Elections Redefining the Agendas
The mid-term elections are over and the American people have spoken. The next two months will be informative in terms of the climate of the remaining two years of this presidential tenure.
While it will take the new Congressional majority some time to get itself organized and fully establish its agenda, there are clearly several issues that will dominate the waning days of the 109th Congress and the beginning of the 110th Congress.
Foremost among the items to be handled during the lame duck session will be the budgets of several federal agencies that have operated under a continuing resolution since October 2006; only two departments, Defense and Homeland Security, have budgets passed by Congress and signed by the president.
(All other agencies continue to operate under the continuing resolution that was to expire on Dec. 8.)
By the time that this column is in print, the budget will have progressed into yet another continuing resolution or an omnibus spending bill that incorporates the nine remaining 2007 budget bills that appropriate for the remainder of the agencies. The alternative is shutting down the federal government.
It is a good time to take a quick look at the key changes in House and Senate leadership and potential impacts in AAPG’s interest areas, as well as a brief synopsis of what might be forthcoming as the agenda for the 110th Congress.
The agenda likely will include tax reform, environment and climate change, the budget deficit and free trade, all of which could impact AAPG members at one level or another. In addition, the war in Iraq, Social Security, immigration law reform and the war on terrorism will rank high on the 110th Congress’ agenda.
Action on major legislative items will, if experience holds, take some time to organize and begin moving through the House and the Senate. Look for a number of freshman congressmen and one or more of the new senators to promote issues that may not be either part of the leadership agenda or expected by leadership.
While those issues are difficult to predict, they invariably arise. No matter the outcome of non-agenda issues, they do serve as a distraction in the process and tend to derail schedules.
Anticipate that both the majority and minority parties will be focused on the next national elections in less than two years. Historically, that generally portends that dramatic and far-reaching legislative or policy change will be examined for its impact on the election cycle in that environment, landmark legislation is rarely enacted.
AAPG’s status as a newcomer to the Washington arena, as well as its recognized reputation as a scientific professional organization, will permit members to continue to serve as sources of information in areas related to petroleum geoscience.
One early opportunity will be in the form of Congressional Visits Days in early May, where AAPG will be a sponsor and will provide an opportunity for leadership to meet with their elected representatives and committee staff and become better informed on the process.
Following are some of the leadership changes and a short assessment of their historical positions.
In the Senate, Robert Byrd (DW. Va.) will take the helm of the Appropriations Committee. The longest serving member of the Senate, Byrd will take charge of Appropriations for the third time. He has been a supporter of energy technology, particularly for coal.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) will become the chairman of Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bingaman, one of the lead authors of the 2005 energy bill, wants to expand nuclear power, promote “clean coal” research and toughen automobile emissions standards.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will head the Environment and Public Works Committee. Boxer is expected to bring big changes to the Environment and Public Works Committee; she is one of the leading opponents of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and has pushed for tighter drinking water standards and for lower toxic emissions standards for power plants.
Boxer plans to address global warming issues.
Among the Republican minority leadership, two Texas senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, as well as Trent Lott (Miss.) and Mitch McConnell (Ky.), historically have been energy friendly.
In the House, Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.) will head the Appropriations Committee. Obey chaired the Appropriations Committee before the 1994 Republican takeover. He has actively tried to limit the executive branch’s power to spend without first consulting congressional leaders.
Congressman John Dingell (DMich.) will assume leadership of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Dingell has served in the House for over 50 years and chaired the committee for 14 years.
Dingell helped craft the compromise that led to the 1990 Clean Air Act. He is generally seen as an advocate for the auto industry and consequently serves as a rational voice in most energy related matters.
Washington Watch columns will incorporate updates as the key committees begin to take shape.