Congress returned from the August recess and the political conventions September 10 for a brief work period during which it will focus primarily on passing a six-month continuing resolution.
The continuing resolution, as agreed to prior to the recess by leadership in both chambers as well as the president, would extend fiscal year 2012 funding levels for six months, thus allowing the federal government to remain open and funded through the elections, or until March 27, 2013. The measure was introduced in the House September 10, and in addition to funding for energy and environment programs, continues to contain a prohibition that bars the Department of Energy from enforcing light bulb efficiency standards. Last December’s budget agreement (H.R. 2055) included a measure banning the agency from using funds to enforce efficiency standards for 100-watt light bulbs and other incandescent bulbs until the 2012 fiscal year ends September 30. The House version of the bill, which passed September 14, also included $100 million in support for the American Centrifuge Project, an uranium enrichment project in Piketon, Ohio. The Senate expects to vote on the continuing resolution September 19.
The House may also pass the Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012 (H.R. 3409) this week. The five-bill package, which includes provisions delaying Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department rules, as well as language supporting coal ash, is a message vote, as the Senate will not take up anything similar to it.
With Congress departing next week for final campaigning before the November elections, most other legislative negotiations will have to wait until the lame duck session. One of the primary debates scheduled to take place at the end of the year are the much-discussed tax extenders. In addition to attempting to avoid the fiscal cliff, House and Senate leaders will discuss the expiring production tax credit, a per gallon tax credit for cellulosic biofuel, and a number of other energy-related provisions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had previously said that he intended to bring the Senate Finance Committee’s $205 billion tax extenders bill (S. 3521) to the floor ahead of November 6, but, as the chamber will only be in session through September 21, he hopes to act on the bill as soon as possible, which will be during the lame duck session.
Other issues that may receive some attention during the lame duck session include energy efficiency legislation; defense reauthorization, particularly the Navy’s use of biofuels; and the Farm bill, which includes an energy title and expires at the end of the month.