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Mitt Romney will head to a primary in the Utah Senate race after falling short of the threshold needed to win the nomination at the GOP convention Saturday.

Romney had hoped to garner 60 percent of the delegate votes to win the nomination, but 51 percent backed state Rep. Mike Kennedy instead, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor is considered the favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rate the race Solid Republican.

The Tribune reported that Romney blamed the results on discontent with his decision to also gather signatures to secure a spot on the primary ballot. Conservatives have opposed the signature process since it diminishes the sway of the convention. Romney was the only GOP Senate candidate to gather enough signatures to qualify for the primary.

A dozen candidates faced off at the convention, and after two rounds of voting Kennedy and Romney were the only two left. The Tribune reported that Kennedy earned applause when he offered to sweep confetti off the arena floor. He tweeted a picture of himself doing so, and said, “Now let’s go clean up Washington!”

Romney also took to Twitter to thank his supporters, adding, “I appreciate the support I received and look forward to the primary election.”

The primary election is June 26.

Watch: Hatch: Time to ‘Hang Up the Gloves

 

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Bipartisan bills that aim to improve the government’s response to cybersecurity attacks on the electric grid advanced out of a House Energy and Commerce panel Wednesday. The action was the latest sign of heightened awareness on Capitol Hill that malicious hackers might be able to turn out the lights.

Four pieces of legislation — all focused on putting into statute coordination within the Department of Energy to prevent cyber attacks on the grid and other energy infrastructure — were advanced by the Energy Subcommittee by voice votes. The votes showed unusual unity on the often-partisan panel.

That divide was apparent, however, in the subcommittee vote on a measure to speed up the export of liquified natural gas from small-scale export facilities. That bill advanced along party lines, 19-14, as Democrats criticized the legislation as harmful to the environment. They also complained that the bill was an earmark for a Florida-based export project, the only pending facility that would meet the requirements. 

Recent high profile attempts by foreign actors, including groups linked with Russia, to probe nuclear facilities and pipeline control systems across the country since 2016 have raised awareness of committee members of the evolving cyber threat.

“As we’ve learned in classified briefings, and recently through the testimonies of Secretary Perry and our FERC Commissioners, cyber-attacks are a real and growing threat,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chairman of the subcommittee, in a statement.

One of the security bills would codify a recent departmental reorganization announced by Energy Secretary Rick Perry in his fiscal 2019 budget request that creates a new assistant secretary position devoted to cybersecurity issues. The bill would ensure position remains part of department leadership in future administrations.

Two of the cyber bills would establish voluntary programs to encourage the private sector and the Energy Department to share research and cybersecurity implementation plans. The fourth bill requires the department to adopt pipeline and LNG export facility cybersecurity plans. 

“The four bipartisan cybersecurity bills before us today will enhance the Department of Energy’s efforts to strengthen the cybersecurity of our nation’s electricity grid and pipeline network,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., the top Democrat of the full committee. “It is critical that we ensure our nation’s energy infrastructure is sufficiently protected from cyber threats.”

The bipartisan vibe evaporated with the small-scale LNG export bill. That legislation would streamline the approval process for small-scale facilities that support exports to the Caribbean, Central America and South America, defined as those that ship no more than 140 million cubic feet per day. 

Republican backers argued the measure would ensure speedy gas exports to Western Hemisphere nations, which they said would provide a steady energy supply that would burn cleaner compared to other fossil fuel sources — a benefit to carbon reduction goals.

“This should not be a partisan issue . . .  neither side of the aisle can deny that American small-scale LNG exports provides geopolitical, economic and environmental benefits,” said bill sponsor Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. 

Democrats complained that the bill’s requirements would essentially only apply to one facility owned by Houston-based Eagle LNG Partners Jacksonville LLC, according to the Congressional Research Service. That “sounds suspiciously like the kind of legislative earmark” Congress did away with, Pallone said. 

Democrats also said that by sidestepping some permits the bill would undermine environmental protections, more so than a separate Energy Department effort to hasten the pace of the permit reviews.

“In my opinion, that rule is already problematic, but this bill is even worse for the environment than the proposed rule,” Pallone said. 

Republicans promised to address Democrats’ concerns, but it remains to be seen how far that effort will extend.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would not be making floor time for legislation designed to shield Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III from firing.

McConnell’s determination that the action is not needed is apparently regardless of what happens in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I don’t think he should fire Mueller, and I don’t think he’s going to,” the Kentucky Republican said. “So, this is a piece of legislation that’s not necessary in my judgement.”

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as the majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” McConnell said during a Fox News interview.

Watch: The Status of Legislation to Protect Robert Mueller

The Judiciary Committee has a bipartisan bill on its agenda for Thursday’s markup, which may be held over for a week before consideration. Republicans and Democrats alike have expressed concern that President Donald Trump may seek to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The measure being considered by the Senate committee is a hybrid of combines two separate proposals, each backed by Republicans and Democrats.

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