The State of the Union Address covered a wide range of topics last night with special emphasis on programs targeted to assist the middle class with education and job training initiatives. Few new details on the President’s desire to deal with climate change emerged, but the he did make a strong call for action and threatened to use executive measures if legislation was not possible. in one of the more charged moments of the address he repeatedly called for for votes on gun control measures. The topics and the lack of specifics mixed with the campaign like swing today, had many pundits speculating that he is not really gearing up to work with Congress so much as preparing for 2014 when he will help bring in a new Congress more favorable to his policies.
The Senate completed its work on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act prior to the State of the Union address. The Senate is now set to take up the confirmation of Senator Hagel to serve as the next Secretary of Defense. The House completed work on a number of smaller bills including a bills o expedite the deployment of hydroelectric generating facilities at the nation’s dams. The House is now set to take up legislation imposing a pay freeze on all federal workers through the end of the year.
Other Items of Interest:
At the first Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing under the new Chairman, the Committee heard from CO Gov. Hickenlooper, API, Dow, NAM, NRDC, and Rice University on the opportunities and challenges associated with increased natural gas development. The most heated exchanges involved those over LNG exports, but the testimony and comments did not indicate that legislation on the issue was necessary or likely in the near-term. Regarding regulation of hydraulic fracturing, there were a range of opinions about the appropriate role (or lack thereof) for the federal government. The testimony and webcast of the hearing can be reviewed at: http://1.usa.gov/Xywqgj
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will be introducing legislation imposing a carbon tax as a way of funding investments in solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficiency, and sustainable energy projects. The introduction of a proposal follows many months of speculation about a carbon tax, but revenue measures must originate in the House and there is little appetite for such a proposal among the current Members of the House for additional revenue raisers when few spending reductions have been moved through.
The Sequestration cuts set to take place on March 1st are likely to occur with few options remaining capable of gaining sufficient votes to pass both Chambers. About half of the $1.2 trillion in cuts over the next twn years would come from defense programs. Despite the concerns over the cuts, the US has run annual budget deficits over $1 trillion for each of the last four years, and is expected to run another trillion dollar deficit this year if projections hold up along with the addition of disaster funding.
House Appropriators are beginning the process of assembling a six month continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. The current CR expires on March 27th, and Leaders in the House hope to brinksmanship that has become commonplace with fiscal issues over the last few years.
The US Committee on Foreign Investments approved Nexen’s planned sale to China’s state owned CNOOC stating that it does not pose a national security risk to the US. The sale had to be reviewed by CFIUS because of Nexen’s Gulf of Mexico oil and gas operations. With the deal, CNOOC gains control of Nexen’s oil sands project in Alberta, deep sea drilling operations in the Gulf, as well as other projects in the North Sea, off Western Africa and elsewhere.
Committee Assignments: Budget and Natural Resources
Chief of Staff: Ben Miller
LEgislative Director: Piper Crowell
Experience: Congressman Jared Huffman is an environmental lawyer who has served in the private sector, local government, and state government prior to coming to Congress. He served in the California State Assembly for six years before his election to the House. During those years, he focused on environmental protection, promotion of clean energy, and combating climate change. He also co-chaired the Legislative Environmental Caucus for four years. Before joining the California Legislature, he was elected to the Marin Municipal Water District board where he served for 12 years and three terms as the board president. As a public interest attorney, he served as the senior attorney for the National Resource Defense Council. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara where he was a three-time NCAA All American volleyball player and a member of the US World Champion Volley Ball Team. He later earned his law degree from Boston College. He replaced 10 term Representative Lynn Woolsey, who was a leader in the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Importance: Rep. Huffman is a staunchly progressive Member with a long history in the environmental community. He favors increased investments in education, infrastructure, and research and significant cuts to defense spending. He supported the repeal of the Bush -era tax cuts and favors increasing taxes on energy production and financial transactions as well as increasing the wage cap for contributions to Social Security. As an attorney, he successfully prosecuted cases including a lawsuit requiring all CA Universities to meet Title IX requirements. As Senior Attorney for the NRDC, he was instrumental in reaching an agreement restoring 153 miles of the San Jaoquin River in the Central Valley. In the State Assembly, he was a prolific legislator getting over 30 bills passed during his service. He has never lost a trial or an election. As a Member of both the Natural Resources Committee and the Budget Committee, he will play an important role in shaping water policies and will provide a consistent voice for the environmental communities in both of these Committees.
If you have any questions, please give me a call anytime. Hope you all have a great Wednesday!
Michael D. Zehr
HBW Resources, LLC
1666 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006