Frank Pallone Jr

Grid Cybersecurity Bills Advanced by House Energy Subcommittee
Bipartisanship crumbles for export bill

The committee advanced bills to protect the electric grid and pipeline control systems from cyber attack. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Bipartisan bills that aim to improve the government’s response to cybersecurity attacks on the electric grid advanced out of a House Energy and Commerce panel Wednesday. The action was the latest sign of heightened awareness on Capitol Hill that malicious hackers might be able to turn out the lights.

Four pieces of legislation — all focused on putting into statute coordination within the Department of Energy to prevent cyber attacks on the grid and other energy infrastructure — were advanced by the Energy Subcommittee by voice votes. The votes showed unusual unity on the often-partisan panel.

Dems Question Scott Pruitt Death Threats; Barrasso Rejects Hearing
EPA chief's security concerns questioned

Senate Democrats question whether EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is embellishing death threats to justify heightened security details and want to question him in a hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming said he will not hold oversight hearings to examine alleged ethical lapses by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, including on exorbitant spending on security.

Two top Democrats on the committee, ranking member Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, on Tuesday demanded such hearings, saying they have confidential documents that contradict public statements made by Pruitt, EPA spokespersons and President Donald Trump regarding the administrator’s security spending.

Bipartisan Deal Opens Path to Reauthorizing FCC, Spectrum Sale
Walden, Pallone, Thune, Nelson all party to deal

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., left, and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., helped make a deal on reauthorizing the FCC and forging a path for spectrum auctions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Key House and Senate members unveiled a bipartisan agreement Friday on a Federal Communications Commission reauthorization that would provide the agency with more than $330 million annually in fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

The agreement also resolves issues that were slowing spectrum auctions for wireless technology.

House Oversight Probes Scott Pruitt’s Travel Expenses
EPA administrator has been under fire for first-class travel and luxury hotel stays

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is among several Trump administration officials under scrutiny for possible travel violations . (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As questions about the official travel habits of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt mount, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is demanding documents and other information on his first-class flights, as it looks into whether federal laws were broken.

Pruitt has for several months been under fire for incurring high travel costs at taxpayer expense. After recent news reports of Pruitt’s use of expensive first-class flights and stays at luxury hotels, an EPA spokesman said the administrator had been given a “blanket waiver” to fly first class for security reasons.

Trump to See Black at SOTU Because of What He Probably Won’t Talk About
Chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group: ‘All our fears have come true’

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., takes a group photo of Democratic women wearing all white for President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress last year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic women want President Donald Trump to see a sea of black when he looks at the crowd in the House chamber during his State of the Union  address on Tuesday.

“We were very concerned about what was going to happen in the Trump administration to women, and all our fears have come true, unfortunately,” Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Working Group. “There’s a lot of anxiety, as you can expect, among the Democrats — actually, among the country — about what’s been going on.”

Plan to Boost Coal and Nuclear Could Cost Consumers
Should consumers pay more so coal and nuclear plants can survive?

Energy Secretary Rick Perry testifies during the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing Oct. 12. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

For years, federal regulation of the electric grid has focused on keeping prices low and competition stiff. But that could change with a recent proposal from the Trump administration to put more emphasis on what it calls resiliency.

According to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the electric grid is more resilient — able to bounce back from disasters of the natural and man-made variety — when it has plenty of so-called baseload power that can run 24/7, with or without sunshine or wind and regardless of supply snags.

Summer of Storms Tests Energy Resilience
Lawmakers, administration battle over what it means to rebuild

A downed electric pole sits in mud in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 9, more than two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

While the Trump administration proposes to make the nation’s electric grid more “resilient” by propping up nuclear and coal-fired power plants, a wide range of energy advocates say there are better — and greener — ways to achieve the same goal.

And they are urging leaders to heed the lessons provided by the massive storms that took down electricity lines in parts of Texas and Florida and left U.S. island territories in the Caribbean in the dark for weeks.

House Volleys CHIP Measure to Senate
Issue of offsets to cost are major sticking point

The House passed a reauthorization of CHIP, and now it’s the Senate's turn to consider renewing the health insurance program’s funding. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

After months of disputes and delays, the House voted Friday to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, community health centers and other public health programs. The legislation passed easily, 242-174, although many Democrats opposed the measure due to disagreements over the offsets.

“Three times at the request of the Democrats, we delayed committee action,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon. “These delays meant Congress went past the deadline of Sept. 30. We cannot wait any longer. Patients cannot wait any longer.”

Word on the Hill: When Kinzinger Isn’t a Congressman
Your social calendar for the week

From left, Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., take a selfie on Inauguration Day before Donald J. Trump’s inauguration in January. Kinzinger joined Barstool Sports for a podcast. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is a pilot in the Air National Guard, which is a hard balance with his life in Congress, since members of the military are supposed to keep their politics to themselves.

He joined Barstool Sports’ Zero Blog Thirty podcast for a pilot-heavy episode in which he talks about that division.

Media Interference Talk Dominates FCC Head’s Appearance
Pai: ‘Federal government has no business intervening in the news’

FCC head Ajit Pai, shown here in September, spoke Wednesday before the Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai vowed to pull government “out of the newsroom” by changing media ownership rules. As he appeared before a House panel Wednesday, Pai proposed to end longstanding restrictions on ownership of daily newspapers and broadcast radio or television stations serving the same community. 

Pai also deflected criticism from Democrats that he did not offer a more forceful defense of NBC and other networks against social media jabs by President Donald Trump. The president raised the prospect of revoking NBC’s license after one of its news reports early this month.