Senate Democrats Block Defense Spending Bill


U.S. Senate Democrats blocked a military spending bill, the third appropriations bill stalled in recent weeks. The House passed the spending bill but the Senate voted 50-44  on a cloture petition, which failed because it needed 60 votes to move it into position to debate.

The vote was nearly unanimously along party lines except for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the sole Republican who voted no in a procedural move that allows him to bring it back up. Democrats objected to the legislation because of larger concerns that Republicans wouldn’t hold up a two-year budget deal, The Hill reported. Democrats sent a letter to McConnell this week calling on him to pledge that spending bills from both the House and the Senate would follow “fair funding” and avoid controversial “poison pill” riders.

Lawmakers are in a stalemate over how to fight the Zika virus, which held up the bill and has stalled a larger, separate veterans and military construction appropriations bill, which the Zika money is attached to. McConnell accused Democrats of being the “the dysfunction party.” The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed a $574.5 billion defense appropriations bill earlier this year.


House Passes Financial Services Spending Bill
The Hill (Jagoda 7/7) “The House late Thursday passed a financial services spending bill that cuts funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The measure was approved by a largely party-line vote of 239 to 185. In total, the bill provides $21.7 billion for various agencies and programs in fiscal year 2017, $1.5 billion less than this year’s enacted level. IRS funding would be cut by $236 million and SEC funding would be cut by $50 million.

“The bill would cut FCC funding by $69 million and curbs the agency’s ability to take action on its proposed set-top box rule until a study is finished. The bill also provides funds for the federal courts, Small Business Administration, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, General Services Administration and Federal Communications Commission. The bill includes a number of provisions to place limits on the IRS, including a prohibition on regulations concerning the tax-exempt status of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.

“But the House rejected an amendment to pay the IRS commissioner nothing between the date of the bill’s enactment and inauguration day. The proposal would make the CFPB subject to annual appropriations, instead of receiving funding directly from the Federal Reserve. The bill would direct the federal government to make a payment of $725 million to the District of Columbia and would prevent D.C. from using funds for abortions or marijuana legalization efforts.

“The federal courts would receive a funding increase of $177 million. The House considered dozens of amendments to bill on Wednesday and Thursday. Those adopted included measures to bar funds from being used to change the requirements for registration for the draft and to bar funds from being used to help ‘sanctuary cities’.”


Manufacturers Suing OSHA over Workplace Protection Rule
The Hill (Devaney 7/8) “The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is mounting a court challenge against the Labor Department’s new workplace injury and illness rule. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new requirements in May for manufacturers to report all workplace injuries and illnesses. But industry groups say it would ‘put a target’ on their back.

“NAM filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to block the rule in federal court. ‘The Department of Labor is putting a target on nearly every manufacturer in this country by moving this regulation forward’, said Linda Kelly, NAM’s senior vice president and general counsel. ‘Not only does OSHA lack statutory authority to enforce this rule, but the agency has also failed to recognize the infeasibility, costs and real-world impacts of what it preposterously suggests is just a mere tweak to a major regulation’.

“The Labor Department’s rule would require companies, particularly those in manufacturing and construction, to report all workplace injuries and illnesses online where they are publicly available. Companies are already required to report the information to the Labor Department, but the agency says the added transparency will give them more reason to increase workplace safety. Manufacturers argue ‘releasing this information will lead others to make inaccurate conclusions’, will open manufacturers up to retaliation and will sacrifice employee and employer privacy. NAM filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.”


Fracking Makes Oil and Natural Gas Trapped in Shale Rock Technologically Feasible to Produce
U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Hackbarth 7/6) “Fracking, maligned by activists who would prefer we ‘keep it in the ground’ and avoid the benefits of abundant energy, has made the United States an energy superpower. Not only is the United States the top producer of petroleum and natural gas, a new report shows, but the U.S. also has the largest oil reserves of any country on earth – more than Russia and Saudi Arabia -The Financial Times reports.

“Rystad Energy estimates recoverable oil in the U.S. from existing fields, discoveries and yet undiscovered areas amounts to 264bn barrels. The figure surpasses Saudi Arabia’s 212bn and Russia’s 256bn in reserves. The analysis of 60,000 fields worldwide, conducted over a three-year period by the Oslo-based group, shows total global oil reserves at 2.1tn barrels. This is 70 times the current production rate of about 30bn barrels of crude oil a year, Rystad Energy said on Monday.

“The combination of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has made oil and natural gas trapped in shale rock – once practically impossible to reach – now technologically feasible to produce. The result has been a gusher of increased oil production over the past few years. Only a few years ago, the United States was importing a large fraction of the oil it consumed. Now, it is exporting to hungry world markets.

“First, state-led regulation of fracking is working at safely producing abundant amounts of energy and making vast quantities of domestic energy available. Unnecessary federal interference by EPA, the Interior Department, or other agencies will only stymie this success. In an environment of low oil prices, the federal government shouldn’t put U.S. producers at a disadvantage with duplicative regulations that make fracking more expensive.

“Second, oil consumption isn’t going away anytime soon. As the middle class grows in countries like China and India, the demand for vehicles – and gasoline – will increase. One market research firm estimates that 2.1 billion light duty vehicles will be sold by 2035-the vast majority will run on petroleum. Now that they’re allowed to export oil, U.S. companies can help satisfy those growing markets.”