FEDERAL: GOP Takes Charge of Congress, Vowing Open Debate While Taking On the White House

Posted by Arvin Ganesan on Jan 8, 2015 11:12:24 AM

Earlier this week, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was sworn in as the Senate’s new majority leader, replacing Harry Reid (D-NV), who took his new post as the Senate Minority Leader. Republicans now control both bodies of Congress, and will challenge many of the actions from the executive branch. What should we expect from the 114th Congress?


Everybody has seen the old Schoolhouse Rock “I’m Just a Bill” video, but we all know the legislative process is even more complicated, and could get more so. When in the minority last year, and unable to offer amendments or modify legislation, Senate Republicans decried the lack of adherence to the traditional legislative process, or “regular order.” Incoming Leader McConnell has pledged to return to an open process, by which committees author legislation under the direction of committee chairs and then the full Senate is able to amend at well. Still, it remains unclear how long McConnell will be able to maintain this process – it allows Senate Democrats to demand votes that put Republicans in difficult political positions.

The first bill out of the gate in the Senate will be a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Despite issuance of a veto threat by the White House, it appears that the Senate will move forward and will allow debate on amendments. This means that when the Senate takes up the Keystone bill, we will see amendments on a whole range of issues. AEE will closely monitor and engage on these amendments, especially those that could benefit advanced energy.

While this Congress appears to be poised for showdowns with the White House, tax reform remains one potential area for compromise that could be very important to the advanced energy industry. Last year, AEE issued principles for the development of a technology-neutral energy tax code.

But now there is a new wrinkle. On Tuesday, House Republicans adopted an arcane change to how it calculates the economic impact of legislation. Called “dynamic scoring,” this change would require the House to consider the macroeconomic impact of legislation, and would ease the cost of large-scale tax cuts. In response, the White House blasted this approach as…”creat[ing] a bias favoring tax cuts over investments in infrastructure, education, and other priorities.”

Does this mean an end to tax reform before it even gets started? Not at all. But it does complicate an already complicated dynamic.

EPA TO ISSUE FINAL POWER PLANT RULES “MID-SUMMER”: Yesterday, EPA announced a change in schedule for finalizing carbon emission rules for both new power plants and the existing electric power sector (i.e., the Clean Power Plan). The new-plant rule was due for completion today, January 8, but will now be issued “mid-summer,” with the final Clean Power Plan issued shortly thereafter, rather than June 1. According to EPA acting air director Janet McCabe, the new schedule will allow for “cross-cutting issues” between the two rules to be addressed, along with the full set of public comments, now totaling more than 2 million for each proposed rule. Also, EPA will begin work on a required model for state compliance with the Clean Power Plan, which could be imposed in the absence of an approved state plan.

Click below to download AEE's comments to EPA on the Clean Power Plan.

Download AEE's Comments

Topics: Federal Policy Update