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May Day 2023: The Week Ahead in Climate Hearings

Blackmail, Brinkmanship, and Billionaire Backroom Deals

It’s May Day, Beltane, International Worker’s Day. Protesters against French President Emanuel Macron’s pension cuts are clashing with police in Paris. “Support our law enforcement,” responded Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. A dust storm in Illinois caused a cataclysmic crash, the blackthorn is blooming in Scotland, and the Green Man is on the march.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen formally warned Congress today the United States could reach the debt ceiling limit by June 1st, establishing a deadline for the high-stakes game of chicken. President Joe Biden has invited the Congressional leadership to the White House for a meeting on May 9th to begin serious negotiations on what so far has been a mutual standoff.

The House of Representatives is not in session this week, so other than Rep. Pete Stauber’s (R-Minn.) field hearing on mining the Iron Range on Tuesday, this week’s climate-related hearings are all in the Senate.

The marquee climate hearings this week are in Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-R.I.) Budget Committee. On Wednesday, he chairs a hearing on the “Real Cost of Fossil Fuels,” and on Thursday a hearing on the GOP efforts to use the debt ceiling to kneecap Biden’s clean energy investments. More details are below the oriole.

Tuesday, May 2

At 9 AM, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) chairs the first of two Agriculture subcommittee hearings this week accepting testimony from agricultural lobbyists on the “farm safety net,” including crop insurance. Tuesday’s hearing has dry bean, sorghum, wheat, dairy, rice, cotton, soybean, sugarbeet, peanut, and corn lobbyists.

At 9:30 AM, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland faces off against the hostile Energy and Natural Resources Committee, led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), to discuss her department’s $18.9 billion budget request. Though most of the department’s budget can be reasonably considered climate-friendly, about $500 million of the budget is in support of oil and gas leasing and $15 million is intended for supporting carbon capture and sequestration. Guess which part of the budget Manchin and Barrasso like?

At 10 AM, Banking chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) chairs a hearing on the National Flood Insurance Program, with testimony from the Environmental Defense Fund’s Dr. Carolyn Kousky, Roy Wright, president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, and Patty Hernandez, executive director of Montana’s Headwaters Economics in Montana.

Meanwhile, Appropriations Foreign Operations chair Chris Coons (D-Del.) reviews the Biden administration’s international conservation budget with Gillian Caldwell, Chief Climate Officer and Deputy Assistant Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kaddu Sebunya, President and Chief Executive Officer, African Wildlife Foundation, and Dr. Andrew Steer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bezos Earth Fund. The entire USAID budget is $2.3 billion, which is almost two percent of Jeff Bezos’s personal wealth.

At the same time, Defense chair Jon Tester (D-Mont.) reviews the $185.5 billion Army budget.

In the afternoon, Foreign Relations East Asia chair Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) discusses the State and USAID budget for the region, including: $632 million for developmental assistance in the region, $291 million for health programs, $228 million for economic support, $195 million for diplomatic efforts, $176 million for migration and refugee assistance, $129 million for foreign military financing, $75 million for nonproliferation and demining efforts, $27 million for drug control, and $16 million for military training.

Wednesday, May 3

As mentioned above, Sen. Whitehouse is chairing Who Pays the Price: The Real Cost of Fossil Fuels, at 10 AM. The witnesses are the economist Dr. Ted Gayer of the center-right Niskanen Center, Dr. Nicole Deziel, Associate Professor Of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, and the GOP witness Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Heritage Foundation, formerly of the Reagan, Bush, Bush and Trump administrations.

Also at 10 AM, the Environment and Public Works committee reviews the $7.4 billion US Army Corps of Engineers budget, as Appropriations subcommittees simultaneously review the U.S. Department of Energy budget and the Environmental Protection Agency budget.

Thursday, May 4

Sen. Whitehouse’s hearing on the debt ceiling at 10 AM has the engaging title of The Default on America Act: Blackmail, Brinkmanship, and Billionaire Backroom Deals. The announced witnesses are economist Mark Zandi, Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp, and Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Meanwhile, Manchin conducts oversight of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Smith receives testimony from lobbyists for the crop insurance industry, and Foreign Relations chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) takes testimony from the ambassadorial nominees for Peru, Ecuador, Jordan, and the Caribbean.

In the afternoon, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chairs a hearing on the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. The latest reauthorization, passed in 2019, includes the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. Part of ASPR is the National Disaster Medical System, which provides “personnel, equipment, supplies, and a system of partner hospitals that work together with state and local personnel to provide care in response to disasters” including fossil-fueled hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.

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