As the Administration continues to take heat for the Solyndra bankruptcy, and the President continues to defend loan guarantees as a tool that allows the United State to compete in an increasingly global and fast-paced market, clean energy issues as a whole are struggling to come out from under the politicized negative media attention. In the coming weeks, energy and climate issues will face a number of hurdles and have several opportunities to succeed as Congress continues to focus on appropriations, deficit reduction, and jobs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced October 5 that the Senate would take up President Obama’s American Jobs Act (S. 1549) very soon, and that he would replace its offsets with a new 5.6 percent surtax on millionaires. The following day, Majority Leader Reid said that he will open the legislation to amendments, and is making plans to vote on the bill as soon as October 12.
The surtax, which has the blessing of the White House, would raise about $445 billion, replacing the politically unpopular offsets currently in the legislative language. The bill would halve payroll taxes for workers and employers in 2012, eliminate payroll taxes for businesses that hire people who have been unemployed for more than six months, extend unemployment insurance benefits, and provide extra funding for transportation, energy, and school modernization projects.
The Senate also will take up the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act (S. 1619), while the House will consider the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (H.R. 3078), the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act (H.R. 3079), and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act (H.R. 3080). The free trade bills will move in conjunction with legislation to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance, per a deal made between the White House and Congressional Republicans.
The House also will, under suspension of the rules, continue consideration of the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 2250), delaying the implementation of air pollution standards for commercial boilers and incinerators, and providing at least an additional five years for industry to comply with the rules once finalized. Democrats offered several amendments to the bill, all voted down, including Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) amendment instructing the EPA administrator to press ahead with rules designed to reduce emissions from petrochemical refineries, chemical facilities, and large factories. Later in the week, the House takes up the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273), which would allow implementation of coal combustion residuals permit programs at the state level, with EPA providing permitting in states lacking a system.