via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
But shades of a deal begin to surface
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today will depart on their five-week summer recess with nothing to show
regarding issues the two political parties have talked and disagreed on
since the last recess: energy prices and potential legislation dealing
Some say the inactivity is a far better conclusion than if Congress
had overplayed their hands into areas with many potential unintended
Republicans in both the House and Senate
have insisted on a vote to lift restrictions on oil and gas drilling off
U.S. shorelines. But Democratic leadership have blocked
any votes on offshore drilling, choosing instead to push bills dealing
with alleged aggressive speculation in the energy markets.
On Thursday, it was mostly political show in the Senate –
by both political parties. For example, Majority Leader Harry
Reid (D-Nev.) asked for but did not get unanimous consent to pass bills
that have been blocked by Republicans, including measures to extend
tax credits for developing alternative energy (HR 6049), strip oil companies
of unused leases, subject the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
to U.S. antitrust laws (HR 2264), bolster regulation of energy futures
trading (S 3268) and require oil companies to invest a portion of their
profits in alternative-energy projects (S 3044).
Senate Republicans countered by having Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking for but not receiving consent on Republican
proposals to lift restrictions on offshore drilling, streamline permitting
for nuclear power and promote development of “clean coal”
The same inaction occurred in the House,
where Democratic leaders say they will wait until September to resume
efforts to pass a bill (HR 6604) to curb speculation in energy markets.
But shades of a possible package approach
surfaced when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested
that she could foresee a broader energy bill that would include a host
of Democratic-sponsored initiatives that the GOP leadership and President
Bush oppose. “It could be in a bigger picture of things as all these
things come together,” Pelosi said.
But after those remarks, Pelosi aides issued a statement reiterating
that she has no intention of bringing to the floor legislation that
would allow drilling in currently protected areas.
Bipartisan group to release ideas today.
A bipartisan group of 10 senators, led by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and
Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) will today unveil a consensus package on energy
Comments: The energy battle
in Congress could go until the end of September, when the current ban
on offshore drilling expires. That is also when a Continuing Resolution
(CR) will be needed to fund most of the government until early next year
– or some other dateline. An annual ban on new Outer Continental
Shelf (OCS) drilling has been included in appropriations bills since the
1980s, and the oil shale ban was added to last year’s Interior spending
bill. Those bans would automatically be continued under a CR, unless specific
language was included to end the moratoria.
And, I am not ruling out a “grand package” in a
possible lame-duck session that could include some tax cut
extenders (including renewable fuel language), a Democratic-pushed expansion
of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, perhaps linked to congressional
approval of the Colombia and even the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Also, if the U.S. economy slips during the third and fourth quarter,
another economic stimulus package would be another potential item in
the bargaining arena.
Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders have
agreed to move additional funding to help the flood-impacted Midwest rebuild
before Congress leaves for the year. Several Iowa Democrats yesterday
said they had received a personal commitment from Pelosi and that more
aid will be provided for Iowa and other affected states. Rep. David Obey
(D-Wis.) on the House floor last night said, “We made clear that
as soon as we get official numbers from the administration, that are at
all coherent, we will act and that this Congress will not adjourn for
the year without providing needed disaster relief.”
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