While the passage of a raft of GOP-backed energy bills this month appeared to widen the divide between House Democrats and Republicans, a pair of lawmakers has forged a genuinely bipartisan plan to increase energy efficiency in the federal government.
Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced a bill Thursday to allow federal agencies to expand the use of utility energy service contracts, which are agreements with utilities specifying “the amount of energy savings it will achieve through retrofits and other measures,” according to a news release about the bill. “The utility is then paid for its performance out of the savings it achieves.”
The legislation would allow agencies to enter into these performance contracts for up to 25 years, according to Welch and Gardner.
“The bill would allow private contractors to increase energy efficiency in federal agencies,” Gardner told National Journal Daily. “The longer contract leads to greater energy savings, and it’s a way to maximize the savings to the taxpayer.”
This isn’t the first time Welch and Gardner have collaborated on an energy-efficiency measure. The pair unveiled a similar plan to promote energy savings in federal buildings last July, and Welch is a cosponsor of a bill put forward with Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., that would serve as a companion to a Senate energy-efficiency bill introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The utility service-contract bill dropped this week also has a companion measure introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; and Dan Coats, R-Ind.
So far none of the proposals has made it out of committee. What’s different this time around, congressional aides say, is that House leadership wants to see bipartisan legislation pass, in part, as a show of unity following the divisive partisan battles surrounding the government shutdown.
“All of us know that the shutdown and the conflict politics that came out of it have their limits,” Welch said. “If we find common ground on something, that will be good for the institution and for both parties.”
Welch and Gardner say they have also been working behind the scenes to build a broad consensus for energy efficiency, pointing to a letter signed this month by 70 Democrats and 47 Republicans in the House, along with Sens. Christopher Coons, D-Del., and John Boozman, R-Ark. The letter to the White House, dated Nov. 4 and released Wednesday, calls on President Obama to extend a directive to increase energy-efficiency efforts in federal agencies.
Gardner said he has spoken with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., about moving additional energy bills to the floor next year, including energy-efficiency legislation.
When asked whether he thought the legislation would gain traction in the deeply divided lower chamber, Gardner commented: “I think it can. If you’re looking for a trailblazer bill to show that you can create good policy with broad support, this bill is the perfect example.”
Welch agreed. “Congress has got to get things done, and the only way we’ll do that is by finding common ground,” he said. “Issues in energy are contentious but efficiency isn’t. Everyone agrees we need to have this done, so right now what we’re doing is trying to smooth all the edges down and make sure that we do this in a way that works for both sides.”
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."