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Obama’s energy chief sees common ground with GOP

Obama’s energy chief sees common ground with GOP
© Greg Nash

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest Jeffrey MonizOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran MORE said he expects at least some cooperation from congressional Republicans on a handful of administration goals before President Obama’s term expires.
 
Moniz said he and other administration officials can work productively with congressional Republicans on issues, ranging from a nuclear deal with Iran to funding for energy related programs and climate change.
 
On Iran, the Senate is set to consider a bipartisan deal that would give Congress a say on any final nuclear deal. Moniz said congressional briefings on the Iran negotiations have been well attended, especially in the Senate, and the administration will continue to sell the deal on Capitol Hill, as it works out final terms with Iran.

“I think key members on both sides of the aisle, from my interactions with them, suggest sometimes a skepticism, but even then, an openness to understanding what the deal is,” Moniz said at a Christian Science Monitor event on Monday. “We’re just going to have to finish a deal, get an agreement and explain it clearly to the public and to Congress, and I am convinced that there will be enough people who are willing to be objective.”
 
Moniz will be at the Capitol on Tuesday to highlight the Obama administration’s energy infrastructure investment plan to a Senate committee. The plan calls for billions of dollars in infrastructure funding, and some congressional Republicans have said they are open to the plan, something Moniz said he expects will help his case.
 
The Obama administration included funding for aspects of the plan in its 2016 budget request, including a handful of small items Moniz said could be easy sells to Congress, such a grant program to help states invest in energy reliability programs.
 
Even so, the president’s overall recommendations are sizable, and Republicans control Congress, so there are significant hurdles in front of the plan.
 
“We are willing to discuss with Congress how we might address these infrastructure needs,” Moniz said.
 
The Energy secretary said Congress should look to lift the budget caps that have stunted spending on domestic policy programs, including energy issues. The House will vote this week on a bill funding energy and water programs, and the Obama administration and Democrats objected to several components of it, including its funding levels for energy research and renewable energy programs.
 
“Those early marks … are still in the budget cap land, sequester land,” he said.
 
There are even bigger fights on the horizon, too. The EPA is looking to finalize a rule clamping down on carbon emissions from power plants, something Republicans have bitterly opposed. The Obama administration is looking to forge a massive international climate accord later this year, and its past diplomatic efforts on the climate front have been poorly received by Republicans.
 
Despite the criticism, Moniz said a climate plan is something that has to happen sooner rather than later.
 
“We certainly need it, my view, in this decade, at most before the end of this decade,” he said. “I think that public opinion certainly will continue to go in the direction of supporting some political action.”