The House is in recess this week, and while the Senate is in session, they will not be discussing energy/environmental related issues on the Floor.
In the coming weeks, House and Senate Republicans will unveil their respective budget resolutions. The Senate is set to mark-up its version next week. Congressional budget resolution activity is expected to initiate what has typically been a politically-charged process of spending cap determinations for federal agencies. The budget resolution will determine overall FY16 spending levels, as well as the treatment of sequestration and the balance between defense and non-defense spending. These decisions will ultimately be reflected in agency- and program-specific appropriations for FY16. The budget resolution may also include reconciliation directions on high-profile policy issues that include healthcare, immigration or tax related items.
Republicans have been less than receptive to the President’s fiscal 2016 budget request, which included a proposed seven percent increase for discretionary spending. Notably, the President’s budget would eliminate the 2011 sequester, which is likely to set up a confrontation with a GOP-controlled Congress. While some pro defense GOP Members would support the sequester elimination, they would not do so in exchange for increased taxes; other Republicans remain opposed to ending the sequester as they support the limits to federal spending.
Other Items of Interest:
The Senate Finance Committee Tax Working Groups Continue to Organize. The Business Working Group will have its first meeting of the Members this week. Currently, the Working Group plans to have five off the record roundtable discussions with stakeholders. Energy issues, which will include jurisdiction on renewable energy tax preferences, will be considered as part of the infrastructure and community development working group, which is chaired by Senators Heller (R-NV) and Bennet (D-CO). They are still developing their plan of action. Given the fact that the Working Groups must have bipartisan agreement to make any recommendations to the Senate Committee on Finance, many observers expect that little progress will be made at the working group level. Because these efforts are not expected to be fruitful, Senator Wyden, the Ranking Member on the Committee on Finance, plans to develop a renewable energy package for the Senate Democrats to advocate for the remainder of this Congress.
Senate and House Committee Staff Continue to Work on Potential Energy Legislation. In an attempt to inform their efforts on targeted energy infrastructure legislation, staff from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), held numerous bipartisan meetings with impacted trade associations during the course of the previous week. The sessions confirmed that the focus of the legislation will be infrastructure, supply, efficiency and accountability. It is anticipated that upon conclusion of the staff listening sessions, which will eventually include other stakeholders, and after receiving input from members, the bipartisan staff will develop staff drafts to serve as the basis for Committee consideration. The initial draft is likely to be quite skeletal, because the initial draft will include consensus points upon which both sides agree. It will, however, serve as the basis for an ENR Committee markup and consideration of amendments. The Committee hopes to report a bill to the floor by Memorial Day.
In related news, on the House side, Energy and Commerce Committee staff continue to engage stakeholders and pursue their work toward circulating a discussion draft during the Spring with legislative committee activity to begin shortly thereafter. It is anticipated that the bill will contain four titles, which is consistent with Chairman Upton’s Architecture of Abundance, and is focused on four areas: modernizing infrastructure; developing a 21st Century energy workforce; considerations regarding energy diplomacy for a changing world; and promoting efficiency and accountability.
Toxic Substances Control Act Bill Introduced. Consistent with previous Washington Energy Update reports regarding the drafting and release of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) legislation, Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA) have introduced legislation that would update the TSCA. The bill was introduced with 15 bipartisan co-sponsors (seven Democrats and eight Republicans). The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing March 18 on the bill and the broader debate on Environmental Protection Agency’s signature law overseeing the manufacturing and processing of chemicals. After unsuccessful efforts to improve the law, Vitter and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced legislation in 2013 that was vetted with numerous industry and environmental group stakeholders. Udall joined in the effort with Vitter after Lautenberg passed away. California Senator Barbara Boxer (D) stymied progress on the bill last year amidst concerns regarding potential preemption of her home state’s related laws. TSCA has not seen significant reform since the late 1970s.
Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill to Be Reintroduced. Senators Shaheen (D-NH) and Portman (R-OH) will also reintroduce their comprehensive and widely supported energy efficiency legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC), this week. The bill, which is designed to bring energy efficiency regulations in state building codes up to date and to incentivize energy-efficient manufacturing, is a measure that its sponsors have been working on for a number of years and which enjoys broad stakeholder support. Portions of the bill were included as part of an amendment that cleared the Senate 94-5 on the Keystone XL bill (S.1) that the President recently vetoed.