July 15, 2009
In this issue:
Currently in Washington
This week President Obama returned to Washington to find progress on health care reform stymied in both chambers as Republicans intensify their opposition and Democrats in Congress struggle to find ways to pay for their reforms. Democrats remain intent on meeting their goal of sending a health care overhaul bill to the President’s desk by mid-October, hoping to prevent the debate from spilling over into the spring when upcoming midterm elections are likely to take precedent. Earlier this week the Senate confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor began in what will almost certainly be a highly partisan debate over her appointment. While Senate Republicans have little chance of blocking her confirmation to the bench, GOP leaders nonetheless have begun an aggressive, open opposition to her candidacy by characterizing her as a liberal Democrat with an activist record.
Despite an abrupt jump in the monthly job losses figure between May and June and the likelihood that unemployment will soon top 10 percent, Congressional leaders dismissed the idea that a second stimulus package is needed, instead pointing to stock markets, home sales and consumer confidence as indicators that have shown gradual improvement typical of a turning point. On the heels of White House comments that the administration misjudged the severity of the recession, President Obama’s approval ratings have dipped below 60 percent for the first time in his presidency. This has fueled the urgency with which Democrats are working to pass their health care reform measures, even spurring Senate leaders to suggest the possibility of shortening the August recess and staying later into the fall.
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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(FOAs for June 30 – July 10 only. Complete listing available in the working document)
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Schedule and Registration of Webinars for Recipients Reporting on Recovery Funds is Announced
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Recovery, Accountability and Transparency Board have announced that webinars will be held the week of July 20,2009 to provide information on implementing the guidance set forth in OMB Memorandum M-09-21, Implementing Guidance for the Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that was released on June 22, 2009.
Each webinar will focus on a major section of the Guidance as well as on the technology solution. The intended audience for these webinars includes Federal agency personnel, prime recipients and sub-recipients.
Webinar Schedule and Registration
Please click on the webinar session to register.
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News & Highlights
7.9.09 – USDA ANNOUNCES FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR COMMUNITIES TO ASSESS FUTURE WATER AND WASTEWATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS
Recovery Act Funding Will Help Rural Communities to Access Technical Expertise
WASHINGTON, July 9, 2009 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is providing $14.2 million to help rural communities identify water and wastewater infrastructure needs that can be financed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Many people in smaller communities throughout the country are suffering because their local infrastructure is in desperate need of repair, and this funding will enable these communities to get the technical expertise they need to make these much-needed improvements," said Vilsack. "One of the primary goals of the Recovery Act is to rebuild our communities, and this investment will help us to meet the basic need of providing clean, safe water infrastructure in struggling communities."
The funding will be provided under USDA Rural Development's Rural Water and Wastewater Circuit Rider Program to enable the National Rural Water Association to add 15 water and 71 wastewater technical assistance staff members in 2009 and 2010 to help rural communities operate and maintain water and wastewater infrastructure, and provide training and other technical assistance to local staff throughout the country. Known as Circuit Riders, the technical assistance staff will help rural communities prepare proposals for water and wastewater systems, manage construction, offer on-site expertise and ensure that health and environmental protection requirements are met. The assistance provided by Circuit Riders keeps water and wastewater systems in compliance with EPA rules and reduces - often by thousands of dollars - repair and maintenance costs borne by small rural communities that lack sufficient financial resources.
For example, last year, a Circuit Rider in Sedona, Ariz., helped train local water operators on fire hydrant repair. The training enabled the water operators to fix four inoperable hydrants. By repairing and not buying new hydrants, the town was able to save an estimated $10,000. Also in 2008, a Circuit Rider from the Alabama Rural Water Association helped conduct a survey to detect the source of a major water leak that prevented more than 20 customers from receiving water. The Macon County Water Authority in Tuskegee, Ala., will use the survey's findings in its infrastructure rehabilitation plans. USDA's Rural Development funding to state rural water associations will enable other small towns like these to have access to technical staff and resources needed to operate and maintain water infrastructure.
The first $4.1 million in funding will be for technical assistance services performed between June 1, 2009, and October 31, 2009. The remainder will be used beginning November 1, 2009. In addition to the $14.2 million, USDA Rural Development anticipates making Recovery Act funds available later in the year through a competitive grant process for further technical assistance services. All states and the Territory of Puerto Rico are eligible to apply.
President Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law on February 17, 2009. It is designed to jumpstart the nation's economy, create or save millions of jobs and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st century. The Act includes measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief, and protect those in greatest need.
