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GOP House Passes Big Government Energy Bill

The reason many of us don’t trust the current crop of Republicans to actually downsize existing federal programs is because they often agree to create new government interventions into the private sector.

Case in point?  Yesterday’s obscure vote to create a new program within the Department of Energy.

It has become clear this year that House Republicans have no interest in forcing a fight on must-pass legislation nor do they have the stomach to pass stand-alone bills that draw a sharp contrast on contentious issues, such as illegal immigration, religious liberty, and gay marriage.  They don’t want to address other conservative solutions, such as devolving transportation and education to the states or repealing the pernicious ethanol mandate, which raises the cost of food and fuel – all great issues to promote during an election year.  Instead, they want to run out the clock and squander their time in the majority passing the most innocuous bills.

To that end, they have spent most of their time pushing these “non-controversial” suspension bills, which need a two-thirds majority to pass.  One of those bills that passed the House yesterday was H.R. 2126 – Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014, sponsored by liberal Republican David McKinley (WV) and Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT).  Here is a synopsis of the bill from CRS:

Amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to study the feasibility of: (1) significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of separate spaces with high-performance energy efficiency measures, and (2) encouraging owners and tenants to implement such measures in separate spaces. Requires the Secretary to publish such study on DOE’s website.

Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a voluntary Tenant Star program within the Energy Star program to recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in separate spaces. Requires DOE’s Administrator of the Energy Information Administration to collect data on categories of building occupancy that consume significant quantities of energy and on other aspects of the property, building operation, or building occupancy determined to be relevant to lowering energy consumption. Prohibits the impact on climate change from being a factor in determining energy efficiency of commercial building tenants. [emphasis added]

Talk about picking winners and losers!  This opens the door to the government collecting data on construction of private buildings and incentivizing specific behavior through green venture socialism.  As always, these things start out as voluntary propositions, but quickly morph into full-blown mandates.

Also, like most green energy programs, the DOE will carefully craft the grant programs to benefit liberal crony capitalists who can’t sell their sub-par product or service in the free market without the extra boost from government.

Moreover, why are we adding another program to a department that Republicans [were supposed to] believe serves no constructive purpose?

At some point we need to ask why Republicans feel so uncomfortable being in the majority that they have to fill their time passing Democrat bills.

And unlike some of the other suspension bills, this is not an isolated measure that will stall out in the Senate.  The Welch/McKinley bill overlaps with a broader Shaheen-Portman bill that has been percolating through the Senate for the past few years.  They recently introduced another iteration of the bill and can now point to the fact that 86 percent of House Republicans supported much of the foundation for their legislation.  Rep. Welch has already said that passage of this bill “provides a clear path to conference” with the Senate.  They might take up this bill as early as next week.

Passage of this bill marks a new milestone for the GOP establishment. First they gave Senate Democrats a de facto super-majority with a number of Republicans voting with them on key issues.  Then House Republicans began rubber-stamping some of their bad bills, often in violation of the Hastert Rule.  Now they are pre-emptively passing Senate Democrat legislation in the House even before Reid takes up the bill!

At some point we are going to learn that a GOP majority does not have much utility unless we replace the current roster of failed leaders.

Cross-posted at the Madison Project

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