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Energy Fights Loom Over Next Spending Showdown

Spending Squeaker. EPA and other environmental regulators are breathing a sigh of relief after the cromnibus (HR 83) survived a near-death experience and passed the House on a 219-206 vote last night.

The administration dodged a bullet with the narrow win, given that the backup plan, a three-month continuing resolution, would have kicked the spending fight into a GOP-led Congress that is itching to test the White House’s mettle on EPA rules and other policies.

While their hands would have been strengthened, a shutdown fight over spending in just 90 days would have been a major test for Republican leaders, who wanted to start the new Congress with a clean slate.

Keystone Watch. The Nebraska Supreme Court releases its opinions on Fridays, so we’ll be watching the court’s site when decisions are posted at 9 a.m. to see if the Keystone pipeline decision is among them. The court is ruling on whether a state law used to approve the pipeline route violates the Nebraska constitution.

If and when a decision is made, we’ll be looking for signs from the Obama administration on its next steps in the stalled interagency review process on whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.”

In the meantime, the anti-Keystone group Bold Nebraska has a useful collection of documents in the case, which centers around the legality of a  state law that is key to the pipeline’s route.

Unfinished Business. CQ Roll Call’s Katy O’Donnell reports the Senate may vote as early as today on the House-passed package of tax breaks (HR 5771) that includes the brief extension of the renewable production tax credit.

While the remaining must-pass bills stumble toward the finish line, energy- and environment-related provisions continue to sneak through the House and Senate as standalone bills or in broader legislation. Here’s a few of note:

— The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill (S 2828) that includes provisions tightening sanctions on Russia, while increasing U.S. energy aid to the Ukraine. CQ Roll Call’s Sarah Chacko has more on the bill.

— Both chambers have now passed a bill (HR 5705) that aims to prevent a repeat of the regional propane shortages of last winter.

— The Coast Guard Reauthorization Act (S 2444), which also has cleared both chambers, includes a three-year extension of the moratorium on small vessel discharge permitting requirements.

— Legislation (HR 4007) reauthorizing the Homeland Security Department’s Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards Program also is headed to the president for signature.

Energy Efficiency. In the meantime, we’re watching to see if Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, can eke out a win with their pared-back energy-efficiency bill (S 2971). Portman said Thursday that they’re still working to sort out GOP objections.

And time will tell if Colette Honorable can win confirmation to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before the session ends.

Club for Growth. Former Indiana Republican Rep. David McIntosh will assume the reins of the Club for Growth in January, the group announced Thursday.

McIntosh has a long history working to constrain the federal regulatory apparatus, as a member and then as lobbyist after leaving the Hill. He played a key role in enacting the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to block federal rules on up or down votes.

The act is expected to get a workout in the next GOP-led Congress. But because such “disapproval resolutions” are subject to presidential veto, it’s only been successful once, when President George W. Bush signed a resolution rejecting a Clinton administration ergonomics rule.

In an acknowledgment of the law’s shortcomings, McIntosh has testified in support of the so-called REINS Act, which would require Congress to approve federal rules with an economic impact of more than $100 million. That bill has stalled for the past four years, but environmentalists are uneasy about its prospects in the 114th Congress.

Here’s more info on McIntosh from Mayer Brown, where he’s a partner.

Quotable: “We’re exporting bourbon too.” — Rep. Edward Whitfield, R-Ky., during Thursday’s House hearing on crude oil exports, as colleague Joe L. Barton ticked off commodities from members’ states that are not subject to federal export bans. (ICYMI, here’s our story from yesterday).

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