Politics

Clapper: ‘I Don’t Believe President Karzai Is Going to Sign It’

Amy Harder
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Amy Harder
Feb. 11, 2014, 6:42 a.m.

The House passed le­gis­la­tion Thursday that aims to help rur­al Amer­ica ret­ro­fit homes and small busi­nesses to make them more en­ergy ef­fi­cient.

The Rur­al En­ergy Sav­ings Pro­gram bill, which passed 240-172, provides nearly $5 bil­lion worth of loans to util­it­ies in rur­al areas. The util­it­ies would then of­fer loans to its res­id­en­tial and small-busi­ness cus­tom­ers. Cus­tom­ers would re­pay the loans over 10 years through their elec­tric bill. The pro­gram will be ad­min­istered through the Ag­ri­cul­ture De­part­ment.

The bill was sponsored by Ma­jor­ity Whip Cly­burn, who touted the bill on the House floor after pas­sage.

“This bi­par­tis­an, bicam­er­al le­gis­la­tion is first and fore­most a jobs bill, and it is based on com­mon-sense ideas that can be done in a fisc­ally re­spons­ible man­ner that will pro­tect tax­pay­ers and the Treas­ury,” Cly­burn said. “Let me em­phas­ize that this is a vol­un­tary loan pro­gram, not a grant or re­bate, and the loans are paid back to the fed­er­al treas­ury.”

The trade group rep­res­ent­ing rur­al util­it­ies, the Na­tion­al Rur­al Elec­tric Co­oper­at­ive As­so­ci­ation, praised the bill’s pas­sage as well. “It rep­res­ents an op­por­tun­ity for many mem­bers to con­trol their elec­tric bills by im­prov­ing the ef­fi­ciency of their homes and farms,” said Glenn Eng­lish, the as­so­ci­ation’s CEO, in a state­ment. “It should provide a huge be­ne­fit to those who are strug­gling to meet their monthly bills in dif­fi­cult eco­nom­ic cir­cum­stances.”

The loans is­sued will be between $3,000 and $7,500 and will cov­er seal­ing, in­su­la­tion, heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems, boil­ers, roofs and oth­er sim­il­ar build­ing im­prove­ments.

CBO scored the bill as budget-neut­ral be­cause the util­it­ies are re­quired to pay back the loans even if its cus­tom­ers can­not, a spokes­per­son for the ma­jor­ity whip said. A sim­il­ar bill that passed the House in May, called Home Star, cost $6 bil­lion.

Un­like Thursday’s bill, Home Star is a pro­gram of­fer­ing homeown­ers re­bates — not loans — to ret­ro­fit their homes to make them more en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Since Home Star is not a loan pro­gram, Re­pub­lic­ans charged it was yet an­oth­er bill Demo­crats passed that they can’t pay for. And some Re­pub­lic­ans charged Thursday that this latest bill — dubbed Rur­al Star — is un­ne­ces­sary giv­en Home Star had passed already.

Rur­al Star now joins Home Star in wait­ing for ac­tion in the Sen­ate. Home Star has been in­cluded in le­gis­la­tion Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Re­id has at­temp­ted to bring to the floor, but giv­en it has been at­tached to more con­tro­ver­sial en­ergy le­gis­la­tion; he has not been able to get 60 votes needed for pas­sage. Re­id has said he hopes to bring at least Home Star and a meas­ure in­centiv­iz­ing the use of nat­ur­al gas in vehicles to the floor be­fore the end of the year, but much re­mains in flux and will largely be de­term­ined by the out­come of the midterm elec­tions.

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