Friday, December 07, 2007

Legislative Week in Review VIIII

Returning from break, the Senate quickly approved the Peru Free Trade Agreement which, having already passed the House, will be signed by President Bush. The Senate also passed a bill, 88-5, that provides a one-year fix for the alternative minimum tax but without matching the cost of the tax relief with new tax revenues, after Republicans removed a provision that taxes investors in a swap (which is included in the House version).

The House approved energy legislation, 235-181. The centerpiece of the bill is a requirement to boost automobile fuel economy by 40 percent to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, the first such increase since 1975, when Congress enacted the federal auto fuel economy requirements. Senate Republicans blocked the bill, however, because ito would provide also $21.5 billion in tax incentives, mostly to promote development of alternative fuels, financed by eliminating or reducing $13 billion in subsidies for major oil and gas companies. And it would require 15 percent of electricity be produced from renewable sources by 2020. The tax and renewables mandate additionally drew a veto threat from the White House. A rewrite is likely.

A conference between the Senate and House intelligence committees voted to outlaw the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA against suspected high-level terrorists. The provision to the annual intelligence authorization bill would require all American interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a bill to combat global warming, 11-8, that would require carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 70 percent by 2050 and allow trading of emission allowances, known as a "cap-and-trade" system.

Lastly, congressional Democrats demanded today that the Justice Department investigate why the CIA destroyed videotapes of the interrogation of two terrorism suspects.

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