More information about USDA's Recovery Act efforts is available at www.usda.gov/recovery. More information about the Federal government's efforts on the Recovery Act is available at www.recovery.gov.
7.2.09 – HHS Releases Standard Terms and Conditions for awards funded in whole or in part with Recovery Act Funds.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently published its standard award terms and conditions for all grants and contracts awarded in whole or in part with Recovery Act funds. HHS grantees must comply with all terms and conditions outlined in their grant awards, including grant policy terms and conditions contained in applicable Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Grant Policy Statements, and requirements imposed by program statutes and regulations and HHS grant administration regulations, as applicable, unless they conflict or are superseded by the newly released Recover Act requirements.
To read the new requirements, click here.
7.1.09 – Department of Commerce Launches Initiative to Bring Broadband, Jobs to More Americans
Announce Availability of the $4 Billion in Recovery Act Loans and Grants to Increase Broadband Access and Adoption
WATTSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA—Commerce Secretary Locke joined Vice President Biden today to announce the availability of $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loans and grants to help bring broadband service to unserved and underserved communities across America. This is the first round of Recovery Act funding aimed at expanding broadband access to help bridge the technological divide and create jobs building out Internet infrastructure.
6.29.09 – First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Release of $851 Million from Recovery Act to Upgrade & Expand Community Health Centers, To Serve More Patients
Grants Will Support Centers that Provide Care to Millions of Americans
Washington, DC – First Lady Michelle Obama today visited Unity’s Upper Cardozo Health Center and announced the release of $851 million in grants to address immediate and pressing health center facility and equipment needs and increase access to health care for millions of Americans The money was made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and comes as more Americans join the ranks of the uninsured due to the economic downturn and skyrocketing health costs.
"Community Health Centers provide care to the Americans who need it most and their work has never been more important," said Obama. "These grants will help Unity’s Upper Cardozo and thousands of centers across the country expand and serve more Americans who simply can’t afford insurance coverage anymore. ."
The Recovery Act Capital Improvement Program (CIP) grants will support the construction, repair and renovation of over 1,500 health center sites nationwide. More than 650 centers will use the funds to purchase new equipment or health information technology (HIT) systems, and nearly 400 health centers will adopt and expand the use of electronic health records.
To see a list of Recovery Act CIP grantees by state, go to www.hhs.gov/recovery.
Health centers deliver preventive and primary care services at more than 7,500 service delivery sites around the country to patients regardless of their ability to pay; charges for services are set according to income. Health centers serve more than 17 million patients, about 40 percent of whom have no health insurance. Community Health Centers are the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
The Capital Improvement grant awards are the third set of health center grants provided through the Recovery Act. On March 2, President Obama announced grants worth $155 million to establish 126 new health center sites. Those grants will provide access to essential preventive and primary health care for more than 750,000 people in 39 states and two territories.
On March 27, HHS also awarded $338 Million in Increased Demand for Services grants for health centers. Health centers are using these Increased Demand for Services grants to provide care to more than 2 million additional patients over the next two years, including approximately 1 million uninsured people.
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Direct Loan Implementation
On July 8th, the Obama Administration sent out a letter to colleges and universities outlining ways to ease into the switch to direct lending. Congress has yet to approve the Administration’s plan to dissolve the Federal Family Education Loan Program, but the Department of Education is preparing for the switch. The letter describes how companies will handle collections, billings, payments, and customer services. Click here to view the letter.
President Obama’s FY10 budget calls for an end to FFELP, shifting all federally backed student loans into the government-run Direct Loan Program and using the savings to make funding for Pell Grants mandatory. However, the idea of making Pell Grants mandatory for the neediest college students was met with resistance by congressional appropriators. House appropriators instead opted to increase spending on Pell Grants by $43 billion, upping the annual grant maximum to $5,550 in 2010 and to $6,900 by 2019 in the FY10 LHHS appropriations bill. The bill also indexes increases in the maximum grants to the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percent.
The President’s plan has received strong opposition from Republicans, moderate and conservative Democrats who have major loan companies based in their districts, and lending companies. Many of these opponents are supporting an alternative based on a proposal developed by Sallie Mae earlier this year. Under the alternative, private lenders would continue to originate and service loans while the federal government would serve to provide the necessary capital. House Democrats are expected to unveil their bill to end FFELP later today.
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Classification of Instructional Programs Changes
On July 8th, the Classification of Instructional Programs, which is the code system for areas of academic instruction, was updated by the Department of Education. The codes will have to be used in responses to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Completions Survey starting Fall of 2010. Four-digit codes represent intermediate groups of programs while six-digit codes represent more specific instructional programs.
