Congress will return to Washington on Monday, but expectations for action are low. With the mid-term elections two months away, Congress will be in session for only 12 days in September and October this year. It’s likely most major issues will be punted until the lame duck session in November. To avoid another government shutdown, Congress is expected to pass a short-term continuing resolution. Major appropriations issues and any tax extenders are likely to be held off until at least after Election Day 2014 and could be postponed until 2015.
Before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st, Congress must pass a series of 12 appropriations bills to keep federal departments and agencies operating. Given the political climate and the current state of appropriations, a continuing resolution to fund the federal government at fiscal year 2014 levels is most likely the option Congress will take this September.
As noted by AEE previously, a continuing resolution could be best outcome for the advanced energy industry. Both the FY 2015 energy and water spending bill (H.R. 4923) passed by the House and the FY 2015 interior and environment spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee would significantly reduce funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs. Additionally, each bill contains harmful provisions, including those that would prevent DOE from enforcing light bulb energy efficiency standards and block EPA’s proposals to regulate carbon emissions under its Clean Power Plan.
The White House issued a veto threat for the House-passed energy and water bill in July and its chances in the Senate without significant changes are non-existent. In June, a Senate FY 2015 energy and water spending bill was put on hold after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attempted to offer an amendment gutting EPA’s carbon regulations. Senator McConnell announced that he intends to use the appropriations process to go after EPA rules and other programs should he become Senate Majority Leader in 2015. Even if Republicans retake the Senate in November, it remains unclear whether they would be able to secure 60 votes for cloture on such amendments and President Obama’s veto threat would likely remain a barrier.
The prospects for action on the expired advanced energy tax credits are equally low. While the Senate Finance Committee gave bipartisan approval in April to a bill (S. 2260) extending tax provisions that expired at the close of 2013, the legislation is unlikely to come to a vote on the Senate floor until the lame duck session at the earliest. The extenders package includes many advanced energy tax credits and would extend them through the end of 2015, providing much-needed certainty to industry businesses and investors. Both the tax extenders bill and the energy efficiency bill (S. 2262) sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) failed to obtain cloture on the Senate Floor last May. In each case, a disagreement over which amendments would be considered on the floor led to the impasse. We can expect a push on both issues again come November, but don't be surprised if Congress punts them to 2015.
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