Energy & Environment

Week ahead: Congress tees up more votes on Obama rules

Greg Nash

After a week of aggressively working to strip Obama administration rules off the books, House Republicans are lining up even more votes on regulations in the days ahead.

The House on Monday will begin the process of ending a Bureau of Land Management planning rule instituted in the closing days of Obama’s presidency. 

Members will consider a resolution — which will be Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wyo.) first piece of legislation to hit the floor — to undo the “BLM Planning 2.0” regulation finalized in December. Regulators issued the rule in order to reorganize the agency’s natural resources planning and management strategies. Conservatives and many in the West — where the federal government owns and manages large amounts of land — say the rule gives the feds too much power, and are aiming to pass a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution undoing the regulation. 

{mosads}”Planning 2.0 represents a federal power grab that ignores expert knowledge and undermines the ability of state and local governments to effectively manage resources and land use inside their own districts,” Cheney said in a statement announcing her bill this week. 

“Planning 2.0 dilutes the authority of governors, state regulators, local governments and the public to engage in collaborative land use management planning across huge swaths of the American West.”

The House is planning to vote on three other CRA resolutions in the  week ahead undoing education and labor rules finalized in the closing days of the Obama administration. 

Lawmakers have used the Congressional Review Act extensively in recent days, passing resolutions undoing Interior Department rules on coal mining and methane pollution, a Securities and Exchange Commission order under Dodd-Frank calling for more financial information from drillers and miners and a gun rule from the Social Security Administration. 

Two of those measures — the coal measure and the SEC resolution — passed both the House and Senate, and President Trump could sign them soon. Senators are also keen on taking up the methane measure, introducing their own version of the resolution last week. 

“We’ll continue to chip away at the regulation legacy of the Obama years with more CRA resolutions in the coming days as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday. 

If the Senate takes up the methane bill next week, though, it will have to find a way to fit the measure into senators’ packed confirmation calendar. 

The Senate took procedural votes on Trump’s Education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos; his Treasury pick, Steven Mnuchin; Health and Human Services nominee Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.); and Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general on Thursday, setting up confirmation votes on all of them as early as the coming week. 

But members didn’t know when the Senate would move to consider three of Trump’s energy and environment nominees.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members approved Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) for Interior Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the Department of Energy on Tuesday. On Thursday  — over a boycott from committee Democrats — the Environment and Public Works panel signed off on Scott Pruitt’s nomination to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Zinke and Perry will be significantly less controversial nominees than Pruitt, or any of the four other nominees whose confirmation votes were set up last week. Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she hoped that might work in their favor, and that they get to the floor more quickly

“I wish that I could tell you that we’re at the front of the line, but I don’t know that,” she told reporters after Tuesday’s hearing. 

“I think that the good, bipartisan vote that we had in committee will be attractive. I would think that leadership would want to get these nominees that are perhaps attracting less controversy moved through the process, but I can’t tell you that.”

The committee hearing to watch next week is the House Science Committee’s meeting on Tuesday. Members will hear from an expert panel on a subject with a Trump-like theme: the hearing is titled “Making EPA Great Again.” 



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Tags Jeff Sessions Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell

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