SENATE PASSES HARVEY AID, DEBT LIMIT DEAL: The Senate on Thursday approved a spending package that provides $15.25 billion for initial recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey.
Lawmakers attached several other provisions to the legislation, including must-pass items to fund the government and lift the limit on federal borrowing through mid-December. Those measures -- as well as the new spending for Harvey relief -- led 17 Republicans to oppose the bill, which passed with 80 votes in favor.
The House is expected to pass the bill, sending it to President Trump, before the end of the week.
GOP Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (Texas), whose state was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, supported the measure but stressed, "I would have much preferred a clean Harvey relief bill."
The deal has stoked widespread opposition in the GOP, particularly among conservatives. Though Republicans support helping communities devastated by Hurricane Harvey, many are loath to raise the debt ceiling or fund the government without spending or entitlement reforms.
Trump administration officials touted the agreement as a move to help clear the decks and make room for tax reform, another key GOP agenda item that has been on hold.
GOP leaders had pointed to government funding, the debt ceiling and help for Harvey victims as their top three priorities for September. The deal cleared by Senate also includes a short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which was set to expire at the end of September.
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CLEAN POWER PLAN DECISION COMING THIS FALL: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects to finalize its review of the Obama administration's climate rule for power plants this fall.
The agency has submitted its Clean Power Plan proposal to the Office of Management and Budget's regulations office for review, officials said Thursday in a court filing. Once it returns to the EPA, the agency said in its filing, "the administrator will sign the proposed rule and EPA will send it to the Office of the Federal Register" for a public comment period.
"At this time, EPA expects that the administrator will sign the proposed rule in the fall of 2017," the filing said.
President Trump in March ordered the EPA to review and consider repealing the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which sets carbon reduction targets for states to apply to their energy sectors. The EPA is widely expected to formally order the rule off the books at the end of its review.
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SENATE PANEL VOTES TO FUND UN CLIMATE AGENCY: The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to continue United States funding for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The 16-14 vote approved an amendment from Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyGlasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Biden injects new momentum into filibuster fight House passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers MORE (D-Ore.) to direct $10 million -- the same as previous years -- to the UN climate agency. The underlying bill to fund State Department operations for fiscal 2018 would have defunded the agency.
Merkley said at the committee meeting Thursday to vote on the bill that the amendment "fits in with Secretary [Rex] Tillerson's desire that we both continue to monitor the changes in the world's climate and that we keep a seat at the table."
Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE (D-Calif.) also spoke in support of the amendment.
"This is important," she said. "You know, the world's at risk."
The House's version of the State funding bill does not fund the U.N. climate agency, so the two chambers will have to negotiate the final outcome.
All of the Senate Appropriations Committee's Democrats voted for the Merkley amendment except Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'Its not coming out' Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal Sunday shows preview: CDC signs off on 'mix and match' vaccine boosters MORE (W.Va.). They were joined by Republican Sens. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration Authorities link ex-Tennessee governor to killing of Jimmy Hoffa associate MORE (Tenn.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Emanuel defends handling of Chicago police shooting amid opposition to nomination Emanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing MORE (Maine).
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PROTESTERS DISRUPT FERC NOMINEES' HEARING: Three protesters tried to disrupt a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Thursday on two nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and two nominees for the Interior Department.
Each of the protesters was promptly removed from the hearing room by Capitol Police.
The protesters yelled phrases like "FERC promotes eminent domain" and "Find your conscience, FERC is destroying our atmosphere."
The hearing was on Trump's nominations of Republican Kevin McIntyre to be FERC's chairman and Democrat Richard Glick to be a commissioner. Also on the slate were Joseph Balash for Interior's assistant secretary for land and minerals and Ryan Nelson to be Interior's solicitor.
Beyond Extreme Energy, an outspoken FERC protest group, took credit for the protesters, identifying them as Andrew Hinz, Ted Glick and Clarke Herbert.
The meeting was mostly cordial and senators did not raise any major objections to the nominees.
Questions for the FERC candidates focused heavily on whether the agency should take action to promote "baseload" power sources like coal and nuclear. Some Republicans want FERC to incentivize those plants, and Democrats do not.
Both nominees pledged to take a good look at that and other reliability issues, but said it is not appropriate for FERC to push certain power sources over others.
"FERC is not an entity whose role includes choosing fuels for generation of electricity. FERC's role, rather, is to ensure the markets for the electricity generated by those facilities proceed in accordance with law," McIntyre told Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate appears poised to advance first Native American to lead National Park Service Sunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - After high drama, Senate lifts debt limit MORE (R-Wyo.) in response to his concerns about coal plant retirements.
"The commission doesn't have the authority, nor should it, prop up failing technologies or technologies that aren't economically competitive," said Richard Glick.
ON TAP FRIDAY: The Atlantic Council will host an event on science exchanges with Iran.
AROUND THE WEB:
Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is donating $4 million to a project to study deep ocean temperatures, the Seattle Times reports.
Employment in Minnesota's clean energy sector grew 5.3 percent this year, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
The New York Times profiles Harvey and Irma Schluter, a Washington couple married for 75 years watching their namesake storms threaten the U.S.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Check Thursday's stories...
-Senate panel votes to fund UN climate agency
-Power plant rule repeal announcement likely this fall: EPA
-Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats, including Harvey aid
-Greens sue Trump officials over delayed auto efficiency penalties
-Interior secretary's wife tapped to lead GOP challenge to Montana senator