House of Representatives

Post image for MSM Loves Bipartisanship…Unless the Issue Is Environmental Policy

In this era of hyper-partisanship, the mainstream media thinks that bi-partisanship is beautiful…unless both parties agree on an environmental policy, in which case the media invariably recasts the story such that it’s the Green Democrats versus the Dirty Republicans.

On cap-and-trade policy, I’ve noted in a previous post how the media willfully ignores that both parties oppose energy rationing. Instead, you’ll read or hear about the “Republican War on Science,” whenever Congressional climate policy gets rejected by a bipartisan, bicameral vote.

There was another example of this phenomenon last Wednesday. The Energy and Water Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing during which there was unanimous bipartisan agreement that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its bounds on a controversial policy regarding  mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

To me, at least, unanimously bipartisan opposition to a major Presidential policy on an ultra-divisive issue is newsworthy. But there was no mention of it in any of the stories on the hearing that I read. Readers of the stories that I read would have thought that the Democrats and Republicans clashed.

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Post image for Rep. Ed Markey: Real Genius

According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the finest writer in American history, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” By this criterion, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is a real genius, because he manages to function in the Congress, despite the fact that he thinks the price of gasoline should go up and down, simultaneously.

As one of the Congress’s foremost global warming alarmists, Rep. Markey believes that hydrocarbon energy is the cause of the supposed “problem” that is global warming. Due to this belief, he is a staunch supporter of energy policies designed to make hydrocarbon energy more expensive, so that Americans use less of it, and thereby fight global warming. For example, he co-authored the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a cap-and-trade energy rationing scheme passed by the House of Representatives in June 2009. (Thankfully, the bill died in the Senate.) Because the entire point of this policy was to “put a price” on carbon, it would have increased the price of gasoline, by design.

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Post image for More on Energy Department’s Awful Green Bank

Yesterday, I participated on a panel discussion about the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program for low carbon energy sources. I’ve long been a fierce opponent of the DOE’s green bank—see here, here, here, and here for my take.

In a nutshell, I argue that investment banking is well outside the core competency of Energy Department bureaucrats, so there is no reason to believe that they could start a successful green bank from scratch. Even if they could, political concerns would trump economic reasoning, such that loan authorizations would get funneled to the well-connected, instead of the deserving.

Regarding this last point, consider this recent report by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News, on the remarkable correlation between the success of DOE Loan Guarantee applications and the amount of money that the applicant raised for Barack Obama’s campaign for the White House.

In addition to the panel, we also organized a coalition letter to the House Appropriations Committee, on the need to excise the DOE’s green bank from the budget. Signatories included CEI, Taxpayers for Common Sense, George Marshall Institute, National Taxpayers Union, and the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Click here for a copy of the letter.

Post image for Congressional Update: Votes Likely for Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 [Updated 5:45 PM]

The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on final passage of H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act.  The Rules Committee is allowing the Democrats to offer twelve amendments to weaken or gut the bill.  (It is worth recalling that on 26th June 2009, the Democrats allowed only one Republican amendment and couldn’t even provide an accurate copy of the bill, since 300 pages had been added in the middle of the night, but the new sections hadn’t been put in their proper places in the 1200 page bill that had been released four days before.)  No Republican amendments to strengthen to the bill will be allowed.  The rule can be found here.  It is quite possible that the vote on final passage will be delayed until tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled votes on amendments offered by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) amendments to S. 493, a re-authorization bill for small business subsidies, for some time after 4 PM today.  The McConnell amendment is the Senate version of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482.  The other amendments are attempts to give some ground without blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions permanently (that is, until Congress authorizes such regulations).  This shows how far the debate has shifted.  It appears that the three straddling amendments may each get fifteen to thirty votes.  It appears that the McConnell amendment (#183) will get 51 or perhaps even 52 votes, but will not be adopted because it is not a germane amendment and therefore requires 60 votes to survive a point of order.  All 47 Republicans are expected to vote for it plus Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).  Maybe one more Democrat, such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could of course still change his mind.

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Post image for This Week in the Congress

House Ready To Pass Upton Bill Next Week

The House has scheduled H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, for floor debate and passage on Wednesday, 6th April.  This could still slip given the wrangling that is going on between the House and the Senate over the Continuing  Resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of FY 2011 after the current CR runs out on 8th April.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill will pass easily with over 250 votes.  That most likely includes all 241 Republicans and 12 to 20 Democrats.

The Rules Committee has not yet met to decide which amendments will be in order.  Conservative Republicans in the Republican Study Committee are considering offering several amendments to strengthen the bill.

H. R. 910 as marked up by the Energy and Commerce Committee prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but does not prohibit the Administration from using other existing statutes to regulate emissions.  Nor does it ban common law nuisance lawsuits against emitters of greenhouse gases, such as power plants, manufacturers, railroads, airlines, and cement producers.

