Energy bill: Harry cracks the whip

There's no doubt that HR 6 looks a mess in both Houses: Pelosi and Dingell have reached a truce on his text (the provision preempting state vehicle emission standards has been dropped - for now), but the political forces at work won't be held for long; while, in the Senate, there is (I believe) no 60 votes for the Bingaman RPS provision (15% of electricity from renewables), let alone for any of the matters (eg CTL) yet to be dealt with.

Meanwhile, in the Senate Finance Committee (which is preparing text for a tax title in HR 6) Kyl, Schumer and Feinstein are looking to get a suspension of the tariff on Brazilian ethanol, which is supporting high US corn prices right now.

And Detroit has been busting balls on the Hill for a watered down CAFE standard: little wonder that

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., brandishing a letter from the auto manufacturers' lobbying group outlining its opposition to the Senate provision, plans to join several other senators close to the auto industry and offer a more modest proposal, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Now, I'm deliberately not getting into a play-by-play on HR 6 (for many good reasons): this pot=pourri is merely to illustrate the tough row to hoe that Harry has picked out for himself.

Why did he choose to go this way, with an omnibus bill rattling the cages of all the big energy-related interests? Is he running to lose with it, either to junk energy for this year (this Congress?) or go with a much more modest bill? Is this all kabuki, and he's got a deal in his drawer to pull out once everyone's had their fun?

'...they said Harry was mad.' 'Who's Harry?' 'Senate Majority Leader - he is mad...'

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Immigration bill: Harry has a shenanigan

One of the less budgeable bills in Uncle Harry's backlog is S 1384.

The battle lines are all over the place - cloture on the motion to proceed passed 69-23, R30-18 , D39-5; cloture on the substitute failed second time around 45-50, R7-38, D38-12.

But Harry is planning on another Big Push: depending on how sticky the week is for the energy bill (HR 6) on the Senate floor. According to CQ,

The legislation could be on the floor by the end of this week, with 12 Republican and 11 Democratic amendments to be considered.
 

That's a hell of a lot of amendments. But Harry has a cunning plan to keep control of the process: the clay pigeon amendment.

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Obstruction in the House over earmarks - how possible?

[In titivating the piece, I managed to copy/paste over my (as usual) snappy yet intriguing lede with the stuff from the extended entry. (This happens so rarely that I don't have any procedural controls to help stop it. Like, y'know, paying attention, or anything hi=tech like that...)

What I'm talking is the Brer Obey's plan (now amended) to insert earmarks during the conference on FY08 apps bills (also here).

(The Obey Plan would have generated what are handily referred to as airdropped earmarks. Though whether that's the term used by reps and their staffers or one that was invented by the journos - slow bleed-style - I'm not sure!)]

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Legislative process: still a home here?

In a way, of course, this is special pleading on my part, and I suspect the wahmbulance may already have been summoned.

But - it's nevertheless true that this is the only place where legislative process is given consistent house-room. And, given that (we hope!) this will be only the first of a string of Congresses in which the Dems will be the majority, the topic is surely one of more than geekish interest.

Proceedings in Senate over the energy bill - to take one example - illustrate the need to learn about, and explain, the  bizarre yet essential process by which Federal laws are made. There needs to be a place conducive to that unspectactular, frustrating and abstruse endeavor.

Here is all we've got. And - my sense - once we drop the pilot (or, rather, the pilot embarks on a new vessel), that will be it.

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Energy bill: what the Sam Hill...?

I've had to take my eye off this particular ball for a day or so - and the confusion (my confusion, at least - hasn't exactly diminished in the meantime!)

You go to the HR 6 actions page to find that there's been three solid days through Thursday of debates on amendments. (As solid as Senate debate ever gets, that is.)

Inhofe, we talked about.

Next up (of the controversial amendments) was the pairing of Bingaman and Domenici (SA 1537 and 1538) to establish a Federal portfolio standard for electricity generation: Bingaman called renewable portfolio standard, Domenici clean portfolio standard. The big difference: CPS includes nuclear, RPS does not.

A motion to table Domenici (a second-degree amendment to Bingaman) passed with a similar lineup to that which killed Inhofe.

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Is Reid trying to 'House-ify' the Senate?

Minority parties in Congress are supposed to squeal about majority abuses: Lord knows the Dems did their fair share in #104-109!

But, traditionally, Senate maj leaderships have found agenda control an altogether tougher trick to pull off than their House equivalents. Because of - the rules.

Now, the Hilltells us that McConnell's crew are saying (more or less) that Harry's regime is a kakistocracy intent on crushing the precious flower of democracy on the Senate side:

Republicans accuse Reid of employing procedural tactics in an unprecedented way to bring legislation to the floor without committee debate, to limit amendments on the floor and to end debate on legislation.

Does my heart bleed for the poor GOP? No more than for the Dem minorities of previous Congresses!

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Coal-to-liquid: Inhofe plan killed

According to the UCA on HR 6 (see Daily Digest) the Inhofe Amendment SA 1505 will get a vote at 1145 ET.

The Inhofe Plan (ho, ho...) looks fairly innocuous, providing for the EPA, acting at the behest of State governors, to organize a collaborative permitting process for CTL. (Can you say kinder, gentler?)

Oh, and there are handouts for cellulosic ethanol plants. (There are no such plants currently in existence in the US, I believe: call it government seedcorn.)

I'm sure there's devil in the detail - but since the amendment may be killed shortly, I'm disinclined to invest any time in locating him.

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Lefty sphere: condemned to reinvent the wheel?

I was reading Jonathan's report on the Reid conference call on Iraq, and noted this:
When Reid talked about the need to get 60 votes, as noted in the AP report above, I asked him just why 60 votes would really be needed -- wouldn't it be more effective to not only force Senate Republicans to vote no on cloture votes but to actually sustain a filibuster, physically talking the bill to death? Reid seemed to answer in the affirmative that Democrats should put the pressure on Republicans but at the same time seemed to stop short of endorsing a move to keep the Republicans talking indefintely, blocking funds from going to American troops in Iraq.

At which point, I knew that I'd scribed a lengthy piece examining this very possiblity - the real filibuster - but had no idea when.

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Energy bill blogging - one or two more angles

Generally, I think I'm right in saying, I've erred on the skeptical side (Duh!) in estimating the effectiveness (in any dimension) that blogging can have on the outcome of a bill like the energy bill (HR 6/S 1419) which will be entertaining us on the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks.

(Or the farm bill being cooked up by Brer Peterson; or any like bill.)

Which is not to say I don't think it worth trying. I've scribed a number of pieces in and around the subject, in general, and in relation to the farm bill and the energy bills (most recently here); we're pioneers, and pioneering is rarely easy or pretty.

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Energy bill: a little more info

A useful piece in the Times today reviewing the upcoming Senate floor action on HR 6 (the base bill into which the Senate text will be decanted).

(Reid will in due course offer a substitute, consisting pretty much of S 1419 plus final titivations, which, if passed, would strike everything in HR 6 after the enacting clause. Other Senate amendments offered will amend the the substitute.)

Ex-MCs are back with their lobbyists' hats on: Breaux represents

Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that recently took control of the Chrysler Corporation.

and says
This is going to be harder than immigration. This is going to be the mother of all bills. By that I mean, any one portion of it is important enough to affect completion of the whole bill.

I shouldn't get too excited about that: he's building the tension to justify his monstrous fee!

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