Last evening (Sept. 25) the House passed 397-0 an amended version of legislation to keep the Federal Helium Reserve (FHR) operating beyond Oct. 7 and to reform the way in which the Department of the Interior sells crude helium stored in the Reserve to the private sector. The House took a bill that passed the Senate last week by a 97-2 vote, moved some of the numbers around to bring it into compliance with the House-passed FY2014 Budget Resolution, and moved up by one year the sale of the entire FHR. (The Senate had taken the House-passed bill from April (394-1] and made substantive improvements to the way Interior would move to an auction and market-based system and to shut down the program by 2022.)
So the Senate is expected to end this legislative ping-pong – or process of continuous improvement, depending on how you look at it – in the next four days. But time is short and Senate passage is expected to be only achievable via unanimous consent. The two "no" votes last week were Sens. Cruz (R-TX) and Sessions (R-AL). Sen. Rubio (R-FL) did not vote.
As related in previous postings and releases, helium is an essential ingredient in manufacturing and servicing of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units, as well as manufacturing of semiconductors, including light-emitting diodes (LEDs). It is also used as a shielding gas in some arc welding processes. If the Senate fails to act and the FHR goes offline on Oct. 7 as currently planned, 30 percent of the global supply of crude helium becomes inaccessible — predictable pricing and supply chain effects. So if you or your company cares about helium, use NEMA's Take Action tool to let your Senators know.