Though appropriations and deficit reduction served as the central items of debate last week, energy issues garnered close attention, both for their association with appropriations and deficit reduction, and on their own, with particular focus on a clean energy standard and continued fallout from the Solyndra bankruptcy.
Final clearance on a three-bill minibus (H.R. 2112) and a vote on a key element of President Obama’s jobs initiative will be the Senate’s top priorities when it resumes work October 31. Following passage of an amended Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development minibus, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to move to the next spending bill minibus that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has bundled together. The next likely minibus would be taken up later in the week and would include Energy and Water, Financial Services, General Government, and possibly Foreign Operations.
Following recent questions as to whether the House would move forward with an omnibus funding measure or a series of minibus appropriations bills, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said October 25 that the House would take the minibus route. While House Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) said last week that the fiscal year 2012 appropriations measure for those agencies would not move forward without policy riders that curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and other similar measures, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is leading a letter that nearly all House Democrats are anticipated to sign that calls on Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to move away from including policy riders, particularly partisan riders, including those aimed at Environmental Protection Agency air rules, in FY2012 appropriations legislation
Since the two chambers are far from reaching an agreement on the twelve fiscal year 2012 spending bills, and the November 18 deadline for the current continuing resolution is looming, Congressional leaders are currently considering a new continuing resolution that would run through the end of January.
The Senate is also expected to take a test vote of another element of President Obama’s job initiative. Majority Leader Reid may undertake procedural moves October 31 to set the stage for a cloture vote November 2 on a bill to provide $60 billion in infrastructure investments. Previous test votes on other elements of the jobs package have demonstrated that the majority leader did not have the necessary votes to begin debate, and a similar end is anticipated with this vote as well. President Obama unveiled a number of small unilateral executive actions, and it is possible that future executive orders may concern clean energy.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continues its regular meetings as it works to find at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by November 23. Democrats and Republicans exchanged competing deficit reduction plans October 26, with the biggest partisan split less over spending and more over the willingness to find some solution to the impasse over tax revenues. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Al Franken (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the Supercommittee last week urging them to achieve their goal through a combination of federal energy efficiency and clean energy measures, specifically the increased use of energy efficiency in government buildings and increased federal usage of renewable energy as well as the reduction of unnecessary oil and gas subsidies and protection of federal investments in clean energy and energy efficiency programs.