Thus one obvious amendment would be to ban common law nuisance suits.  The Supreme Court is currently considering such a case.  It may find that such suits may proceed, but even if it does not it could do so for the wrong reason—namely, that the EPA is regulating emissions and has thereby pre-empted common law.

Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) will undoubtedly offer some of the same silly, irrelevant grandstanding amendments that they offered in committee.  Waxman was reported this week as expressing confidence that the bill has no chance in the Senate.

That was certainly true of his Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the last Congress.  One significant difference is that Waxman-Markey barely passed the House, 219-212.  The Upton-Whitfield bill will pass by a much wider margin.

Moreover, cap-and-trade was swimming against strong public opposition, while blocking EPA’s attempt to achieve cap-and-trade through the regulatory backdoor is swimming with public opinion.  That’s why, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is still undecided about voting for the McConnell amendment (which is identical to the Senate version of H. R. 910) in the Senate.  She doesn’t want to vote for it, but she’d like to be re-elected in 2012.

Will the Senate Ever Vote on the McConnell Amendment?

The Senate spent another week without voting on Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) amendment to block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or either of the two Democratic alternatives.  It is quite possible that there will be votes next week.  It is also quite possible that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will work out a deal with McConnell to dispose of many of the amendments to the underlying bill without votes and proceed to passage of the Small Business Innovation Research Re-Authorization Act.  Or Reid may keep stalling.

McConnell originally introduced his amendment (#183 if you’re keeping track) to S. 493 on 15th March.  It is identical to Senator James M. Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482, which is identical to the House bill of the same name, H. R. 910.

Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced an amendment to try to provide cover for fellow Democrats and thereby siphon support from McConnell’s amendment.  Rockefeller would delay EPA regulations for two years.

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Inside the Beltway

by Myron Ebell on March 12, 2011

in Blog, Features

Post image for Inside the Beltway

The House of Representatives took the first step on Thursday toward reclaiming its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  The Energy and Power (yes, that really is its name) Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee marked up and passed H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, which is sponsored by Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.).  H. R. 910 would pre-empt EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions using the Clean Air Act unless and until explicitly authorized to do so by Congress.

Actually, there was no marking up.  The Democrats opposed to the bill offered no amendments, and the bill was passed on a voice vote.  The full Committee has scheduled a mark-up of the bill next Monday and Tuesday. That means H. R. 910 could come to the House floor by early April.  There is no doubt that it will pass the House by a wide margin.  The only question is how many Democrats will end up voting for it.  My guess is that quite a few Democrats are worried about getting re-elected and will therefore vote for it.

The subcommittee meeting was one long whine by minority Democrats.  Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the ranking Democrat on the full committee and chief sponsor of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that failed in the last Congress, said that H. R. 910 would codify science denial.  Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) chimed in that he was worried the Republicans would try to repeal the law of gravity.  Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) instead thought that Republicans were trying to repeal the first law of thermodynamics and cause children all over the world to get asthma.

Preventing asthma is now the principal reason brought forward by the global warming alarmists in Congress to cripple the U. S. economy with energy-rationing regulations.  Here is what I learned from a ninety-second internet search: “The majority of people with asthma notice that cold, dry air causes more symptoms than mild-temperature or hot, humid air.” Of course, some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists have recently found that global warming is causing a lot of cold weather.

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Post image for Waxman’s Latest Talking Point Is Wrong

Jean Chemnick at Energy & Environment News this morning reported on a Center for American Progress event yesterday, during which U.S. Representative Henry Waxman made an eye-catching claim about the politics of energy rationing. According to Waxman, the conventional wisdom that “energy and environmental issues are more regional than partisan” is wrong, because “there is now a starker divide between the parties on environmental issues than at any time during my career.”

The record suggests otherwise. Consider,

Back in February 2009, when everyone thought a deep depression was imminent, Keynesian economists and their political boosters demanded big government spending. According to their calculations, a “timely, targeted, and temporary” infusion of taxpayer money would defibrillate our moribund economy, the growth of which would make the trillion-dollar price tag seem like small potatoes. It was elementary!

So the White House pushed, and the Congress passed, a gigantic trillion-dollar stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It was, however, anything but “targeted.” Instead, it was a grab bag of special interest handouts.

About $90 billion of those taxpayer funded giveaways went to “green” energy, which is about as trendy a cause as there is right now. Today, on the thirtieth of June, almost a year and half after the stimulus passed, the Department of Energy has awarded a scant 15% of its “green” energy stimulus funds. So much for “timely.”

Despite the fact that so little of the stimulus has yet been spent, House leadership already wants more. This week, powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Representative Sandy Levin (D) is pushing a bill that would extend Stimulus green energy tax incentives, to the tune of $20 billion. So it seems that “temporary” was also a sham.