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Energy Legislation Back in the Hot Seat

House lawmakers will spend the week of June 23 debating Democratic energy bills and alternative minimum tax legislation that already faces dim prospects in the Senate.

After being attacked for weeks by Republicans for failing to take action on rising gas prices, Democratic leaders are set to bring forward as many as four energy-related bills this week. Democratic aides said the bills could be taken up individually or as a package.

One bill already on the schedule would lower fares for mass transit to give commuters a more affordable alternative to driving. Democrats may also seek action on bills addressing price gouging, excessive market speculation and “use or it lose” legislation aimed at pushing oil companies to lease unused acres on their current land instead of pushing for more leases.

A Democratic leadership aide said the “use it or lose it” measure is “a pushback on Republicans” who have been calling for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.

For their part, Republicans are planning to file a discharge petition for legislation that would allow the government to procure advanced alternative fuels derived from oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid technology. Other procedural maneuvers are likely, given that GOP leaders have made gas prices their No. 1 issue.

On another front, the House will take up legislation that would shield taxpayers from the AMT this year. The $61.5 billion bill includes offsets, a caveat that faces strong opposition from Senate Republicans and a likely veto threat by the president.

Offsets currently in the bill include provisions that would crack down on the use of offshore accounts for tax deferrals, delay tax breaks for multinational corporations, freeze tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and increase taxes on private equity managers.

Otherwise, the House is set to pass legislation on Wednesday that would clarify the Congressional intent of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Proposed revisions include adding definitions of major life activities and major bodily functions, as well as clarifying the disability status of people with chronic illnesses and missing limbs.

During their weekly colloquy, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md) praised House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for co-sponsoring the ADA measure. Additionally, “the good news is … we have agreement now with employers and the disability community on a bill that makes sense for both,” Hoyer said.

Lawmakers also will finish debate on legislation relating to child abuse in residential programs and take up a Medicare payments bill on the suspension calendar. That bill, which would delay a cut in reimbursement rates set to kick in July 1, has bipartisan support in the House but may face opposition in the Senate.

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