Energy & Environment

Picture This: A ‘Perfecto’ Final Tax Bill
As House, Senate negotiate, president raises expectations

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks with reporters about the GOP tax bill between votes in the Capitol on Nov. 30. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House and Senate are not even in formal conference negotiations on a tax overhaul measure yet, but the expectation from the White House is clear: It’s got to be “perfecto.”

On a day of increasing uncertainty over how to fund the government past Dec. 8, President Donald Trump hosted a small group of Senate Republicans at the White House and placed his marker. 

Take Five: John Curtis
Utah Republican says his predecessor, Jason Chaffetz, told him not to run

Utah Rep. John Curtis is walking less than he did as mayor but he gets more tired now. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Freshman Rep. John Curtis, 57, a Utah Republican, talks about using all his energy on the GOP primary, advice from former Rep. Jason Chaffetz and missing Christmastime in Provo.

Q: What has surprised you so far about Congress?

GOP Power Play in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico
Conditional funding gains support amid talk of new Marshall Plan

Workers in Caguas, south of San Juan, Puerto Rico, repair electrical lines on Oct. 25, more than a month after Hurricane Maria hit the island. (Ramon Tonito Zayas/AP file photo)

In late September, just over a week after winds of 155 miles per hour flattened homes and struck down power lines and more than 30 inches of rain inundated parts of the island of Puerto Rico, a leader of the recovery efforts with the Army Corps of Engineers offered his blunt assessment of the damage.

“This is a massive undertaking, one in which I don’t think we’ve undertaken before in terms of this magnitude,” Col. James DeLapp told CNN. The closest thing he could think of by way of comparison? “When the Army Corps led the effort to restore … electricity in the early stages of the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004.”

In Utah Trip, Trump Looks to Boost Hatch
President pushing senior-most GOP senator to seek re-election

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch  at the Utah State Capitol on Monday. Trump signed executive orders shrinking the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. (George Frey/Getty Images)

After President Donald Trump signed proclamations Monday drastically diminishing the scale of national monuments in Utah, he handed off the pen to a senator who still seems a most unlikely ally.

“I’ve served under many presidents — seven to be exact — but none is like the man we have in the White House today. When you talk, this president listens,” Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said Monday in introducing Trump at Utah’s state Capitol in Salt Lake City.

Trump Reduction of National Monuments a Rare Move
Antiquities Act has primarily been used to increase, not reduce protected areas

Part of the Bears Ears monument in Utah. (Wikimedia Commons)

President Donald Trump on Monday signed two executive actions that drastically slash the boundaries of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, and criticized former presidents for their use of the Antiquities Act to designate such monuments.

Trump called former President Barack Obama’s designation of Bears Ears an overreach of executive power, even as he unilaterally undid much of the designation himself. President Bill Clinton first designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument in 1996 .

Why Moore’s Money Mismatch Might Not Matter
Some Republicans are confident former judge still has edge over Doug Jones

Democrat Doug Jones holds a significant cash advantage over Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones has financially overwhelmed his Republican opponent Roy Moore but all his money may not make a difference in the Alabama Senate special election.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore rocked the race, initially boosting Jones’ fundraising and standing in the polls. But polling numbers have tightened in recent days. With the Dec. 12 election roughly a week away, both campaigns are making their final cases to voters for the seat vacated by former Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. 

Opinion: Bipartisanship Still Exists and Financial Reform Is Proof
Senate bill isn’t perfect, but it can have a lasting effect

The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will mark up a bipartisan bill this week. From left, Chairman Michael D. Crapo, Republican Sen. Jerry Moran, ranking member Sherrod Brown and Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz prepare for a hearing in July. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As U.S. politics descends ever further into partisanship, there are still signs that old-fashioned legislating is not dead. This week, the Senate Banking Committee will mark up one of the first significant pieces of financial regulatory legislation in years with real bipartisan support. That means an opportunity for lasting, incremental progress that we should welcome.

The proposed bill, which has 10 Republican and 10 Democratic co-sponsors, would not revolutionize the U.S. financial regulatory system, and that’s a good thing. The Dodd-Frank Act and other post-financial crisis reforms have made the financial system and Americans safer overall, but like most major reforms, they have also created unintended consequences. The Senate bill would address some of these, while retaining the overall post-crisis framework that is generally working.

Opinion: Fiscal Order Goes Way of the Dinosaur in Tax Debate
Latest actions show Congress isn’t serious about debt and deficits

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a press conference Thursday on small-business taxes. Pay-as-you-go requirements do not apply to the current tax reconciliation bill. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There was a time when members of Congress expressed concerns over the country’s level of debt and deficits. Laws were enacted to create speed bumps and stop signs to establish fiscal discipline. That now seems like a distant memory. Exhibit A is the current tax reform effort.