Click here and here to learn more about the changes
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White House Initiative on Educational Excellence
Juan Sepulveda, Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, is holding a series of community meetings in Texas to discuss ways to support efforts to improve quality education for Hispanic Americans. The purpose of the town hall style meetings is to gain public input on the standing of Hispanic education. Below is the schedule for this week:
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Texas A&M International University
Student Center—5201 University Boulevard
2:30—4:30 pm Community Conversation
Monday, July 13, 2009
San Antonio, TX
University of Texas at San Antonio
Downtown Campus—501 W. Durango Street, Southwest Room
12:30—2:30 pm Community Conversation
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
University of Texas at Brownsville
Salon Cassia, Education and Business Complex
1:00—3:00 pm Community Conversation
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Austin Community College
Room 1130—South Austin Campus, 1820 W. Stassney Lane
12:30—2:30 pm Community Conversation
Thursday, July 16, 2009
El Paso, TX
El Paso Community College
Building A—Board Room, Administrative Service Center
12:30—2:30 pm Community Conversation
Friday, July 17, 2009
Houston Community College
3100 Main Street—Auditorium
12:30—2:30 pm Community Conversation
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Punctuated by several recent high profile cyber attacks that penetrated computer systems at U.S. and South Korean government agencies, the White House is moving forward with a Bush-era plan to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks, with AT&T as the likely test site. Under a classified pilot program approved during the Bush administration, NSA data and hardware would be used to protect the networks of some civilian government agencies. Part of an initiative known as Einstein 3, the plan calls for telecommunications companies to route the Internet traffic of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would search for and block computer codes designed to penetrate or otherwise compromise networks. The plan is part of a $17 billion cyber-security initiative that began in 2008.
How best to secure the country’s military and civilian computer networks has been the subject of intense debate, with multiple agencies claiming overlapping jurisdiction on the issue. The struggle was highlighted recently by the resignation of Rod Beckström, the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber-security chief. Beckström resigned citing concerns over inadequate funding and bureaucratic infighting. Recently, Defense Secretary Gates issued an order to establish a command to defend military networks against computer attacks and develop offensive cyber-weapons, a system that he stated should also be equipped to safeguard civilian systems. In a memo to senior military leaders, Gates recommended that President Obama designate that the new command be led by the director of the National Security Agency. Additionally, President Obama is expected to announce the appointment of a cyber-security czar, a senior White House official with broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation’s government-run and private computer networks. Former Republican Congressman Thomas M. Davis III, R-Va. (1995-2009), the current director of consulting firm Deloitte LLP’s federal government services branch, is considered the frontrunner for the position.
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Health Care Reform
Until recently, the White House has allowed Congress to negotiate the details of its health care reform measures without much interference. However, with time until the August recess running short, on Monday White House officials stepped up their involvement by summoning Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel to discuss the timetable for passage of a comprehensive reform bill. Timelines for the health legislation have faced numerous setbacks, with House Democratic leaders finally unveiling their version of the bill Tuesday after struggling to regain support from moderate and conservative Democrats threatening opposition over the bill’s price tag and other issues. Nevertheless, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not shied away from the goal of moving the bill to the floor for a vote before recess. According to Senate Finance Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, his committee’s version of the bill may be unveiled as soon as Thursday. Baucus, however, would neither confirm nor deny the timing for release of their bill. Their agreement, a bipartisan deal negotiated between Baucus and Grassley, was originally scheduled to be released in early June. However, differences over whether to include a public insurance option and how to pay for the measure have slowed negotiations. On July 8, 2009, representatives of the major hospital associations, the White House and the Senate Finance Committee announced a tentative deal on financing a portion of the health reform package. The Finance Committee version is due to be merged with the bill currently being marked up in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
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On Wednesday, July 8th President Obama nominated Dr. Francis S. Collins to lead the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins, a physician and geneticists, was long considered a leading candidate for the position since the departure of Elias Zerhouni, the previous director of NIH. Previously, Dr. Collins ran the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute for 15 years before leaving the organization in 2008. Before he began work at NIH, Collins ran a lab at the University of Michigan that discovered the genes for cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease, adult acute leukemia, and a number of other diseases. Higher education associations praised the selection as a substantial step in the right direction for NIH, especially for promoting biomedical research. Collins has also been influential for his writings on the link between science and religion.
