Morning Action: More Executive Actions Coming from Obama

OBAMA.  President Obama is about to use his pen again (sub. req’d):

President Barack Obama today will visit a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., to outline a smorgasbord of new executive actions to boost renewables and efficiency, including new worker training programs for the solar sector and appliance efficiency standards, as well as federal backing for new industry green building codes.

Perhaps the most significant of the items is an additional $2 billion goal for energy efficiency upgrades to federal buildings over the next three years, which White House advisers said would drive total commitments in energy savings performance contracts to $4 billion through 2016.

In a move that renewables groups and some lawmakers have long sought, Obama additionally will announce that the IRS will soon clarify how real property rules relate to renewable energy installations — which should ease current limitations on real estate investment trusts.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are having difficulty coming to an agreement on the energy efficiency bill (sub. req’d):

As hopes fade for votes on energy efficiency and the Keystone XL pipeline, senators from both parties said Thursday the next opening for legislating on energy may well have to wait until the 114th Congress.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) 40%, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee who has been involved for months in trying to reach a deal to bring the popular efficiency bill ( S 2262 ) back to the floor, conceded an agreement was likely beyond reach.

“At this point obviously, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get one,” he said, following a morning of finger-pointing between Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13%, and Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 40%.

BENGHAZI.  A group of vulnerable Democrats voted for the creation of a special committee to investigate Benghazi (sub. req’d):

Six House Democrats facing competitive challenges in November voted Thursday evening in favor of a special committee to re-investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Five of those seven Democrats are part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Frontline” program, which supports the party’s most vulnerable incumbents.

Those Frontline members, with their Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings, are:

  • Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) (Tossup)
  • Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) (Leans Democratic)
  • Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) 15% (Leans Democratic)
  • Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-WV) (Tossup)
  • Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) 21% (Democrat Favored)

WRDA.  A conference agreement has been reached on WRDA (sub. req’d):

Key lawmakers on Thursday evening announced a conference agreement on a water resources bill.

“We are proud to deliver what the American public wants and needs,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) 5%; Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) 68%; Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) 53%; and Rep. Nick Rahall II (D-WV) said in a statement. “This conference report maintains ports and navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods, provides flood control that protects lives and property, and restores vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage . . . . Next week the necessary paperwork will be finalized that will allow this signature jobs legislation to go before both the House and Senate for final passage.” Additional details will be released when the conference report is filed, they said.

HARRY REID.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% says that the Koch brothers are ‘one of the main causes’ of climate change (sub. req’d):

Amid the stalling energy efficiency and Keystone XL pipeline debate in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid has once again resorted to blaming the Koch brothers for their “radical agenda,” on Wednesday calling the two principal owners of Koch Industries “one of the main causes” of climate change.

“The multi-zillionaire Koch brothers . . . they are one of the main causes of [climate change], not a cause, one of the main causes,” the Nevada Democrat said on the Senate floor. “Charles and David Koch are waging a war against anything that protects the environment. Now I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true.”

HIGHWAY BILL.  Lawmakers will lay out a six-year highway bill on Monday (sub. req’d):

Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will lay out a six-year bill in detail on Monday , not today as earlier expected from comments by Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) 5%. And it will be a six-year bill, they say, which puts a roughly $100 billion revenue goal out there for the Finance Committee to try to meet. That’s how much would be needed to cover the projected gap between Highway Trust Fund excise tax receipts and what the fund is expected to pay out to states.

But as everyone who closely watches this measure should know, the more immediate goal — and one that almost certainly will soon dominate the attention of lawmakers — is how to get some sort of legislation passed to rescue the trust fund before road projects and contractors face potential payment disruptions this summer.

Some projects are already being culled from state lists, and the risks will only grow as summer nears. 

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