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The Real Problem With Funding the Government

April 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After meeting late Wednesday night with House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8], Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid [D, NV] took to the floor this morning and said that agreeing on a topline budget number isn't the thing blocking a deal on preventing a government shutdown Friday night, it's social policy. “Our differences are no longer over the savings we get on government spending, Reid said. “The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.”

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Republicans in Congress have moved one step closer to taking away the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change. This afternoon, by a vote of 34-19, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the so-called Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 that would amend the Clear Air to state that seven specific greenhouse gases, plus "any other substance subject to, or proposed to be subject to, regulation, action, or consideration under [the Clean Air Act] to address climate change," are not "air pollutants," and, therefore, can not be regulated by the EPA. The bill now goes to the full House for a vote on passage.

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The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency power to regulate air pollutants that are hazardous to public health. In 2009, after conducing a scientific, peer-reviewed study as ordered by the Supreme Court, the EPA determined that six greenhouse gases "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations" and they have begun drawing up regulations. But a group of lawmakers is trying to defeat the science with legislation, and they're gaining influential allies on both sides of the aisle.

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Republicans Go After EPA Climate Change Rules

January 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Maybe the biggest failure of the Democrats over the past few years has been that they didn't pass climate change legislation, even when they had simultaneous control of the House, the Senate, and the White House. Luckily for them, they have a backup plan with the Environmental Protection Agency. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA can issue regulations for air pollutants that they determine "endanger public health and welfare." On January 2nd, the first round of EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions went into effect using this authority.

In the first week of the new Congress, House Republicans introduced three separate bills to stop the EPA from enforcing climate change rules. Here's a quick overview.

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Is There a Republican Alternative to Cap and Trade?

November 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With a Republican House and a shrunken Democratic majority in the Senate, one of the big Democratic policy goals that we can safely kiss goodbye for the next few years is a cap-and-trade climate change bill. But with the uncertainty of 2012 and the pressing nature of the climate issue, Obama and the Democrats will probably still want to do something in the next session of Congress to make progress on the issue, even if it's not as strong as they want. Here's a look at where Democrats and Republicans could find agreement on climate change action.

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The Inside Story of How the Climate Bill Died

October 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

By historical standards, the 111th Congress has been incredibly prolific. But on the most important issue facing humanity right now, they never even got so far as introducing a viable bill in the all-important upper chamber.

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Renewable Energy Legislation Comes Back to Life

September 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

When the Senate abandoned their climate bill earlier this year, the renewable energy standard (RES), which was the other big provision in it besides cap-and-trade, seemed to die with it. The provision would have required utilities to produce more of their power from clean sources like wind and solar, but It wasn't brought back in the scaled-down energy package that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] put together from remnants of the dead climate bill. "The numbers that we have indicate that those votes are not there," Reid said in July regarding a RES.

Now, a, bipartisan pair of senators is out to prove Reid wrong. On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D, NM] and Sen. Sam Brownback [R, KS] introduced a stand-alone RES bill that would mandate 15% of power to be generated by renewables -- not 20% like the climate bill -- and they're now up to 25 co-sponsors. Significantly, four of the co-sponsors are Republicans, which is a big deal considering the lack of aisle-crossing in the Senate the past few months.

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Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] essentially announced the death of climate change legislation yesterday when he revealed the Democrats' plan to take cap-and-trade out of their energy bill and vote on it as a stand-alone amendment. Cap-and-trade simply does not have 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster. But that doesn't mean climate change won't be dealt with soon. The EPA has been given authority to regulate carbon dioxide and they have made it clear that they will use that authority if Congress doesn't pass a climate bill.

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A day after President Obama said that he will help whip votes for passing climate change legislation in the Senate this year, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] called on committee chairmen to prepare a strategy for passing a climate bill this summer. And he's calling for proposals to address the BP oil leak to be rolled into it.

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Despite Sens. John Kerry [D, MA] and Joe Lieberman [I, CT] recently proposing a new framework for comprehensive energy and climate change legislation designed to win bipartisan support, it's looking increasingly likely that there just isn't enough support in the Senate for passing such a bill this year. If that is in fact the case, the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of the Obama Administration's efforts to fight climate change, is planning to use a 2007 Supreme Court ruling giving them authority over greenhouse gasses to put new caps on emissions from automobiles and power plants.

That is unless Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] succeeds at blocking the EPA from taking action by passing her proposed resolution of disapproval S.J.Res.26. According to the New York Times, Murkowski and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] have struck a deal to allow the resolution to come up for a vote on June 10. The Times notes that under the agreement the resolution will not be susceptible to a filibuster, which means that it will only take 51 votes to pass. The resolution already has 41 co-sponsors, three of which are Democrats.

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American Power and Offshore Drilling

May 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. John Kerry [D, MA] and Sen. Joseph Lieber man [I, CT] today unveiled details of their long-awaited American Power Act, which is a comprehensive bill designed to deal with the issues of climate change and energy independence. It's a draft right now, so we don't have it up on OpenCongress. As soon as we do, we'll be doing some more deep analysis of its provisions. But for now, it wanted to pass along some info on what the bill proposes for the energy topic du jour -- offshore drilling.

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Boehner Bashes Obama's Drilling Plan

March 31, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This is how you know for sure that the Republican strategy in Congress is to simply oppose anything Obama does. Following this morning's announcement that Obama is proposing opening up a huge amount of off-shore oil reserves to drilling for the first time ever, Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner's [R, OH-8] first response was, essentially, "no."

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Sen. Jay Rockefeller [D, WV] is the latest in a bipartisan series of lawmakers who are trying to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Not-so-coincidentally, many of these lawmakers have ties to the industries that would be most affected.

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Blocking the EPA from dealing with climate change if Congress fails to act is now a bipartisan, bicameral effort: NYT reports: Two top House Democrats introduced a measure yesterday aimed at blocking U.S. EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, mirroring the controversial effort launched on the Senate side by Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The measure from Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) and Missouri's Ike Skelton was also co-sponsored by Missouri Republican Jo...

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Snowfall Now A Factor In Climate Change Debate

February 10, 2010 - by Eric Naing

For the past week, the primary topic of conversation in Washington, D.C. has been the record snowfall that continues to bury the city. Now some Republican lawmakers are citing the blizzard as a reason to kill comprehensive climate change legislation. Yesterday, Sen. Jim DeMint [R, SC] tweeted, “It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries ‘uncle.’” When asked about the prospects of cap-and-trade legislation limiting carbon emissions, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] ...

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