Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal

Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal
© Stefani Reynolds

HOUSE VOTES TO REOPEN INTERIOR, EPA: The House approved legislation that would fund and reopen the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service in an 240-179 vote on Friday, the latest effort by Democrats to put pressure on Republicans and President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE to end the partial shutdown.

Ten Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.

It's the fourth measure approved by the Democratic-controlled House this week. Democrats are voting on a series of bills to open up the parts of the government closed since Dec. 22, which has left about 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Biden: 'No party should have too much power' Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring any of the bills up to a vote in the Senate until there is a deal between Trump and Democrats on the president's demand for border wall funding.

The Republicans voting for the bill on Friday were Reps. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHouse passes bill meant to restore Voting Rights Act Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy GOP criticizes Pelosi for sidelining election security for impeachment MORE (Ill.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickOvernight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Billboards calling on House Republicans to 'do their job' follow members home for Thanksgiving Mark Ruffalo brings fight against 'forever chemicals' to Capitol Hill MORE (Pa.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine Dems push to revive Congress' tech office MORE (Wash.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdCNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Republicans preview impeachment defense strategy Davis: Congressman Will Hurd, If not now, when? MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse GOP criticizes impeachment drive as distracting from national security issues Progressive group unveils first slate of 2020 congressional endorsements Democratic lawmakers call on Judiciary Committee to advance 'revenge porn' law MORE (N.Y.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerLawmakers spar over surveillance flight treaty with Russia Honoring service before self House approves Turkey sanctions in rare bipartisan rebuke of Trump MORE (Ill.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithGOP lawmaker to offer bill to create universal charitable deduction on 'Giving Tuesday' China threatens 'strong countermeasures' if Congress passes Hong Kong legislation This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington MORE (N.J.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikLawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to allow new parents to advance tax credits CNN's Bianna Golodryga: 'Rumblings' from Democrats on censuring Trump instead of impeachment Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (N.Y.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonShimkus says he's reconsidering retirement Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Trump urges GOP to fight for him MORE (Mich.) and Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenKey House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills Key negotiator says deal close on surprise medical bills legislation MORE (Ore.).

Trump is edging closer to declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and build a wall, a step that could start a court fight with Democrats.

Negotiations between the two sides have not been fruitful. Trump stormed out of a Wednesday meeting at the White House and called it a "total waste of time."

The shutdown will become the longest in U.S. history on Saturday.

In their comments on the floor ahead of the vote, both sides dug in hard.

"Trump articulated at the White House that he would not open government until we agreed with doing what he wanted to do. That is not democracy, that's despotism," said House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Overnight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 House to vote next week on sweeping bill to lower drug prices MORE (D-Md.).

He also noted that the bills being brought to the Senate floor had passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support.

Read more on the House vote here.

 

In other shutdown news...

 

DEMS QUESTION PLANNED EPA NOMINATION HEARING DURING SHUTDOWN: Senate Democrats say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might be breaking the law by having employees help with Andrew Wheeler's confirmation process to serve as the agency's administrator during the partial government shutdown.

Under federal law and the EPA's own contingency plan, just over 800 employees are allowed to work at the agency after its appropriations have lapsed.

But Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a letter to the EPA that it's not clear that the staff who are helping Wheeler prepare for his confirmation hearing before that panel next week are among those allowed to work.

"We are concerned that preparations for your confirmation hearing may be occurring using resources that are not described in or authorized under EPA's Contingency Plan," Carper wrote, along with Sens. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinThe Secure Act makes critical reforms to our retirement system — let's pass it this year Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Senate Democrats ask Pompeo to recuse himself from Ukraine matters MORE (Md.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseTrump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Pelosi warns of 'existential' climate threat, vows bold action MORE (R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Graham, Van Hollen warn Pompeo that 'patience' on Turkey sanctions 'has long expired' Overnight Energy: Protesters plan Black Friday climate strike | 'Father of EPA' dies | Democrats push EPA to abandon methane rollback MORE (Md.), other Democrats on the committee.

"It is difficult to understand how preparing you for next week's confirmation hearing credibly falls within any of the categories listed in EPA's Contingency Plan, particularly the category of employee that is 'necessary to protect life and property.' Using EPA resources in this manner may also run afoul of the Antideficiency Act," they said.

President Trump this week formally nominated Wheeler, the EPA's acting administrator since July, to officially take that post, a nomination that requires Senate confirmation.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump announces restart to Taliban peace talks in surprise Afghanistan visit Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid MORE (R-Wyo.), the environment panel's chairman, quickly scheduled a hearing for next Wednesday on Wheeler's confirmation.

The EPA says it is certain that the staff assisting Wheeler are allowed to be working.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

TGIF! The government shutdown clock is at 21 days, tied with the record for longest government shutdown in history.

Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

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VIRGINIA DEM ADDS SUPPORT TO GREEN NEW DEAL: Democratic Rep. Don Beyer (Va.) is throwing his support behind the progressive climate change vision known as the Green New Deal, and he thinks a carbon tax should be its driving policy.

"A Green New Deal would use major infrastructure investments and policy changes to rapidly shift the U.S. economy towards clean energy solutions and away from greenhouse gas emissions in a way that grows employment in the green economy. This is an idea whose time has come, and I fully support it," Beyer said in a statement to The Hill on Friday.

"I believe that the scientific reports issued in recent months make it unequivocally clear that we need ambitious ideas to address climate change very urgently."

The lawmaker, who will soon sit on the House Ways and Means Committee -- the chief tax-writing panel -- said he hopes to use his new seat to push ambitious climate change policies to address global warming and the need to shrink carbon emissions.

To do so, he's looking to promote a bill he previously introduced that would limit carbon emissions and create a trading program.

"I think a smart way to help drive that transition would be to create an economic mechanism that would rapidly elevate wind, solar and other clean energy and phase out carbon pollution while minimizing the negative effects on American families," Beyer said.

Beyer introduced the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act last year with 36 Democratic co-sponsors. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

What the bill does: Under the bill, the Department of Transportation would cap carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants and create a carbon trading program. Fuel suppliers and processors would have to purchase carbon permits equal to the amount of CO2 they emit from the Treasury, which would auction off the permits. The revenue generated from the auction would then be distributed back to U.S. households in the form of a dividend as a type of stimulus, according to the bill.

"I have just been appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, which would have jurisdiction over any carbon pricing legislation. I plan to use that appointment to push for legislative solutions to climate change, including ideas expressed in a Green New Deal," Beyer said.

More on his efforts here.

GRIJALVA BACKS BISHOP FOR INTERIOR SECRETARY OVER ACTING HEAD: Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, on Friday said he supports the committee's ranking member Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopWalden retirement adds to GOP election woes Overnight Energy: Automakers group sides with Trump in emissions lawsuit | Latest on California wildfires | Walden won't seek reelection | Park Service scraps plan to charge protesters for security Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection MORE (R-Utah), to be the new Interior Secretary, saying he was better than other candidates because "He doesn't carry the legal baggage or conflicts."

David Bernhardt is currently serving as acting secretary.

Grijalva says that while he and Bishop don't always see eye to eye, he backs Bishop because he thinks that Bishop is "ethical."

"His philosophy and ours obviously don't match up," Grijalva said to The Hill. "But, I have to put a but in there ... he's ethical. And he doesn't carry the legal baggage or conflicts -- the pretty obvious conflicts others have."

The lawmaker said those conflicts clearly existed in former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics MORE, who departed the agency Jan. 2 amid multiple ethics investigations, and in Bernhardt.

Bernhardt is a former energy lobbyist. He and Bishop, who chaired the House Natural Resources Committee for the past eight years, are the reported frontrunners to take over for Zinke.

"In that sense, it would be a plus for Interior, to know you're dealing with a philosophical zealot but you're not dealing with somebody who has compromised themselves legally or ethically," Grijalva said of Bishop.

In his role as chairman, Bishop championed rolling back protections on threatened and endangered species, supported the idea of expanding oil and gas drilling on public land and believed states should have more authority to determine how federal lands were used -- all ideas that Grijalva staunchly objected.

Conversely, Bernhardt served for months as Zinke's number two often taking the lead on crafting administrative rules, including a plan to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bishop told The Hill on Thursday he had not heard any word from the White House on the secretarial position. He wouldn't comment on whether he wanted the position.

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Grijalva's comments pointedly addressed Zinke, who remains under investigation by the Interior's Office of Inspector General for two ethics charges related to a real estate deal where he partnered with the then-chairman of oil services company Haliburton, and another instance where he decided against green-lighting a Native American tribe's plan to build a casino in Connecticut.

The Department of Justice is reportedly investigating Zinke for lying to investigators over one of those cases.

Zinke and Grijalva had an online fight at the end of last year that resulted in the secretary calling the lawmaker a drunk.

Read more here.

 

ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

Wheeler will head to Capitol Hill Wednesday for his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to be the EPA's official administrator.

Expect the hearing to be an examination of the Trump administration's policies at the EPA. Democrats are likely to press him on major regulatory rollbacks on air pollution, climate change and water rules, while the GOP will likely highlight his work to help businesses.

Wheeler was already confirmed last year to be the deputy administrator, and he used to be a senior staffer at the Environment Committee.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Moody's estimates that PG&E is facing at least $15 billion in liability for California's wildfires, the Mercury News reports.

Mexican fishermen allegedly attacked a boat being used by an environmental group in the Gulf of California, The Guardian reports.

New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has banned coyote hunting contests on state trust land, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-Virginia Democrat adds his support to Green New Deal

-Dems ask why EPA is preparing for Wheeler confirmation during shutdown

-House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on

-Grijalva backs Bishop over current acting Interior Secretary

-Kerry to Trump: Forget 'fictional' border crisis, declare emergency for climate

-Nonprofit raises funds to help national parks recover from shutdown damage

-Oregon begins killing sea lions harming population of endangered trout