Oo February 15, the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus introduced their first piece of legislation, the Challenges & Prizes for Climate Act (H.R.5031). Sponsored by Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) with five other caucus members signed on as original cosponsors, the bill aims to establish a Climate Solutions Challenges program within the Department of Energy to fund clean energy prize competitions and consequently spur innovation in key areas critical to combating climate change.
After the second session of the 115th Congress began on January 3, two new members were sworn into the Senate – Doug Jones (D-AL) and Tina Smith (D-MN) – bringing the party numbers to 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 2 Independents. There is now a one-vote margin separating the majority and minority for each committee in the Senate, except the Judiciary Committee which has a two-vote margin. House committee assignments have also shifted in the second session, with the Energy and Commerce Committee welcoming four incoming Republican members and new leadership announced in the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
On December 22, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill to provide for tax reform and legislation to continue funding the federal government under fiscal year (FY) 2017 levels through January 19. Lawmakers from various states impacted by hurricanes and wildfires this year were seeking billions more in disaster aid funding, but Congress stopped short of sending an $81 billion relief package to the President before the end of the year.
At an executive session on December 13, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of Barry Myers as Administrator of NOAA, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization Act of 2018 and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2017.
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) announced in a statement shared on Twitter on November 2 that he will not seek re-election in 2018 for his seat representing the 21st district of Texas. Representative Smith has served as a member of Congress since 1987, and will complete his six-year term as Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the end of the 115th Congress, which will conclude on January 3, 2019.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has four major appropriation bills remaining to consider during the current Congressional session, including an appropriations bill for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which will determine the FY 2018 budget for the U.S.
Responding to the widespread destruction from three catastrophic hurricanes, massive wildfires, and a bankrupt federal flood insurance program, the House passed a $36.5 billion disaster aid package on October 12.
After Congress returns from the August recess, the Senate will have 17 legislative days and the House will have 12 legislative days remaining before the September 30 deadline to agree upon and pass all discretionary appropriations legislation in order to avoid a government shutdown.
On June 7, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing about the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program. The AML Program is set to expire in 2021.