The permanent pay-as-you-go law is in effect, as is the Senate’s pay-as-you-go rule. The requirement that increased federal spending or tax cuts be matched by reduced spending or revenue increases to avoid expanding the budget deficit dates to the Reagan administration.

12 House Republicans Sign Letter Opposing Arctic Drilling
The proposal, not included in the House-passed tax bill, remains in the Senate version on floor

Reindeer wander off at the end of the Senate Democrats’ news conference and rally opposing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at the Capitol on Thursday. A number of activists dressed up as polar bears and reindeer for the event. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A dozen House Republicans, half of whom voted for the House tax overhaul bill that passed Nov. 13, wrote a letter to GOP leaders urging them not to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, adding another complication to negotiating a tax bill that can pass both chambers.

The Senate tax overhaul bill is tied in a reconciliation measure with legislation that would open up drilling parts of the ANWR. Its inclusion is seen as key to having secured GOP Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s support for the measure.

Barton Not Running for Re-Election
Decision comes after nude photo and racy text messages surfaced

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, the longest-serving member of the Texas delegation, is retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton is not running for re-election after a nude photo and suggestive text messages surfaced over the last week. 

Barton, the dean of the Texas delegation, announced Thursday he would not seek an 18th term. The Republican lawmaker had previously decided to run again before the photo and messages became public.

Trump Executive Actions a ‘Disruptive’ Lot
Full effects of president’s unilateral moves still years away, experts say

President Donald Trump after signing an executive order Oct. 12 targeting the 2010 health care law. Experts and lawmakers say his executive actions are among the most “disruptive” of any president. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

The executive actions President Donald Trump has signed have the potential to be among the most “aggressive” and “disruptive” ever issued by a chief executive, according to lawmakers and experts.

Trump and his top aides often describe his use of executive orders, actions and memoranda as the president using his constitutional authorities to “put America first” and plot a policy course to benefit the country’s forgotten men and women. Both were major themes of his 2016 campaign.

Wheelin’ and Dealin’ McConnell in Full Force on GOP Tax Bill
Successful vote on the motion to proceed ignites last-minute scramble to 50 votes

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is assembling the votes for the GOP tax overhaul. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Republicans on Wednesday evening got the necessary votes to launch debate on the party’s measure to overhaul the U.S. tax code. But this came after a day of backroom deal-making by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that could lead to several major changes to the current version of the legislation.

The pressure on the Senate GOP is sky-high as the party looks to achieve at least one major legislative victory during President Donald Trump’s first year in the White House.

Opinion: Science That Leads
The National Science Foundation needs to get its priorities straight

The Titan supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The U.S. is falling behind China in key science and technology areas, Smith writes. (Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

This past summer, Chinese scientists used quantum technology to teleport a single photon from the Earth’s surface to an orbiting satellite. Although Star Trek fans will be disappointed that teleportation of human beings is a long way off, teleporting a photon into space is an amazing achievement — and an example of China’s all-out effort to dominate quantum information science and other emerging technologies.

China now has the world’s fastest supercomputer and has just passed the U.S. for the first time to lead the world in the number and total performance of supercomputers. As of this month, China has 202 supercomputers on the TOP500 ranking, its largest showing to date, compared to 143 for the U.S., an all-time low.

New Democrats’ PAC Adds 10 More Challengers to Watch List
PAC now has 23 candidates on watch list for 2018

Lauren Baer, who’s running in  Florida’s 18th District, is one of 10 more Democratic candidates that NewDemPAC is adding to its list of candidates to watch in 2018. (D.A. Banks/CQ Roll Call file photo).

The political arm of the moderate New Democrat Coalition is adding 10 more challengers to its list of candidates to watch in 2018 — a continued effort to get involved in House races earlier this cycle. 

The latest additions by NewDemPAC, obtained first by Roll Call, come from across the country and include a second former member of the coalition. The PAC announced its first 13 candidates to watch earlier this year. 

Tax Overhaul's Arctic Drilling Byrd Problems Resolved
Murkowski says Republicans drafted fixes to technical concerns

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, have been working through the snags with their tax bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 7:45 p.m. | Most of the focus has been on taxes, but the portion of the Senate reconciliation bill that would open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needed to be revised, too.

Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the fixes that are being worked out for Byrd violations in her portion of the bill would be added to a substitute to be offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.