POLITICS: PennAve

Mary Landrieu poised to lead Energy Committee in Senate musical chairs

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A likely reshuffle of Senate committee chairmen could have implications for Energy policy by placing the Energy and Natural Resources Committee gavel into Sen. Mary Landrieu's hand.

The Louisiana Democrat is poised to head the Energy panel after reports Wednesday that the White House will appoint Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., as the U.S. ambassador to China. Democratic Finance and Energy committee aides would not confirm or deny the report, which was first reported by Politico.

Landrieu is one of the more fossil fuel-friendly lawmakers on Capitol Hill and hews closer to Republicans on many energy issues.

"Mary and I have worked together on a lot of things," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, the Energy Committee's top Republican, told reporters. "So if in fact the dominoes should fall that way, I think it could be very interesting and a lot of fun to work on some of the issues that we both care a great deal about when it comes to the oil and gas sector."

Still, Landrieu's energy positions are often at odds with the Democratic leadership, which could try to cool attempts to pass conservative-leaning bills out of the committee.

In the short term, it's a boost to Landrieu's electoral chances. She's up for re-election in 2014 and has campaigned on the prospects of leading the Energy Committee in her race against Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.

"If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected, I will become for the first time in 24 years the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee," she told a small gathering of supporters in Mansura, La., in August.

Landrieu would assume the chairmanship provided current Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., takes over Finance, as is expected. He is the most senior committee member after Baucus and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the retiring Commerce Committee chairman who indicated Wednesday that he wouldn't take the gavel. Landrieu is the next-most senior member on the Energy Committee after Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who is retiring and heads the Banking Committee.

The Baucus appointment, which must be approved by the Senate, also would give Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock a chance to appoint a replacement. Montana Democratic Lt. Gov. John Walsh already has announced his Senate candidacy, making him the likely choice.

Rebecca Berg contributed to this report.

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