Despite Republicans deciding not to oust Sen. Lisa Murkowski from her position as the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, all signs point to Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) replacing her.

The buzz on Capitol Hill this week was that Republicans were going to call for a vote on Wednesday afternoon to remove Murkowski as ranking member because she lost the Republican primary to a Tea Party candidate. The first part happened, the second part didn’t. The exact vote tally remains a mystery for now, but the result is that Murkowski will keep her position and Burr will not take over as the acting ranking member of the committee.

Now, while Murkowski retains her title, most reports out of the Alaskan’s camp say she will not return to the Senate before the November midterms. This will leave the committee a Republican vote short and missing a ranking member. The Senate is expected to remain in session for two to three more weeks before breaking for the elections.

As for Burr, he told the Charlotte Observer, “It’s not a decision for me. Now it’s a decision for the Republican conference.” When the conference decided to punt on the issue, it represented an about-face for frustrated Republican leaders who have been displeased with Murkowski’s plan to wage a write-in campaign following her defeat by Joe Miller in an August primary.

For those who vote for the environment, Burr isn’t exactly an improvement over Murkowski who is unpopular with greenies because of her attempts to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Burr is a global warming denier and is on Koch Industries' target list for a pledge to vote against any cap-and-trade “climate tax.”

Despite not getting the nod for the position, Burr remains the odds-on favorite to get the job at some point because he is the most-senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The next most-senior senator on the committee is Wyoming’s John Barrasso, who was recently chosen by the Senate Republican Conference to be its vice chairman, the fifth most powerful leadership position for the party.

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