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Just as new revelations are emerging about the possible link between the most widely-used pesticide in the U.S. and human birth defects, Congress is working to liberalize pesticide-use policy to allow farmers and local governments to spray near public waterways without having to seek special permission under the Clean Water Act. On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee unanimously approved H.R 872, a bill "to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify Congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters, and for other purposes." The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 31st by a vote of 292-130.

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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 open amendment process that House Republicans used to create their 2011 budget bill had its benefits. For example, it allowed a bipartisan group of rank-and-file Reps. to stand against party leadership and strip out funding for a costly alternative engine program for a fighter jet that the Air Force itself says is unnecessary. On the other hand, it gave members who were looking to fulfill promises to powerful political interests a platform to do so. The policy riders that were added to the budget bill are keeping Congress bogged down with stopgap funding to keep the government from shutting down and preventing them from engaging in serious negotiations over funding levels for the rest of the year. That in turns means there's no time to work on other important issues, like job creation and long-term debt reduction.

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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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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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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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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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The Week In Review

January 22, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Despite being one day shorter than usual, this week felt like non-stop parade of big news – almost all of it bad for the Democrats. Click through for a point-by-point rundown of what's happened over the past week and how it effects the biggest issues in Congress going forward.

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What's Next For Climate Change?

January 21, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Scott Brown's upset victory in Massachusetts has rocked health care reform but the other big-ticket item on the Democratic agenda, comprehensive climate change legislation, has also been dealt a body blow.

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Energy and Climate Change Primer for the 111th Congress

March 18, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

The AIG bonus scandal is burning through the media universe, but Congress is also continuing work on the legislative agenda. Some of the big pieces in the coming months will be on the energy front. New details were recently released about a proposed renewable energy standard (which would require utilities to produce a percentage of their power via renewable sources, like solar and wind). How that RES bill will move through the House and, more importantly, the Senate, is a bit confusing and very political. So, here's an OpenCongress primer on the looming energy/climate change battle.

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