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Stem Cell Regulations
On Monday, July 6th the National Institutes of Health set forth new guidelines for federally-funded human stem-cell research. The new rules will permit such research if a review panel determines that couples gave the necessary “informed consent” for the use of their embryos. This same standard will also apply to older cell lines procured over the past decade. In addition, the National Institutes of Health will also establish a registry of approved lines – a step that will make it simpler for institutions and individual investigators to conduct stem-cell research using any of the approximately 700 lines thought to currently exist. The announcement has received overwhelming support amongst scientific research communities and was endorsed by the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Association of American Universities. Researchers have been awaiting this announcement since President Obama’s March 9 executive order (13505) directing NIH to allow expanded federal support of stem-cell research.
The new guidelines also place certain restrictions on the use of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in NIH-funded research, even if they are procured from eligible sources. Research in which hESCs or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) are introduced into non-human primate blastocysts; research involving the breeding of animals where hESC or iPS cell studies may contribute to the germ line; or research using hESCs derived from human embryos or other sources, including somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT, also known as therapeutic cloning or research cloning), parthenogenesis, and/or IVF embryos created for research purposes are not eligible for NIH-funding.
Click here to read more about the NIH policy of stem cell research.
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FY10 Appropriations Update
The FY10 Appropriations process is moving quickly through Congress. The House and Senate have had full committee votes on almost all appropriations bills with a few exceptions. The House has had full floor votes on almost all of its bills while the Senate is moving at a slightly slower pace.
Click Here to view the status and committee reports of appropriations bills in Congress. Things change weekly so continue to follow this link for updates. The list below includes a few highlights that may be of interest. To view summaries of each Senate bill click on the “subcommittees” link on the Senate Appropriations Committee website . To view summaries of each House bill, click on an individual subcommittee listed on the left on the House Appropriations Committee website. Summaries are also currently listed on the front page of the website.
The FY10 Senate legislation includes $23.7 billion in its discretionary budget, which is an increase of $2.3 billion from 2009. Mandatory funding is set at $100.8 billion which includes funding for major programs like Nutrition/WIC, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Child Nutrition, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. It also includes $2.787 billion for the USDA research agencies which will allow for $1.229 billion for the Agricultural Research Service and $1.306 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The House legislation includes $1.19 billion for the Agricultural Research Service and $1.253 billion for the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
House: $22.9 billion
Senate: $23.7 billion
The Senate version includes $6.15 million for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): $18.68 billion for NASA including $4.5 billion for science and $507 million for aeronautics research. The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $6.9 billion including $5.55 billion for research, $122 million for research equipment and facilities, and $857 million for education activities. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would get $878.8 million. This includes $69.9 million for the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) and $124.7 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive more than $4.77 billion including $430 million for research including climate science. The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) continues the policy of providing PTO with full access to fees collected from inventors which is estimated to be $1.9 billion for FY10.
The House version includes $1 billion for all aspects of STEM education. It also includes $4.5 billion for NASA scientific discovery including $501 million for aeronautics research. NSF would receive $6.9 billion for research. NIST would receive $781 million including $125 million for MEP and $70 million for TIP. OSTP is funded at $7.15 billion. NOAA would receive $4.6 billion including $400 million for climate research. As a whole, the bill includes over $2 billion to study global climate change.
House version: $64.4 billion
Senate version: $64.9 billion
Energy and Water
The House version includes $26.9 billion for the Department of Energy to fund its mission:
- Energy Efficiency and Rewable Energy: $2.25 billion including $259 million for solar energy research; $235 million for biofuels research; $373 million to improve vehicle technologies; $30 million to research generating power from flowering water, and $210 million to research conservation technologies for buildings and industry to reduce energy needs.
- Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability: $208 million including $62.9 million for smart grid R&D; $15 million for energy storage R&D; $46.5 million to support secure grid technologies as part of cyber security; and $42 million to increase efficiency of the grid.
- Office of Science: $4.9 billion including $1.7 billion for basic energy sciences research and $2.4 billion for applied research.
- Environmental Clean-up: Over $6 billion is included for nuclear contamination clean-up including uranium enrichment clean-up
- Nuclear Energy: $812 million to support R&D
The Senate version includes $27.398 billion for the Department of Energy:
- The Senate version includes $255 million for solar energy research; $235 million for biofuels research; $323 million for vehicle technologies; $60 million for water power energy R&D; and $202.698 million for building technologies.
