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POLITICS: PennAve

Snow delays congressional action on bills to blunt Obama agenda

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Senate,House of Representatives,PennAve

Congress will remain shuttered on Monday in anticipation of a major mid-Atlantic snowstorm, but when lawmakers return later this week, the House will take up legislation aimed at blocking the Obama administration's regulatory reach.

The storm will also delay a Senate vote on President Obama's controversial pick to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed the vote on attorney Debo Adegbile, whom conservatives have criticized for his far-left record and a resume that includes serving as the defense lawyer for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer.

The House, meanwhile, will culminate it's week-long effort to blunt the impact of the Obama Administration's agenda with two votes, scheduled for Wednesday. One measure would delay the individual mandate that serves as the lynchpin of the Affordable Care Act. The second piece of legislation would block the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing tough regulations on coal mining plants.

The first bill, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., would lift the 2014 tax penalty that is to be levied on those who do not purchase health insurance. The 2014 fine is $95 or one percent of annual income, but Jenkins argued that it should be eliminated this year because of the disastrous rollout of the law that left many uninsured and the fact that President Obama has granted numerous waivers, including a delay in the employer mandate.

The bill will easily pass the Republican-led House and will likely pick up Democratic support, but the Democratically-run Senate is unlikely to consider it.

The Electricity Security and Affordability Act, sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., will also breeze to passage in the House but stands no chance in the Senate, even though Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is a co-author of the bill.

The bill reins in the EPA, strictly limiting the type of regulations on carbon emissions it can impose on coal plants to those, “able to be achieved by commercial power plants operating in the real world.”

The bill would also give Congress the power to decide when the EPA’s regulations can be implemented on existing plants.

The EPA, Whitfield said, is “acting beyond its legal authority by proposing unworkable regulations that would mean it would be impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant in America.”

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Whitfield’s bill “scientific lunacy,” that will endanger future generations by prohibiting the EPA from trying to reduce the pollution emitted by coal-fired plants.

On Thursday, the House will likely pass the Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act of 2013, which would streamline the process of granting permits for energy and infrastructure projects. Republicans say the bill would help the economy and create jobs by more quickly clearing the way for projects that often languish for months or years awaiting federal government permits.

Democrats say the bill could allow potentially dangerous projects to move forward without adequate safety reviews.

The House will also vote on a measure aimed at helping residents in colder climates who are experiencing a surge in home heating prices due to propane shortages. The legislation would extend a a Department of Transportation waiver on hours of service limitations for truck drivers who deliver heating oil.

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