Paradise Lost: The Energy Committee Lovefest That Wasn't

Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowsk's working relationship is off to a contentious start.  (National Journal)

When Mary Landrieu took the gavel on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, everyone expected that she and ranking member Lisa Murkowski would get along.

The senators may be from both sides of the aisle, but there's a lot they agree on. Both represent energy-rich states and cast themselves as staunch defenders of the oil and gas industry. And they have a history of working together in the past. Today, however, they did not see eye to eye.

Landrieu and Murkowski came into conflict over Rhea Suh, the president's nominee to be the Interior Department's assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, during a committee meeting this morning.

Murkowski suspects Suh is an enemy of oil and gas and wouldn't support the nomination. Landrieu, on the other hand, disputes the claim and cast a vote in Suh's favor. The nomination advanced on a party-line vote of 12-10.

The spat signals trouble in paradise for the pair. "I'm sorry that we're starting this new era of the committee on such a troubling note," Murkowski told Landrieu during the meeting.

It also opens Landrieu up to attack from her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy. "A vote in favor of Ms. Suh is a vote against Louisiana families and against our energy industry," Cassidy said yesterday.

Landrieu's ascension to the Energy panel top spot is a double-edged sword. The perch lets her preach the gospel of oil and gas. Landrieu's banking on her newfound star power to pull in campaign cash as she heads into a tough reelection fight. But the spotlight also makes her more vulnerable to criticism.

All eyes are on her now, for better or worse