Washington Weekly – May 29, 2015

May 29, 2015

The Senate passed the Trade Promotion Authority bill last Friday evening by a vote of 62 to 37. The bill now goes to the House where it may face opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. The bill allows the White House to send trade agreements to Congress for straight up-or-down votes without any amendments. President Obama needs the bill to complete an Asia-Pacific trade agreement. The Senate also cleared a two-month reauthorization of highway and transit programs keeping them running until July 31. The bill has been presented to the President for his signature. The Senate rejected the motion to invoke cloture (vote of 57 to 42) on the House-passed HR 2048, the USA Freedom Act as well as on S 1357, a two-month extension of provisions of the Patriot Act (vote of 45 to 54).

Upcoming Congressional Deadlines

Last week the House and Senate passed a short-term reauthorization for highway and transit programs pushing off the deadline for these programs to July 31. There are a number of other looming deadlines in Congress. Here are some of the programs that are set to expire this year:

June 1:           USA PATRIOT Act

June 30:        Export-Import Bank

July 31:          Highway and Transit Reauthorization

Sept. 30:        Child Nutrition & WIC

Sept. 30:        FAA Authorization

Sept. 30:        End of the Federal Fiscal Year

Sept/Oct:        Extraordinary Measures for dealing the Debt Ceiling run out and default becomes possible.

EPA Renewable Fuel Standards

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set the annual standards for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for each year. This morning the EPA released a regulatory action that proposes to establish the annual percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuels that apply to all gasoline and diesel produced or imported in years 2014, 2015, and 2016. EPA is also proposing the applicable volume of biomass-based diesel that will be required in 2017. The EPA proposed volumes below those originally set by Congress with the RFS for 2014 set at the levels that were actually produced and used as transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel in the contiguous U.S. and Hawaii. For 2015 and 2016, the EPA is proposing ambitious increases in both advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel in comparison to 2014 levels.

Volumes Used to Determine the Proposed Percentage Standards

  2014 2015 2016 2017
Cellulosic biofuel 33 mill gal 106 mill gal 206 mill gal n/a
Biomass-based diesel 1.63 bill gal 1.70 bill gal 1.80 bill gal 1.90 bill gal
Advanced biofuel 2.68 bill gal 2.90 bill gal 3.40 bill gal n/a
Total renewable fuels 15.93 bill gal 16.30 bill gal 17.40 bill gal n/a

Proposed Percentage Standards

  2014 2015 2016
Cellulosic biofuel 0.019% 0.059% 0.114%
Biomass-based diesel 1.42% 1.41% 1.49%
Advanced biofuel 1.52% 1.61% 1.88%
Total renewable fuels 9.02% 9.04% 9.63%

The EPA is seeking comment and any new data to inform setting the final volume standards, and will hold a public hearing on June 25, 2015, in Kansas City, Kansas. The Agency intends to take final action on this proposal by November 30, 2015.

EPA Fact Sheet:


EPA Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:


Army Warfighting Challenges

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno laid out a list of 20 capabilities the Army is seeking—including a light vehicle that airborne troops might use during an assault, vertical lift, a “lighter tank-like capability,” etc. The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFCs) are enduring first order problems, the solutions to which will improve current and future force combat effectiveness. These challenges will be reviewed and updated as needed to remain applicable for the future force. The last review of the AWFCs and related learning demands was completed on May 1st.

Army Warfighting Challenges:


Two-Page Flyer of Challenges:


Political Updates

Two new Republican candidates threw their hats into the ring this week for the 2016 Presidential race – former NY Governor George Pataki and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA). They join the already crowded Republican field that includes Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The announced Democrat field includes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) announced this week that she will seek the democratic nomination for the US Senate to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in his bid for re-election in 2016. Kirkpatrick is currently serving her third term in Congress with seats on the Agriculture and Transportation Committees.

Dr. Peter Lyons, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy, will retire on June 30. Lyons was confirmed over four years ago. The Administration will also lose Wendy Sherman at the end of June, when she steps down from her position as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the State Department. However, the Administration is gaining Alan Davidson as Director of Digital Economy at the Commerce Department. Davidson was associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology until 2005 when he left to open up Google’s Washington office. He left Google in 2011 to head the think tank New America’s Open Technology Institute. And the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is getting a new Chief Technology Officer. Susannah Fox joins HHS replacing Bryan Sivak who stepped down in March. Fox is the first female to hold this position at HHS. She previously was associate director of the Pew Research Center and more recently the “entrepreneur in residence” at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Next Week

The Senate will return on Sunday May 31 at 4 pm and resume consideration of a proposal to temporarily extend expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. The House may take up H.R. 2578, the Commerce Justice Science spending bill; HR 2577, the Transportation HUD spending bill; H.R. 2289, the Commodity End-User Relief Act; and H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. The House Appropriations Committee will consider the FY16 Defense spending bill in full committee on Tuesday morning and the FY16 State Foreign Operations spending bill in subcommittee on Wednesday morning.

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