Political theater is never in short supply in Washington D.C., but the new majority in the House of Representatives has been staging particularly exuberant – if, at this point, largely symbolic – displays of Republican policymaking, and Senate Republicans, though still outnumbered by Democrats, have been cheerfully pitching bills aimed at undoing many of the energy policies implemented over the past two years, including weatherization efforts and the Energy Star program.
After the House majority voted to repeal the “jobs killing” health care law, conservatives in both branches prepared to roll out legislative proposals they say are grounded in tough-love fiscal prudence and a sensible aversion to burdensome regulations.
Last month, for example, Senate Republicans unveiled legislation intended to thwart the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions – a set of regulations whose enforcement, the senators say, would hurt the economy. As noted in a recent story published by The Hill, the bill is designed to prevent the EPA from regulating the gases under the Clean Air Act and would prevent federal agencies from considering climate change when enforcing the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Washington agencies are now trying a backdoor approach to regulate our climate by abusing existing laws. Congress must step in and stand up for the American people. My bill will shrink Washington’s job crushing agenda and grow America’s economy,” Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming and the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told The Hill.
Cutting, slashing, burning
Earlier last month, a group of conservative House Republicans known as the Republican Study Committee presented a proposal to cut federal spending by $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years – substantially more than the approximately $800 billion the House majority originally pledged. Some of those cuts would affect programs tied to the housing industry, including the government’s Energy Star program and its Weatherization Assistance Program. The committee is led by Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio.
The Energy Star budget, for instance, would be cut by about $52 million annually, while the Department of Energy’s weatherization grants to states would be cut by $530 million annually. The Davis-Bacon Act, which requires payment of prevailing wages for public works projects, including the current, stimulus-funded edition of the Weatherization Assistance Program, would be repealed. Also, federal control of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be eliminated, for a total savings of $30 billion, according to RSC calculations.
As we said, a lot of this partisan arm-flapping, although no one should be surprised to see funding cut for a variety of useful programs as budget pressures grow ever more intense. We should note, though, that so far military spending, the mortgage interest tax deduction, and the major entitlement programs – Medicare and Social Security – have yet to be addressed with a major initiative by a House committee or by a conservative caucus in the House or Senate. But there’s still plenty of time, if not political will, for that.
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