The Week AheadJuly 26, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner
Here’s a look at what lies ahead for Congress in the broad issue areas of Campaign Finance Reform, Energy, and Immigration:
The Senate is planning a vote of cloture tomorrow for S.3628, the DISCLOSE act. After being passed by the House by a vote of 219-206, the bill has been tangled up by Senate procedures since late June. The bill had aroused controversy when the House allegedly cut a sweetheart deal with the NRA in exchange for their not opposing the bill. It is likely that the bill will make it through the Senate, where 60 votes will be needed to break the Republican filibuster that is currently blocking the it.
But not everyone is convinced the bill has enough supporters to pass through the Senate. The 60 votes needed to break the Republican filibuster may be hard for Democrats to find, especially given the NRA deal, which may prevent some Democrats from approving the measure.
We’ll find out tomorrow whether the motion to end debate will succeed. Remember that, technically, the Senate is only voting on the motion of
cloture tomorrow, not the bill itself; but this is considered an acceptable proxy for the bill’s fate, as the simple majority needed to pass a
bill in the Senate is already contained in the supermajority needed to break a filibuster.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to unveil a new energy bill sometime this week. The bill is expected to be dramatically watered down compared to the one passed by the House in late June, which has since died in the Senate in the face of Republican opposition. The bill is expected to focus largely on new regulations for the oil industry, which has been spotlighted by the catastrophic failure of a BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.
Predictably, Reid’s apparent compromise is disappointing liberal activists, who had hoped for a bill that would address both the country’s energy needs and the threat of climate change. In particular, activists had high hopes for a cap-and-trade provision, which would have placed a hard limit on greenhouse gas emissions.
Some utility companies are also upset by the piecemeal bill, which they believe fails to clarify how much regulation – and what kind – they will face in the future. There is
also debate in the Democratic party over whether the bill should include a so called “renewable energy standard”, or RES.
With cap-and-trade currently out of the new bill, the Executive branch has become a focal point for climate change regulation. The EPA’s announcement that it would begin regulating carbon emissions sparked a series of bills from conservative members of Congress (especially energy-state Democrats) aimed at preventing it from doing so. President Obama has threatened to veto such a bill.
As with the Disclose act, a Republican filibuster of the energy bill means that Reid will need to muster 60 votes for a motion of cloture, after which the bill can be passed.
Reid’s bill is expected to be narrow precisely as a result of such procedural challenges; Reid has argued that there is not enough time left before the August recess to have a drawn out fight over a comprehensive energy bill.
If comprehensive energy reform seems unlikely for the 111th Congress, immigration reform appears even less likely. A series of rightward-leaning election challengers have forced certain Senators to abandon whatever support they had once had for immigration reform. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has notably backtracked on his previous support for an immigration bill. Democratic Senators including Chuck Schumer of New York and Harry Reid were recently the subjects of pro-reform protests, and yet appear unwilling to try to pick up an issue as thorny as immigration reform so close to a tough election (Senator Schumer is not standing for election).
This look ahead written by OC Research Assistant Moshe Bildner. Questions, comments? writeus at opencongress d0t org.