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This Week In Congress - June 18, 2010

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I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...

In his speech from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Obama urged lawmakers to find the political courage to transition towards clean energy.

OBAMA: For decades we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we’ve failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.

Quicker than ‘opening night’ reviews reach Sardi’s, and with more conviction than the most ardent Monday-morning quarterback, lawmakers weighed in with a range of responses. Or mixed responses – as was the case with Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida.

HASTINGS: I don’t think he hit a home run...debatable ...between 2nd and 3rd base. Don’t know that there is anything the president could say or do that would accomplish everything the president needs to accomplish.

It became perfectly clear this week: this incident will have decades-long implications for the future of energy policy...period. Members of Congress always talk a good game about the future. But they’re human and in general, they’re beholden to the now.

LUMMIS: While we are adding more alternative energy to our national portfolio, we cannot turn our backs on the traditional sources of energy that we are so heavily reliant on now.

Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis is from Wyoming. The state ranks first in oil and gas related jobs as a percentage of total jobs. Across the board, Republicans and some Democrats say they want to promote new energy sources – and their industries – without hurting existing ones.

OBAMA: There are costs associated with this transition. And there are some who believe that we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford NOT to change how we produce and use energy.

This inevitably stirs up the debate over whether, when and how to force a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Consider this matter..."to be continued."

Meanwhile, the Senate pretty much spent all week negotiating the contours of a tax extenders bill, which includes an array of spending, from unemployment benefits to Medicaid subsidies for states. The term "haircut" often is used to describe the process of trimming back legislation.

Lawmakers scaled back the jobless benefits extension. They also carved out the so-called "doc fix," a federal funding patch for Medicare, by passing it as a standalone bill. Yet by the time the Senate wrapped up the hair-cutting this week, they still had yet to finalize a deal over their shivering poodle of a bill.

Burris: "The clerk will report cloture..."

This was a key procedural vote Thursday evening. ["The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. The clerk will call the roll..."]. Cloture would limit final debate to no more than 30 hours, thereby starting a countdown to a vote on final passage.

[Cloture fails]

Next week, top senate lawmakers will redouble their efforts to get an agreement on an energy bill. They’re hoping to have something ready to distribute at least to energy committee members, with the goal of having an actual bill before the 4th of July recess.

Likewise, the conference committee that spent the week working on the final version of a financial regulatory overhaul bill also hopes to wrap things up next week.

That was This Week in Congress. I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.


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