Ahead of President Obama’s 12:30pm “remarks about investments in clean energy and technology included in the budget,” I am belatedly blogging this story which got a little lost in last week’s AIG madness. Congress is aiming to pass the FY2010 budget resolution before they break for Easter Holidays at the end of the month, though the AIG bills have set them back a week. There’s a debate, as they draft, about what to include in the instructions for budget reconciliation — a final funding bill at the end of the year that Congress doesn’t always get around to but looks likely to pass this year. In years past reconciliation has been a vehicle for large ticket items — just look at the battle over Clinton’s 1993 budget that included several of his campaign initiatives. President Bush saw through his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in reconcialtion — which avoids a filibuster as it only requires a simple majority to pass the Senate — as well as his 2005 Deficit Reduction Act.
Before AIG altered the mental state of most folks on Capitol Hill last week, the big topic was about whether or not the budget writers would include placeholders for health care reform and energy — a controversial step that many Republicans warned Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and OMB Director Peter Orszag against in hearings. Both men declined to rule out such a move and it appears increasingly likely that a placeholder will be set for health care in case it fails to go through the five committees that have jurisdiction under regular order or in case whatever compromise bill worked out is so embattled it will need the protection of reconciliation to get through.
But what of energy? The rationale behind including energy is tougher. First, there’s a debate on what should even be included in the energy bill — should the 2020 renewable energy incentives and expansion of the electricity grid for alternative energies be married to the proposed carbon cap-and-trade/green jobs bill? Some say yes, others are more dubious. Some environmentalists worry, as I note, that without a place in budget reconciliation they won’t see Obama’s energy agenda enacted this year. The Obama folks look at it with a longer view, noting they have executive branch rule changes in the works to attempt to regulate green house gases without legislative approval and they are moving full steam ahead with legislation on a parallel track to health care. We’ll see what the Dems produce in the budget resolution, but my sense last week from sources from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue is that energy probably won’t get a budget placeholder because: a) carbon cap-and-trade hasn’t gone through the 15-year ringer of hearings and debate the way health care has so limiting regular order is more problematic, and b) there are more Senate Republicans inclined to support large pieces of the energy legislation such the Maine moderates Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, John McCain, who has sponsored cap-and-trade legislation for years, Lindsey Graham, Bob Corker and Arlen Specter.