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Energy and Commerce Provisions in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act

December 9, 2011

To spur job creation and help offset the cost of extending payroll tax relief and unemployment benefit extensions, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act includes several policy priorities initiated in and considered by the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Jobs and Energy Security: the Keystone XL Pipeline

It has been more than three years since TransCanada submitted its application to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that will link oil supplies in Canada and North Dakota to refineries in the U.S., creating tens of thousands of jobs and increasing our access to safe and secure energy supplies at no cost to taxpayers.

On July 26, 2011, the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of legislation authored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) to require a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline by November 1, 2011. A total of 47 Democrats joined Republicans to vote for this pro-jobs, pro-energy legislation. At the time, the Obama administration opposed the legislation, saying “The bill is unnecessary because the Department of State has been working diligently to complete the permit decision process for the Keystone XL pipeline and has publicly committed to reaching a decision before December 31, 2011.” But on November 10, 2011, President Obama announced he was delaying a decision on the project until after the 2012 election.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act requires approval of the pipeline within 60 days unless the president determines the project is not in the national interest. The bill takes into account that the state of Nebraska and TransCanada are working together on a route modification and reflects the role of Nebraska’s governor in the re-route. Both the House and Senate have made development of the Keystone XL pipeline a priority this year, with similar bills introduced in both chambers to demand action on this important project. The bill language is consistent with legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate, and reflects ideas put forward in legislation in the House by Rep. Terry.

Click here to read more about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Job Creation, Innovation, and Public Safety: Spectrum Reform through the JOBS Act

Members of Congress from both parties, along with President Obama, have identified spectrum policy as a top priority for 2011. With the year coming to a close, the time to act on this issue is now. The Energy and Commerce Committee has spent the year examining opportunities for spectrum reform and refining a legislative proposal to achieve key policy objectives: promoting job creation, fostering innovation, assisting first responders, and reducing the deficit.

After holding five hearings, engaging in lengthy bipartisan negotiations, and securing input from a wide range of stakeholders, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) offered the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act.

Based on the JOBS Act, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act authorizes the Federal Communications Commission to conduct incentive auctions that will significantly expand the availability of wireless broadband for consumer use. New construction and maintenance of wireless networks will inject billions of dollars of new capital into the economy and create high-paying jobs in an industry that touches the daily lives of nearly every American business, consumer and citizen. The proceeds from these auctions will provide approximately $16 billion to help offset other costs in the legislation.

The legislation also achieves the longstanding policy goal of supporting the creation of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network. This will allow reliable and seamless communication among first responders, a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The bill ensures public safety officials will have the 20-MHz block of contiguous spectrum they have requested by reallocating the D block. It provides for the eventual return of existing narrowband spectrum that would be vacated as public safety transitions to the new interoperable broadband network. To further support public safety, the bill makes up to $6.5 billion in grants available for the construction of the interoperable public safety network and creates a governance structure for construction and operation of the network.

Protecting Jobs and the Environment: the EPA Regulatory Relief Act

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has been unrelenting in its regulatory approach, developing rules that are costly, burdensome, and a threat to our struggling economy. For example, its rules affecting more than 200,000 boilers, process heaters, and incinerators have generated widespread concern because of their cost, their lack of achievability, and the short period of time allowed for compliance.

On October 13, 2011, the House gave strong bipartisan approval to legislation authored by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) to give the EPA additional time and guidelines to develop achievable rules.

The Energy and Commerce Committee heard testimony this year from several affected industries and educational institutions about the expected harm that would come from EPA’s rules finalized earlier this year. The agency recently released proposed revisions to its boiler rules, but facilities will still be required to comply with very costly, stringent standards within the same strict timelines, jeopardizing thousands of jobs.

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act gives EPA additional time to develop rules that balance protections for jobs and our environment, and gives affected facilities the time they need to comply with new rules. Specifically, the legislation includes the EPA Regulatory Relief Act, the bipartisan bill approved by the House in October.

Click here to read more about the EPA Regulatory Relief Act; click here to see a sampling of support letters for the bipartisan proposal.

Protecting Seniors’ Access to Heath Care: The “Doc Fix” and Other Health Reforms

Unless Congress acts, physician payment rates under Medicare will be slashed by more than 27 percent. For years, Congress has been temporarily “patching” the broken Medicare physician payment system, sometimes for only a few months at a time. This fosters uncertainty for both doctors and patients, and it keeps policymakers focused on temporary changes rather than longer-term structural improvements to the program.

To prevent harmful cuts and create certainty so Congress can focus on permanent fixes to the system, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act provides two years of stable Medicare physician payment rates. Specifically, it averts the scheduled cuts and, instead, increases payment rates by 1 percent in 2012 and again in 2013. The Energy and Commerce Committee, working jointly with the Ways and Means Committee, will continue efforts next year to develop long-term solutions for Medicare that will reduce costs, protect seniors’ access to care, and put the program on a more secure financial footing. The broken physician payment system in particular will be a focus of upcoming reform efforts.

To pay for the “doc fix” and help offset the cost of extending payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act repeals elements of President Obama’s controversial health care law. The Energy and Commerce Committee has been working all year to dismantle the law with a particular focus on repealing unaccountable spending it contains. The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act builds on that effort, saving approximately $25 billion by reducing spending under the law.

U.S. Representative Fred Upton

U.S. Representative Joe L. Barton

Congressman Fred Upton has represented the commonsense values of southwest Michigan since 1987. In 2010, Fred was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. Read More»;