Congress returns for a brief post-August recess session September 10, and when it does, the first thing on the agenda will be passing a six month Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government funded for the first six months of fiscal year 2013.
Over the past two weeks, the political parties held the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, and each released a 2012 party platform containing reference to energy issues.
Republicans adopted a 2012 platform August 28 that calls for a dramatic expansion of domestic fossil fuels, including coal-fired power plants, nuclear power plants, onshore and offshore oil and gas development, sharing more offshore drilling revenue with states, opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, as well as the development of renewable energy via a market-based approach. It also promises to rein in environmental regulations. Unlike in previous years, their platform makes no mention energy efficiency or energy conservation, nor of global warming, save to use it as an example of a failed national security strategy under the Obama Administration. Democrats approved their package September 4 by pledging to continue efforts to combat climate change and calling for an all of the above energy strategy that includes wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, nuclear, oil, natural gas, and clean coal. The Democratic Party platform also highlights the increased use of energy efficiency; reducing mercury, particulate matter, and other pollutant emissions; and restoring the Great Lakes, the Florida Everglades, and the Gulf of Mexico.
In addition to passing a continuing resolution, Congress may deal with four other energy-related pieces of legislation before the end of the year, most likely all during the Lame Duck session after the elections. Potential areas of forward movement include energy efficiency legislation, such as the Shaheen-Portman language; Defense reauthorization, which will include a debate over the Navy’s use of biofuels; the Farm bill, which expires September 30 unless Congress passes a short-term extension; and the tax extender package.
The Congressional Budget Office reported August 31 that the temporary tax cut provisions for individuals in the Senate Finance Committee-approved tax extenders bill will add $145.7 billion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Energy tax breaks will cost another $18.1 billion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he hopes to bring the measure to the Senate floor when Congress returns in September, though real movement is not anticipated until the Lame Duck session. The House Ways and Means Committee is working on its own version of a tax extenders package and does not expect to act on it until after the elections. House members will be speaking Wednesday in support of the Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit, though it is still unclear how the House will get votes on a tax extenders package.