramming through conservative legislation by simple majority votes – won’t work in a Senate that usually requires 60 yeas to get anything done. Instead, Senate Republicans will need to employ all available tactics to tackle the regulatory agenda, using tools such as authorization bills, appropriations riders, oversight hearings and use of the rarely successful Congressional Review Act.