Congressional Update

Last week, the main event was House passage of H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act. The bill, which would expand oil and gas drilling and roll back environmental protections, including major pieces of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, is, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), dead on arrival in the Senate. Still, House Republicans can use this as a political marker for the rest of the 118th Congress, especially as gas prices will likely remain a very hot topic in the next election cycle. While this is largely a messaging bill for republicans, H.R. 1 received four democratic votes, making it the first time H.R. 1, a bill number always reserved for the Speaker’s top priority, has received bipartisan support since 2007.

In addition, the Senate voted 53-43 to repeal the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule that was implemented by the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. A major point of contention since it was introduced in 2021, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the rule was not a “commonsense conservation measure,” but instead that it was a “radical power grab that would give federal bureaucrats sweeping control over nearly every piece of land that touches a pothole, ditch, or puddle.” Still, despite its bipartisan passage in the Senate, this move is largely symbolic as the President has promised to veto any legislation that would repeal the rule.

Separately this week, the Energy Marketers of America (EMA) joined more than 150 groups to support the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2023. Led by Senate Minority Whip John Thune, if passed, the bill would do exactly as is stated in the title and would repeal the estate tax that is defined by the IRS as a tax “on your right to transfer property at your death.” While perhaps not the purpose of the tax, many family-run farms and other family-owned businesses are often impacted by these taxes and, in many cases, families must sell the business in order to satisfy the tax obligation. This repeal would let families retain assets and ownership of their businesses for generations. Opponents say that this is a handout for the wealthy, but while it may impact wealthy individuals as well, the principle is the same—why shouldn’t a person be able to provide for their families into the future? This legislation has a tough path forward in a Democratically controlled Senate; however, the House would likely pass it if given the opportunity.