- Office of Science: $4.899 billion
- Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability: $179.6 million
- Environmental Clean-up: $5.763 billion
- Nuclear Energy: $761 million to support R&D
House funding (Dept. of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and Dept. of Energy): $33.3 billion
Senate funding (Dept. of Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and Dept. of Energy): $34.271 billion
The House version includes $30.3 billion for NIH ($938 million increase from last year)and $6.6 billion for CDC ($239 million increase from last year). Also, $171 million is included for Nursing training programs and $222 million for Doctors and other health professionals training. Pell grants are increased by $119 to $4,360. Support is included for funding community health centers at $2.2 billion, childhood immunizations at $496 million, rural health at $289 million, state health access grants at $75 million, state high risk insurance pools at $75 million, and hospital infection reduction at $22 million.
The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant to $4,860. Additional mandatory funding under the College Cost Reduction Act makes the maximum Pell Grant $5,550. Student financial aid is funded at $1.9 billion through programs including Perkins Loans, federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, and the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships.
House funding: $151.8 billion
Senate funding: unknown (Senate is still considering its bill)
The House version includes $42.63 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security. This includes $382 million to address cyber security needs and $19.5 million is provided within Science and Technology to research technologies to deal with cyber attacks. The bill includes a total of $968 million for Science and Technology for research into cyber security, improved biological sensors, improvised explosive devices, and first responder technologies.
The Senate version includes $398.7 million for cyber security. A total of $994.9 million is provided for Science and Technology.
House Funding: $42.63 billion
Senate Funding: $42.926 billion
State and Foreign Operations
The House version includes $48.843 billion in funding including $600 million to fund educational, cultural, and professional exchange programs. It also includes $200 million for higher education programs under bilateral economic assistance.
The Senate version includes $48.69 billion in funding including $635.2 million for Educational and Cultural Exchange Programs. It also includes $200 million for higher education programs under bilateral economic assistance.
House funding: $48.843 billion
Senate funding: $48.69 billion
The Financial Services Appropriations bills in both the House and Senate fund many entities including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Department of Treasury, the District of Columbia, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Small Business Administration.
House Funding: $24.15 billion
Senate Funding: $24.4 billion
The Legislative Branch Appropriations bills includes funding for the Architect of the Capitol, Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office, Library of Congress, Capitol Police, and Congress.
House Funding: $3.7 billion
Senate Funding: $3.136 billion
Military Construction and Veteran Affairs
The House version includes $45.1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration with $580 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research. The Senate version includes $41 billion for the Veterans Health Administration for medical services including $580 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research.
House Funding: $77.9 billion
Senate Funding: $76.7 billion
Interior and the Environment
Funding is included to fund the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior. Funding is included to support protection of water, air, and land and to support programs to battle climate change. Also, money is included to fund the Bureau of Indian Affairs and to support Native American communities. The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and Smithsonian are funded under this bill.
House Funding: $32.3 billion
Senate Funding: $32.1 billion
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USDA Animal Research Regulations
On July 1st the federal district court for the District of Columbia approved a settlement signed by the Department of Agriculture that will require animal-research facilities, including those operated by universities, to publicly disclose more details about research involving pain or distress inflicted on animal subjects. The settlement comes after the Humane Society filed suit in 2005, claiming that the USDA had denied access to and removed information from annual reports detailing the circumstances under which animals were subjected to conditions involving “pain and distress”. The settlement requires the department to make available on their Web Site old reports that were previously unavailable or incomplete, as well as to complete and post any reports for fiscal years 2009 to 2013, and to list any institutions that do not file their reports. Some research scientists have voiced concerns that the release of more detailed information concerning their research may expose them to an increased risk of attack, such as the recent animal-rights-motivated firebombing of a UC-Santa Cruz scientist’s home.
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Energy and Climate Change Legislation
After successful House passage of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, progress slowed in the Senate as the Democratic leadership pushed back the deadline by which the 6 committees of jurisdiction must report on the bill. This week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a series of hearings related to the legislation, but a full committee markup of the bill is not anticipated until after the August recess. A Senate vote on the bill is not likely to occur until late in the fall or possibly the spring session. Additionally, on Monday Senate Republicans introduced an alternative climate change measure in opposition to the Democratic plan. The GOP alternative, which was formally introduced by Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), relies heavily on the use of nuclear power, calls for more spending on research and development, and promotes an increase in offshore oil and gas drilling. The measure also proposes the construction of 100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years and argues that it would help the United States meet carbon emissions limits under the Kyoto Protocol by the year 2030. The measure has support of all 40 Republican Senators, but is unlikely to gain further support.
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Recently introduced legislation
For a listing of recent legislation sponsored by members of the Texas delegation, visit the Recent Legislation page of our Web Site.
To view Roll Call votes recently passed legislation, click here: (House, Senate)
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