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Coburn vs. Big Corn

June 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] has stuck his neck out and is forcing a vote today on an amendment (identical to S.871) to repeal ethanol tax subsidies. Ethanol subsidies cost the government atlas $5 billion per year and they are opposed by groups like the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action on environmental grounds and by groups like Koch Industries on grounds that they distort energy market forces. On the other side, however, are Big Ag corporations like Monsanto, whose Roundup-resistant-corn-seed sales have skyrocketed under the subsidies, and they seem to be winning.

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With gasoline prices around $4 a gallon in most parts of the country, the natural gas industry and their allies in Congress are ramping up their efforts to become a viable and mainstream transportation fuel alternative. Rep. John Sullivan [R, OK-1] and 76 original bipartisan co-sponsors recently introduced the"New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solution Act" that would provide about $5 billion in federal subsidies for trucking companies, vehicle owners and fueling stations to transition from gasoline and diesel to natural gas. In one weeks time, the bill more than doubled in co-sponsors -- it now has 178 -- and it appears set to move through the House quickly. But, given the negative environmental impacts of the hydraulic fracking process that would be used to expand natural gas production, is this really the answer to the most recent spike in gasoline prices?

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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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Congress Links

July 28, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Despite growing concern about Afghanistan triggered by the WikiLeaks' release of classified documents, Congress has passed an appropriations bill for the war there.  Republicans have so far been successful in filibustering the DISCLOSE Act, and Democrats introduced a bill that would lift the liability cap for oil companies pay for oil spills. All this and more in today's edition.

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The Week Ahead

July 26, 2010 - by Moshe Bildner

Here's a look ahead on some major issues facing Congress: campaign finance reform, energy reform, and immigration. On the first topic of fair elections, the DISCLOSE Act appears likely to be passed by the Senate this week. The future of the other two isseus is much less certain. On energy, if bipartisan support can be reached, then Sen. Reid's forthcoming new energy bill has a chance of becoming law. On immigration, observers are coming to consensus that comprehensive reform has little chance of passing before the November midterms -- but there's still lots happening on this important issue. Click through for more details and links to news coverage.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 3, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

It's amendment time this week for the Restoring American Financial Stability Act. Banking Committee Chairman and financial reform floor manager Sen. Chris Dodd [D, CT] has set as an end date of May 14 for the bill, meaning that the next two weeks will largely determine how effective Congress's efforts to address the regulatory lapses that lead to the crisis of 2008 and end "to big to fail" will be. Amendments to be voted on will include things like making the big banks smaller, opening the Federal Reserve up to a full audit, and restricting the authority of a new consumer financial protection bureau. We'll be covering it all closely on this blog. For now, let's take a look at what's going to be happening this week over on the other side of the Capitol.

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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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H.R. 2454, Sec. 204

July 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

At OpenCongress, our core mission is to build public knowledge about what's really happening in Congress. All of the tools we've built on the site are designed to meet that goal. For example, we're crowd-sourcing discovery of the best articles and comments about bills in Congress, building community-edited wikis on bills, members and candidates, and providing context to legislation through social and media data. Another set of features we launched more recently is designed to facilitate more d...

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The Next Iran Vote

June 23, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Following on Congress' approval last week of a pair of symbolic resolutions in support of the Iranian protesters, Rep. Mark Kirk [R, IL-10] is pushing for a vote on legislation that would actually put some economic pressure on Iran.

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(This post by Isabelle Cutting, OpenCongress Research Assistant) In January, Rep. Henry Waxman [D, CA-30] replaced the more moderate Rep. John Dingell [D, MI-15] as the Chairman for the Energy and Commerce Committee by a secret vote of 137-122 held amongst House Democrats. The motivation was to have a progressive at the helm of the committee that would hold jurisdiction over some of the most important legislation that would be coming up in the 111th Congress. Indeed, as Chairman, Rep. Wax...

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There's a lot happening on the Hill this week, and we'll be covering it all and providing links to others who are covering it as best we can. With so much happening, I thought it would be useful to take a step back for a big-picture look at how Congress' next few months are shaping up. Click through for an update on where things stand with four of the biggest issues currently before Congress -- health care reform, climate change, financial regulatory reform and immigration.

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Hot Bills This Week on OpenCongress

June 5, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Behind the fairly long shadow cast by growing interest around immigration and continued interest in firearms legislation, here are a handful of bills that have been heating up this week for voters and viewers on OpenCongress. This analysis is based on information from the OpenCongress Battle Royale, which gives an overhead view of what bills, senators, representatives and issues are popular in Congress.

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Southern Perspective

May 27, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Blue Dog Rep. Gene Taylor [D, MS-4] sums up coal-state Democrats' opposition to the big energy bill in Congress, the American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009: I think of the whole cap-and-trade idea as a Ponzi scheme. I don’t like the idea that one factory is cleaner than it has to be so that another a factory is dirtier than it should be, because historically that factory that’s dirtier than it should be ends up in the South. ... If the vote was today, I’d vote "no." via NYT. ...

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Cap and Trade Basics

May 22, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Marketplace's Paddy Hirsch goes over the basics of cap and trade. This is the, essentially, the policy mechanism at the center of the climate change bill going through Congress, the American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009. Meet Cap 'n Trade from Marketplace on Vimeo....

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I was expecting this to take even longer than it did, but apparently Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee backed off their threats and posturing to delay progress on the Waxman-Markley climate change bill and it has now been approved by the committee. It's a big step forward for the bill, but it will face many bigger challenges later on in the legislative process.

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