Energy & Environment

Perceived Ban on Federal Research for Gun Violence to Remain
Pending omnibus will not reverse the “Dickey Amendment”

Students protested in front of the Capitol last week as part of a national walkout and called on Congress to act on gun violence prevention. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The pending fiscal year 2018 spending bill will not address a perceived ban on the federal government conducting research into gun violence, according to congressional aides.

Whether any other gun control measures are added to the spending bill, expected to be released Monday evening, remains an open question. Aides said no final decision has been made yet whether to include Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s legislation related to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Opinion: Congress, the CBO Is Not Your Football
As omnibus approaches, lawmakers should resist the temptation to throw the agency around

CBO Director Keith Hall, right, talks with Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi before an oversight hearing in January. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress finally heads for a vote this week on a long overdue omnibus appropriations package for fiscal 2018 — a year that is nearly halfway over. Fiscal policy debates on taxes and health care have added friction to an already partisan atmosphere.

Caught in the middle of this endless wrangling on Capitol Hill about budget priorities — where to cut, where to spend — is an organization that has come under fire for telling it like it is on the cost of those proposals, the Congressional Budget Office.

Opinion: Putting the ‘N’ in SNAP Should Be a Farm Bill Priority
Program should be strengthened to promote nutrition among SNAP recipients

Among the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force is continuing incentives for recipients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Congress begins its deliberations on this year’s farm bill, it’s time to pay more attention to the “N” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Launched as a pilot program by President John F. Kennedy and expanded nationwide by President Richard Nixon, the food stamps program — now SNAP — has enjoyed bipartisan support over its nearly 60-year history. From its initial goals of supporting farm incomes and ensuring low-income families did not face hunger, it has evolved into an effective anti-poverty program. That evolution continues today with a focus on nutrition.

An Environmental Film Festival That Aims for a Big Tent
26th annual confab pitches itself as both mission-driven and entertaining

The 26th annual Environmental Film Festival in the nation’s capital is underway, and runs through March 25. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Maryanne G. Culpepper, executive director of the Environmental Film Festival in the nation’s capital, has a long-standing heads-up for filmmakers who arrive at screenings to talk about their movies. 

“People are going to challenge you with questions. Be sure that you really know your stuff, and don’t try to bluff your way through an answer, because they’ll call you on it,” she says. 

Flashback Friday: ‘BTUed’
Here’s a phrase from the past that you might not know the story behind

The term “BTUed” dates back to President Bill Clinton’s first year in office. (Maureen Keating/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Here’s a congressional throwback — a phrase or part of Capitol Hill culture that a younger generation of Hill staffers might not know.

The term (rhymes with rude) dates back to the Clinton administration. It was coined in 1993 during a debate on legislation to reduce the deficit, which included a proposal to tax the heat content — measured in British thermal units, or BTUs — of most forms of energy. 

At the Races: Keystone State Nail-Biter
Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Mark Your Calendars: The second congressional primaries in the country are in Illinois on Tuesday. Democrats are targeting four GOP-held seats in the state, where EMILY’s List has played an early, influential role backing candidates it thinks will be viable in the general election. But the Prairie State primary that’s received the most attention is actually in a solid Democratic seat. EMILY’s List is involved in this race too (although it took a while for the group to endorse), and it’s quickly become a flashpoint in the fight over the identity of the Democratic Party. On one side is first-time candidate Marie Newman, who’s backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (who carried the 3rd District in 2016), two members of the Illinois delegation (pictured above), New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, SEIU and a coalition of reproductive rights and progressive groups.

Tariff Fallout Could Shape Midterm Battlegrounds
Political observers in both parties are taking stock of potential effects

President Donald J. Trump with Rick Saccone speaks to supporters at the Atlantic Aviation Hanger on March 10 in Moon Township, Pa. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Trump administration’s controversial plan for new tariffs may seep into the debates of competitive House races — well beyond Pennsylvania steel country — that will determine in November which party controls the chamber.

Opponents of the tariffs on steel and aluminum also warn that if the administration carries through with the proposal and if other nations retaliate, the issue could spill into even more congressional districts, including in Republican-leaning farm country.

