By Andrew Restuccia and Ben Geman - 08/01/11 11:12 PM EDT
The initial $1 trillion in deficit-reduction from the debt deal between the White House and lawmakers all comes from spending cuts. The equally-divided joint committee tasked with finding another $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction is tasked with crafting a bill to make those reductions by Thanksgiving.
Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) noted that the equal division between the parties is a major barrier to addressing oil-and-gas tax breaks.
“If the Republicans line up against any kind of revenue-raisers, then there cannot be a majority,” notes Waxman, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
However, if the special bipartisan, bicameral committee deadlocks, automatic spending cuts will kick in with a formula that includes major cuts to defense spending and allows Medicare cuts as well, programs treasured by Republicans and Democrats, respectively.
These formulaic cuts are seen as an incentive to come to a bipartisan agreement on deficit-reduction measures. Asked whether the threat of these automatic cuts would create political space for Republicans to come around on oil-and-gas tax breaks Waxman replied: “Maybe, but one would have thought [Republicans] would have been a lot more reasonable to avoid default, and they weren’t.”
“On the other hand they can’t have it their way all the time,” he said.
The House approved the debt compromise in a 269-161 vote Monday night, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday.
NRC to appear before Senate panel amid growing tensions: All five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will appear before a Senate panel Tuesday to discuss a 90-day staff report that called for sweeping regulatory changes to ensure the safety of the country’s nuclear power plants.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing comes amid growing tensions on the commission over the report.
NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has called on his fellow commissioners to make a decision on the report’s sweeping recommendations within the next three months and implement the changes over the next five years.
But three NRC commissioners have signaled that they have reservations about Jaczko’s timeframe, an issue that is likely to take center stage at Tuesday’s hearing.
The 90-day staff report calls on the commission to make wide-ranging improvements to NRC’s “existing patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives,” while also stressing that there is no “imminent threat” at U.S. plants. President Obama launched the review in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
Nuclear watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists called on NRC Monday to act quickly on the recommendations, arguing that the commission should not delay moving forward on the report while it gathers more information.
"If the NRC balks at implementing new safeguards in a reasonable time frame on the grounds that it doesn’t have enough information about what happened in Japan, then the agency also doesn’t have enough information to relicense operating reactors or license new ones," Lisbeth Gronlund, co-director of UCS’s Global Security Program, said in a statement. "If the NRC commissioners need more time to sort out the lessons of Fukushima, there should be a moratorium."
The five members of the NRC appeared before the Senate panel in June to discuss the Fukushima Daiichi disaster and its potential ramifications for U.S. plants.
The June hearing took place shortly after NRC’s inspector general released a report alleging that Jaczko “strategically” disseminated partial information to the other commissioners about his intention to abandon the ongoing evaluation of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
Jaczko defended his effort to close down the Yucca program at the hearing.
Moran: Debt deal means enviro court battles: A senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee has a warning about the debt-ceiling deal that is expected to lead to cuts to environmental and conservation programs: Get ready for lawsuits.
“The irony is that the law isn’t going to change. It is just that the people whose jobs it is to implement the law would not be able to do that, so most of the environmental issues would be played out in the courts instead of administratively or over the negotiating table,” said Rep. Jim Moran (Va.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior spending.
He also said the plan to cut the deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over a decade will mean substantial pain for environmental and conservation programs.
“We know during the Bush administration they suffered the deepest cuts. I would expect they would as well under this deal,” Moran said in the Capitol.
Issa finds unlikely ally in his fuel economy investigation: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has an unlikely ally in his bid to investigate the Obama administration’s fuel economy deal: the Center for Progressive Reform.
CPR, in a blog post Monday, said Issa was "absolutely correct" in raising concerns about the "lack of transparency" in the deal, which was negotiated in a series of closed-door meetings with the country’s top automakers.
Issa is investigating the new fuel-economy standards, which would set a fleet-wide average standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 for cars and light-duty trucks.
But CPR notes that its views on the standards are very different than Issa’s.
"There’s not much room for doubt that Mr. Issa’s real interest here is in weakening the fuel economy standards, and the administrative process argument is just the tool at hand," CPR Executive Director Shana Jones said in the blog post.
"But there’s a lesson here for the White House: By circumventing the rulemaking process in favor of a backroom deal, the Administration left itself vulnerable to Issa and others who will seize on any procedural failing to try to block progress on fuel economy standards. You follow the administrative process because you’re vulnerable to a challenge if you don’t."
House Republicans shelve Interior-EPA spending bill: House GOP leaders have shelved spending legislation that would sharply cut environmental and conservation programs until after the August recess.
The chamber in recent weeks has debated the fiscal year 2012 Interior and EPA appropriations bill that include a series of provisions to thwart various EPA rules and Interior policies.
But an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday that the bill won’t come up before lawmakers head home for the summer, which is expected after approval of the debt ceiling deal.
DOE mulls new location for solar decathlon: The Energy Department might not hold its 2013 Solar Decathlon, in which college students build solar-power homes, in Washington, DC.
Via a statement from DOE:
“For the first time, in an effort to expand the excitement generated by the competition and encourage participation from new communities, the Department is inviting venues across the nation to compete for the opportunity to host this award-winning event.”
The announcement comes after the National Park Service told DOE that it could not hold the Solar Decathlon on a piece of the National Mall because it would have interfered with restoration plans. DOE ultimately decided to hold the event on a different part of the Mall.
More on that here.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
— Democrats plan revival of oil tax fight on debt deal committee
— Interior to study worker safety at offshore wind farms
— Rep. Honda introduces bill to make tech devices more energy efficient
— Green groups decry looming environmental cuts from debt deal