Friday, October 30, 2015

Morgan Griffith on Pipelines and Byrd Baths

From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9):

"Pipelines, Pipelines Everywhere
On October 22, my colleagues and I on the Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan regulations for new and existing power plants.  4 out of 5 witnesses at this hearing said at some point that these are “cap-and-trade”-style regulations.  Previously, Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, insisted the Clean Power Plan was not a cap-and-trade program.

When I questioned the witnesses, I mentioned American Electric Power’s Glen Lyn plant in Giles County, which the Roanoke Times reports shut down “…because of emissions regulations proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” (regulations later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court).  I also noted that Appalachian Power’s Clinch River plant in Russell County will be closed forever.

I then asked witness Raymond L. Gifford, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, “These power companies are having to make these decisions well in advance, and as the result of that, they are building all kinds of gas pipelines, isn’t that true?  Across the country?”

“Absolutely, they have to,” Mr. Gifford emphatically replied.

In other words, this Administration’s anti-coal policies are resulting in some of these pipelines like the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines being proposed throughout the nation.

Byrd Baths and Kabuki Dance

Last week, the House of Representatives with my support passed H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act which, among other things, will repeal major parts of Obamacare, including its slush fund, its individual and employer mandates, the medical device tax, and others.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the reconciliation package will decrease the federal deficit by approximately $130 billion over the next ten years.  The bill would also defund the federal monies going to Planned Parenthood, reinvesting those resources into community health centers to help women get the care they need.  There are fewer Planned Parenthood locations than there are rural health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers in the Ninth District.

It is now the Senate’s turn.

Last week, Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a joint statement in which they lamented that the reconciliation package could go further and repeal Obamacare in full.  I, too, would like it to go further, but the House is sending the Senate what we believe is the best proposal which also is in compliance with the Senate’s complex and sometimes subjective parliamentary rules which looks like a complicated kabuki dance.

“Reconciliation” is a legislative procedure that allows for changes in laws dealing with mandatory spending programs, entitlements, and/or revenues so as to achieve budgetary goals outlined in a budget resolution.  Under this process, only a simple majority of Senators is required for passage.  This means that the legislation cannot be filibustered using the modern filibuster/cloture rules.

But this is Washington, and it’s not as simple as it may initially seem:  because Senators’ right to unlimited debate is restricted, procedures are in place to restrict the legislation’s contents.

The so-called “Byrd Rule” generally requires provisions in a budget reconciliation bill to have a budgetary impact.  Senators may raise procedural objections to provisions thought to be “extraneous,” and the appointed Senate Parliamentarian will decide if the provisions pass the test.

If the objection is sustained, the offending material is removed from the text and called a “Byrd Dropping.”  The Parliamentarian’s decision may be overruled and the text in question may be retained with a super majority of 60 votes.  Legislation that has been picked apart in this process has gone through a “Byrd Bath.”  

This is a convoluted and frustrating process which, in my opinion, was developed to offset some of the negative aspects of the Senate’s current modern filibuster/cloture rule, which requires a super majority of Senators in order to take a vote on any issue.

Accordingly, when crafting this reconciliation legislation (with its various Obamacare repeals), the House worked to see that the bill would not drown in the Byrd Bath.

It is perhaps possible that Senators Lee, Cruz, and Rubio could amend our bill and make it better, and I welcome them to do so.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671.  To reach my office via email, please visit my website at  Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives."