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 TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report 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 McConnellFury over Trump Syria decision grows Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump to slap sanctions on Turkey for Syria offensive | Trump calls on Turkey to broker ceasefire | Pelosi, Graham seek deal on sanctions | Ex-Trump aide testifies in impeachment probe Trump: Let Assad, Russia or China protect the Kurds 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 DavisGOP lawmaker: We're past point of doing separate infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Association of Manufacturers - Trump, Congress draw battle lines on impeachment Lawmakers beat Capitol Police in Congressional Football Game MORE (Ill.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena MORE (Pa.), Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine Dems push to revive Congress' tech office Bill allowing Congress to hire Dreamers advances MORE (Wash.), Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony Romney: Trump requesting Biden investigation from China, Ukraine 'wrong and appalling' GOP lawmaker: 'It is terrible' for Trump to call on China to probe Biden MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHacker conference report details persistent vulnerabilities to US voting systems Hillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector MORE (N.Y.), Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerGeorge Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy GOP lawmaker says Trump shows 'weakness' in Syria White House officials stand by Syria withdrawal, sanctions delay amid bipartisan pushback MORE (Ill.), Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Nancy Pelosi is ready for this fight House approves Democrat-backed bill ending mandatory arbitration MORE (N.J.), Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikCheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey Conservative lawmakers demand Schiff's recusal from Trump impeachment inquiry Bipartisan lawmakers who visited Syrian border slam Trump's 'rash decision' MORE (N.Y.), Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine House passes bill to revamp medical screenings for migrants at border Energy efficiency cannot be a partisan issue for Washington MORE (Mich.) and Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms House panel asks Trump trade official to testify on legal protections for tech platforms 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 HoyerHillicon Valley: Google, Reddit to testify on tech industry protections | Trump joins Amazon-owned Twitch | House to vote on bill to combat foreign interference Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Judge blocks Trump 'public charge' rule | Appeals court skeptical of Trump arguments for Medicaid work requirements | CDC offers guidance for treating vaping-related cases House to vote this month on legislation to combat foreign interference in elections 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 CarperInstead of raising the gas tax, stop wasting money on frivolous projects To stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists 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 CardinSenate Democrats aim to repeal rules blocking Trump tax law workarounds Congress briefed on Iran after Saudi oil attacks Senate Democrats hesitant to go all-in on impeachment probe MORE (Md.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Trump DOJ under fire over automaker probe The Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks MORE (R.I.) and Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenFury over Trump Syria decision grows Furious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision 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 BarrassoTo stave off a recession, let's pass a transportation infrastructure bill Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US GOP senator: Iran is behind attack on Saudi Arabia 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 BishopHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban 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: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis Committee pushes National Park Service to privatize campgrounds Overnight Energy: Warren unveils T environmental justice plan | Trump officials eliminate board on smart grids | Proposed Trump rule aims to ease restrictions on mineral mining 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