Political notebook

GOP moves quickly to kill climate-change panel

December 2, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Republicans will eliminate the House committee created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to highlight the threat of climate change, Representative James Sensenbrenner, the top Republican on the panel, said yesterday.

In one of her first acts as speaker in 2007, Pelosi, a California Democrat, created the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to draw attention to climate-change science and showcase how a cap on carbon dioxide need not be a threat to economic growth.

Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, was named chairman.

Republicans, who won control of the House in the Nov. 2 election, have opposed legislative efforts to regulate carbon emissions.

When the panel convened yesterday, Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said the hearing “will be the last of the select committee.’’

The lawmaker had advocated extending the panel as a forum to scrutinize Obama administration actions.

In an opinion column on Nov. 8 in the Washington newspaper Roll Call, he wrote that the committee was more qualified than any other to challenge Obama environmental initiatives that he said may threaten the economy. He acknowledged that other Republicans thought the panel should be eliminated to save money.

“We have pledged to save taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,’’ said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Representative John Boehner, who is to become speaker in January. The committee, created as “a political forum to promote Washington Democrats’ job-killing national energy tax, was a clear example, and it will not continue,’’ he said.

The election increased the ranks of Republican climate-change skeptics in both the House and Senate, according to ThinkProgress, an arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a Washington research group allied with Democrats.

Markey criticized the attitude among many Republican lawmakers.

“While members of Congress may question the science of global warming, the rest of the world does not,’’ he said in his final statement as chairman.

The panel held 75 hearings, creating a record of evidence showing that humans are causing the planet to warm and that the United States is in danger of falling behind in the race for clean-energy technologies, Markey said.

China plans to invest $738 billion on clean-energy technologies, he said.

“The politics may change but the problem isn’t going away,’’ Markey said. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

McConnell sets his sights on Kennedy’s old office
WASHINGTON — The Liberal Lion’s lair soon will be occupied by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell decided yesterday to take over the prime Capitol Hill office of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, according to aides briefed on the move.

McConnell is effectively evicting the office’s current occupant, Senator Scott Brown, who inherited the office after winning election to Kennedy’s seat. The office, on the third floor of the Senate’s Russell Office Building, boasts an outdoor patio and a stunning view of the Capitol.

Offices are doled out on the basis of seniority, and senators have been choosing which offices they want. Several Democrats turned down Kennedy’s before McConnell took it last night, according to the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to speak publicly.

Brown, as a freshman senator with little seniority, now could be forced to move to the virtual Siberia of Capitol Hill offices. His staff members have been showing senators around Kennedy’s former office half-heartedly for days, saying things like, “We’re so cramped here’’ in an effort to dissuade them from taking it.

The move is expected to take place before the new Congress convenes next month. — DONOVAN SLACK

Pending a budget, federal spending stays status quo
WASHINGTON — The House has given federal agencies another two weeks to continue normal spending programs while Congress wrestles with the larger problem of how to fund the government during the current budget year.

The stopgap measure extends government operations through Dec. 18 at budget-year 2010 levels. Without congressional action, most government agencies will have to shut down as of midnight Dec. 3.

The measure now moves to the Senate.

The temporary action was necessary because Congress did not pass any of the 12 annual spending bills for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Congressional negotiators are considering several longer-term options, including putting together a massive $1 trillion-plus catch-all spending bill or extending current spending levels into next year. — ASSOCIATED PRESS