Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Story Told by Failed Amendments

house As we’re sure you know from Schoolhouse Rock, when a bill goes through committee, members can propose amendments to enhance this aspect or that of the given legislation. In the House, amendments are sent to the Rules Committee and accepted or rejected there, not in committee or on the floor. The Senate does it in committee and again in the full chamber, where it can become a bit of a free-for-all. (The amendment process is where a lot of pork can get into a bill, but also a lot of good refinements.)

In the process surrounding the 2010 Appropriations bill in the House, this is an opportunity for Republicans to get their priorities into mostly Democratic-written legislation (and also Democrats not on the Appropriations committee) – it was, of course, the other way around before 2006 – and hope the amendments are not then voted down by the Rules committee.

We’re not Congressional historians, but we suspect the element of show is important here, and most amendments from the opposition get voted down. But don’t quote us – we can’t say that this is really true.


With that preamble out of the way, let’s look at some of the nuclear-related amendments that were knocked down by the Rules committee. They’'ll give you a sense of where the nuclear argument is going, even if not quite getting codified yet.

We’ve listed the sponsor and amendment number.


Directs Department of Energy funds to Yucca Mountain. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)


Would prohibit funding from being used to administer the Department of Energy's "Yucca Mountain Youth Zone" website. [This one was withdrawn.] Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.)


Would reduce funding for energy efficient building research by 5% and redirect that sum to the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative.  Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.)


Would prohibit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from relicensing a nuclear power plant that has had one or more major leaks in buried pipes that are part of the plant's safety system during the last calendar year. Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.)


Would increase by $115,717,000 funding for D.O.E. Defense Environmental Cleanup, offset by a reduction in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy account. Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)


Would insert a sense of Congress that nuclear energy should be considered to be renewable energy for the purposes of any renewable portfolio standard. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)


Would strip all Davis-Bacon prevailing wage provisions from the bill. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)


Would strike section 310 of the bill, which adds Davis-Bacon requirements to the bill. Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)


Would increase by $76 million funding for Nuclear Waste Disposal, offset by eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)


Would increase by $76 million, funding for D.O.E. nuclear energy activities, offset by eliminating the Appalachian Regional Commission. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)


Would prohibit funds from being used to collect funds for Nuclear Waste Fund if the President does not first publish in the Federal Register a notice certifying Yucca is the selected and permanently designated site for the development of a repository for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)


Would prevent funds from being used to terminate the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Rep. Aaron Schrock (R-Ill.)


Revised Would increase funding for Nuclear Waste Disposal by $80 million, offset by a $1.5 million cut to Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), $1.5 million cut to Central Utah Project Completion Account, $1.8 million cut to Department of the Interior Policy and Administration, $23.573 million cut to Strategic Petroleum Reserve, $11.263 million cut to Energy Information Administration, $17.041 million cut to Department of Energy Departmental Administration, and a $24.6 million cut to FERC Salaries and Expenses. Rep. Aaron Schrock (R-Ill.)


Would provide $70 million for the Department of Energy's Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, offset by reducing funding for the Office of Science by the same amount. Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)


Would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to delay or terminate construction or permitting of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

As you can see, there’s a bit of mischief here, but mostly reasonable items.They provide a sense of how future budgets might treat nuclear energy and some of the elements surrounding it, most particularly Yucca Mountain and the question of used nuclear fuel.

You can see what the Davis-Bacon Act is about here. Rep. Mack really doesn’t like this act and last month introduced with Rep. Steve King the Davis-Bacon Repeal Act. You can read about that here.

The two Democratic entries are minor: we suspect DOE will do something about the first without prompting and the second is an attempt to do away with Indian Point – Hillary Clinton took a run at this goal during her time in the Senate. We don’t know why the Appalachian Regional Commission is targeted for elimination by Rep. Neugebauer – nothing about it on his Web site.

Your House of Representatives.

1 comment:

Ruth Sponsler said...

The Davis-Bacon Act just means that Federal contractors can't get away with paying $7.25/h ($1160/month assuming 160 hours of work/month) in locations where the cost of rent for a small apartment is $1500/month.

In other words, if the cost of living in a region is so high that the prevailing wage is higher than the national average, contractors are required to meet the prevailing wage for the region.

This is primarily for projects in locations with high housing costs, such as California and the Boston-New York-Washington urban corridor. Chicago and Seattle would probably be affected also, because costs are pretty high in those cities. Las Vegas is expensive, but rural Nevada has lower housing costs.

Most parts of Florida actually have living costs only slightly above the national average, so I'm not sure why Rep. Connie Mack has his knickers in a knot about this issue, other than that he cares not about the needs of the worker-bees to be able to pay their rent or mortgage.

I think some of the Yucca Mtn. amendments are reasonable, but the thing against the Davis-Bacon act is not. It's just another swipe against hard-working Americans.