Wednesday: House, Senate start real work on energy, transportation bill(s)

Late Tuesday night, and over Democratic objections, the House Rules Committee approved a rule governing debate on all three bills. House debate at noon Wednesday will start with that rule, which also clarifies that the bills, if passed, will be sent to the Senate as a single measure.

After that, several hours will be needed to debate each bill and consider amendments. This could prove for a late night Wednesday and/or Thursday, since House Republicans have said they want to finish the entire package by Friday, and the House will be out next week.

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The three bills are: H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs act, which is the main transportation authorization bill; H.R. 3813, the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees (SAFE) act, which would force federal workers to pay more for their retirements; and H.R. 3408, the Protecting Investment in Oil Shale, the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy and Resource Security (PIONEERS) act.

The rule approved Tuesday night provides for one hour of debate for each bill, and sets up amendment debate for H.R. 3813 and H.R. 3408. The Rules Committee will have to set up a separate rule on Wednesday for considering amendments to H.R. 7, of which there are many.

Once the rule passes today, the House will begin debate on the PIONEERS act and will consider the 20 amendments the rule makes in order. Republicans late Tuesday sent out a schedule that did not contemplate work on either of the other two bills on Wednesday.

Democrats have panned the GOP bill(s), and oppose the plan to pay for transportation spending with cuts to federal pension programs and oil shale revenues. As such, Senate Democrats are working on their own transportation bill, S. 1813, and are expected to again look for a way forward on that bill.

But so far this week, the Senate has been stopped from doing this work because Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has insisted that senators consider his amendment to strip Egypt of funding until Egypt frees American pro-Democracy activists.

Nonetheless, the Senate will try again Wednesday. The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m., and will first vote at noon on the nomination of Adalberto Jordan to be a U.S. circuit court judge.

— This story was updated at 7:52 a.m.