Following Senate and House passage of a continuing resolution, President Obama signed the short-term funding bill for the federal government last week to eliminate threat of a government shutdown as the new fiscal year began October 1. At the same time, the issue of federal spending in fiscal 2012 remains unclear as the stopgap bill (H.R. 2017) only runs through October 4.
The House will consider a six-week continuing resolution when it returns from recess this week, though it is still unclear whether House Republicans will back the compromise measure. The Senate has already passed the measure (H.R. 2608), which covers federal spending through mid-November. The Senate easily passed the measure last week after Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced a deal in which Democrats agreed to drop their demands for more disaster funds to be provided without budget offsets, thereby avoiding a protracted battle with the House over rescinding $1.6 billion for loan guarantees to promote energy efficiency vehicle and renewable energy.
The House is also scheduled to debate the EPA Regulatory Relief Act (HR 2250) and the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 (HR 2681), which were each approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on September 21. The bills seek to delay implementation of stricter air pollution standards for incinerators, boilers, and cement manufacturing equipment for 15 months. The bills also would expand from two to five years, the amount of time given to companies to comply with the new regulations.
Republicans and industry groups are hoping for an up and down vote on Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) resolution (SJ Res. 27) that would overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, even though it will most likely fall short of the 60 votes needed for Senate passage. However, if Paul’s measure can get at least 50 votes, both the Senate and the House will be on record opposing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule which might convince the White House to either rescind the rule or accept a delay bundled into the next continuing resolution, which would fund federal operations only through November 18. The Congressional Review Act gives Congress streamlined procedures to vote down federal regulations that will likely have a economically significant impact, so Senator Paul can bypass committee consideration by getting at least 30 senators to support bringing his resolution directly to the floor. Senator Paul already has 30 signatures, and will spend the next three months vigorously lobbying for more. Republicans in the Senate claim the support of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and believe Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson (FL), Ben Nelson (NE), Sherrod Brown (OH), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Bob Casey (PA), all running for re-election in 2012, may vote to block the crossstate rule.