116th Congress Takes Office Amidst Partial Government Shutdown
January 3, 2019 | Lynn Abramson, President, Clean Energy Business Network
When members of the 116th U.S. Congress are sworn into office on January 3, 2019, they have their work cut out for them. Just before Christmas, it appeared that Congressional leaders were close to a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown—until President Trump made it clear he would not sign any spending bills without funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The incoming Congressional leaders will take office today and immediately begin work to resolve this impasse and proceed to an ambitious policy agenda.
The incoming freshman class includes 10 new Senators and 100 new Representatives taking office for the first time, with one race still contested. Republicans in the Senate have strengthened their majority to 53 to 47, with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) returning to their leadership posts. Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, with Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) returning as Speaker of the House, a position she last held from 2007 to 2011. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will become the House Minority leader. (Learn more about the 2018 election results and implications for federal and state energy policy.)
Negotiations over the border wall and government shutdown will remain the top priority in the coming days—or even weeks—delaying action on other key policy issues. Approximately 800,000 federal workers are impacted by the shutdown, with effects trickling throughout the U.S. economy and global stock market.
What energy programs are impacted by the shutdown?
The Department of Energy is funded through the remainder of fiscal year 2019, which ends September 31, due to a funding bill enacted in September 2019. However, many other agencies impacted by the current government shutdown manage programs relating to energy.
For example, the Department of Agriculture administers programs to support energy development on rural and agricultural lands, many of which were recently reauthorized by the 2018 Farm Bill. The Environmental Protection Agency regulates emissions of air pollutants and administers voluntary efficiency programs such as Energy Star and the Combined Heat and Power Partnership program. The Department of Interior and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration control permitting of energy development on public lands and offshore, as well as reviews of energy projects impacting threatened or endangered species. The Department of State works to address energy security, international energy development, and trade. The General Services Administration manages energy and water efficiency programs in non-military buildings, totaling more than 9,600 worldwide. The Department of Transportation regulates vehicle fuel economy, and along with Housing and Urban Development, administers efficiency programs. Finally, the Small Business Administration provides loans and research grants to small businesses, including those working in energy.
What’s next on the agenda?
Congressional leaders are continuing to meet with President Trump to negotiate a solution to the border wall standoff. Meanwhile, the President’s budget request is typically released in February, kicking off the consideration process for the next fiscal year. Other potential items on the Congressional agenda include tax extenders and infrastructure policy, both of which could substantively impact energy.
The Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN) works to advance the clean energy economy through policy, public education, and business support for small- and medium-size energy companies. Started in 2009 by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the CEBN is now a small business division of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The CEBN represents 3,000+ business leaders across all 50 U.S. states working with a broad range of clean energy and transportation technologies.