House Speaker restores energy bill, puts it on fast track, parries White House veto threat
Well, there’s remarkable stuff going on up on the hill today. Thanks to the persistence of Nancy Pelosi (and others), the energy bill has been almost entirely restored to its original strength — at least the House version. It now contains:
- 35mpg CAFE, with some Dingell-appeasing loopholes but nothing that makes it substantially weaker than the Senate-passed version;
- 15% RPS;
- RFS, scaled back from 36 billion gallons to 20 (I believe), and with some additional environmental safeguards;
- four-year extension of Production Tax Credits for wind and solar, with a per-project cap of 35% of a project’s cost; and
- $21 billion worth of funding for the energy programs, including $13.5 billion of oil industry tax breaks repealed and $7.5 of non-energy tax hikes; this is the part that Bush has said will prompt his veto.
Read a full run-down on the bill here. It is stronger than it was even a day or two ago, and far stronger than I thought was possible.
Pelosi has also imposed the Congressional equivalent of martial law, invoking emergency rules procedures that will allow the bill to go to Rules Committee, get a rule, and bring the bill to the floor all on the same day. That means that tonight will be a battle royal.
This has Senate Republicans in a hissy fit. This morning, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was bitching and moaning about it, prompting Majority Leader Harry Reid to say this (recall that it was Republicans who blocked the formal conference):
Because we couldn’t go to conference we’re now going to get a bill that they [the House] have done. I can’t control Speaker Pelosi — she’s a strong independent woman who runs the House with an iron hand.
Soon the bill will head over to the Senate, where it is almost certain to be filibustered. Can Reid muster the 60 votes to overcome it? I’d say the chances are about 50-50. Exciting times.
If that wasn’t enough Pelosi ass-kicking to tide you over, here’s a letter she sent to White House economic adviser Al Hubbard, in response to the White House veto threat sent to her earlier this month:
Dear Mr. Hubbard:
Thank you again for your correspondence reiterating the Administration’s commitment to work with the Congress to improve America’s energy and economic security and to protect the environment.
“The Energy Independence and Security Act” addresses the specific issues you have raised with earlier versions of the legislation:
• Our legislation will contain an ambitious national renewable fuel standard that will significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil;
• Our legislation will “reform and strengthen the fuel economy standard” for cars and trucks, setting a tight goal of 35 miles per gallon as a fleet average by 2020;
• Our bill will “increase domestic energy production” by promoting homegrown renewable fuels and domestic renewable energy
• Our bill will not contain specific provisions that would affect our relations with other countries;
• Our bill will not impose price controls;
• Our bill will not significantly expand the application of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements.
These decisions address most of the issues you raised with respect to our energy security legislation, although some issues remain.
• In keeping with the Congress’ strong commitment to “pay as you go” — no new deficit spending — we pay for our investments in domestic renewable energy resources by closing tax loopholes given to large oil and gas companies at a time that they are reporting record profits.
• Our legislation contains a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) which requires states to derive a percentage of their energy from renewable sources. As you know, more than half the states already have such a Renewable Portfolio Standard. In fact, President Bush signed into law the mandatory RES law in Texas when he served as governor.
Our CAFE automobile efficiency reforms — the first in more than 30 years — take a dramatic step towards freeing us from dependence on foreign fuels, saving American families $700 – $1,000 per year at the pump ($22 billion in net consumer savings in 2020 alone), reducing oil consumption by 1.1 million gallons per day in 2020 (one-half our current Persian Gulf imports), and slashing greenhouse gases equivalent to removing 28 million cars and trucks from the road.
We have crafted legislation that addresses the areas of concern raised in your letter, and this bipartisan legislation has earned the strong support of leaders in the business, labor, faith, and environmental communities across the nation. “The Energy Independence and Security Act” is a balanced and broadly supported bill that addresses urgent national priorities in a responsible and timely manner. Thank you for your consideration of the major steps we have taken and I very much hope that the President will sign this bipartisan legislation.
Speaker of the House
A tip of the hat to you, Madame Speaker. You are restoring my faith.