U.S. Sanctions Russia Over Election Interference, Energy Attacks
‘Russia’s behavior or lack thereof on the world stage is continuing to trouble us’

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump at a G-20 summit in Germany. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Trump administration announced Thursday sanctions slapped on two dozen Russian individuals and entities — including its top two security and intelligence agencies — it says were involved in meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and an ongoing attack on the American energy sector.

Senior administration officials said the penalties on five Russian entities and 19 individuals are intended to punish Russia for “malicious cyber activity” and the “reckless and irresponsible conduct of its government,” a rare public rebuke of the Vladimir Putin-led Kremlin by the Trump administration. Those actions include a U.S.-backed finding by the U.K. government that Moscow is linked to the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

Trump Knows Best on U.S.-Canada Trade, President Says
Trade office data contradicts stance

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13, 2017. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump let his top trade office know Thursday morning that when it comes to all data about the United States’ trading relationships with other countries, he believes his gut knows best.

During a Wednesday GOP fundraiser in Missouri, the president said Canada is among those countries that have a trade surplus with the U.S. and has treated America unfairly. He also admitted to being unaware if that statement was true when he said it to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. And he made clear he often simply wings it.

Opinion: Building a Water Workforce for America’s Future
Infrastructure investment must include training for those who manage our critical water systems

It is critical to invest in training for the engineers and technicians  who keep the nation’s critical water systems in operation, Tonko writes. Pictured above, the Kensico Dam and Reservoir in Valhall, N.Y. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images file photo)

America faces a tough reality when it comes to our drinking water infrastructure. Eighty-six percent of U.S. households today depend on public water, and the EPA has estimated that nearly $400 billion will be needed in the coming decades just to keep those systems in working order.

Unfortunately, underground pipes and pumps aren’t the only critical components of these systems that are being overlooked. Even as water system failures hit communities all across the U.S., the professionals who keep these beleaguered systems operating safely are aging too. Many are already approaching retirement. In fact, some 37 percent of water utility workers and 31 percent of wastewater utility workers are expected to retire in the next decade.

Five Cabinet Secretaries Face Senate Barrage
Questions range from infrastructure to nuclear waste to the Census

Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune's panel hosted five Cabinet secretaries on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

It’s not every day — or even every decade — that five cabinet secretaries walk in to testify at the same Senate hearing.

And while Wednesday’s Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing generally focused on President Donald Trump’s proposal to rebuild American infrastructure (and doubts about how to pay for it), senators took full advantage of having so many heavy hitters in one room.

35th PAC Boosting Morrisey with Digital and Mail in West Virginia
Super PAC attacks Jenkins for being “liberal Democrat”

35th PAC is supporting West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the GOP primary for West Virginia Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A super PAC supporting West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in the GOP Senate primary is pouring money into mail and digital efforts ahead of the May 8 primary. 

Morrisey is competing against Rep. Evan Jenkins and former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November. 

16 Thoughts Without Even Knowing Who Won in Pennsylvania
Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales gives decisive takeaways from an undecided contest

Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District between Republican Rick Saccone, left, and Democrat Conor Lamb was too close to call. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The special election race for Pennsylvania’s 18th District is too close to call, but many of the takeaways are the same, no matter whether Democrat Conor Lamb or Republican Rick Saccone ultimately prevails.

There will be plenty of hot takes on the impact of President Donald Trump on the race. But I think there’s one undeniable truth: If President Hillary Clinton were sitting in the White House, Republicans wouldn’t have been sweating this race. If blaming their nominee helps Republicans sleep at night, then so be it.

Sunshine State Senator Seeks More Sunshine
Marco Rubio proposes year-round Daylight Saving Time

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wants to change time. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Winters might not be quite so long and lonely if Sen. Marco Rubio gets his way.

The Sunshine State Republican wants to keep the sun out late, all year round.

Dave McCurdy, a Retiring Optimist Pushing Back on ‘Disciples of Declinism’
Former Intelligence chairman and current head of AGA reflects on two public careers

Former Oklahoma Rep. Dave McCurdy, president of the American Gas Association, will retire in February 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

After nearly four decades in Washington, former Rep. Dave McCurdy is still an optimist.

Even as the former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma and current head of the American Gas Association prepares for retirement, he says there is a lot Congress can learn from the swamp so easily derided by public officials who struggle to step out of their partisan foxholes.