Like traditional daytime drama, the House of Representatives has been a soap opera. First, after a fractious couple of weeks of taking fire from conservatives in the House over the looming debt ceiling crisis, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH 8) announced that he would step down as Speaker and resign from Congress at the end of October. The heir-apparent, Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23), then dropped out of the race the day before the scheduled election for Speaker after it became clear that he did not have enough votes to be elected.
A mad scramble ensued until members coalesced around Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI 1) as the one person who could gain enough support to be elected, which occurred on Oct. 29. Ryan, who is the youngest to hold that position since 1869, received 236 Republican votes out of 247. He didn’t seek the position but was persuaded to run only after making it clear to the Republican Caucus that there were some things he would not give up – notably time with his family (he has three young children). The new Speaker pledged to change how the House operates, including making the process more accessible to rank-and-file members. He also served notice to his fellow Republicans that he expected their support in moving legislation through.
Speaker Ryan is no stranger to the forging industry, having visited forging operations in his district. He met often with representatives of the Forging Industry Association (FIA) during FIA’s annual Lobby Day activities and is a strong supporter of manufacturing in general.
Among the parting gifts given to Speaker Ryan by outgoing Speaker Boehner was a budget agreement that will avoid a government shutdown over the debt ceiling. The deal came together after several weeks of intense, secret negotiations among aides for Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, along with White House officials. It passed both houses of Congress in late October and was expected to be signed by the President.
The agreement, which raises the debt ceiling through March 2017 and increases defense and domestic spending by a total of about $80 billion over two years, was widely criticized by fiscal conservatives. However, enough Republicans joined Democrats in both houses to ensure its passage. The new spending will be offset in part by changes to Social Security and Medicare; auctioning off parts of the government-controlled wireless spectrum; crude oil sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; and some tightening of tax rules governing certain business partnerships. The whole deal is beneficial to incoming Speaker Ryan because the issue would have created an immediate leadership challenge to his Speakership.
Speaker Ryan faces a daunting task. He must rebuild the loyalty of the Republican Caucus and create an environment where the majority party can demonstrate that it can manage the people’s business in the People’s House. Many observers, including this one, believe he has the talent and the stamina to do the job … if he has the stomach.
In other news of interest to forgers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) finalized its “Clean Power Plan” rule regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants. Within 12 hours, the rule had been challenged in court by 26 states and at least 15 business organizations, making it the most heavily challenged regulation in history and likely setting up a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court.
As our loyal readers know, forgers and other energy-intensive manufacturers have been extremely concerned about the potential that they would become “regulated entities” if the rule is implemented. FIA has been actively engaged in the Partnership for a Better Energy Future, which is led by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. NAM and the Chamber are also leading members of the legal team that filed suit against the plan.
Legislative efforts to stop or delay the rule have already begun, including a challenge under the seldom-used Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to reject a regulation within 60 days by simple majority vote. House Joint Resolution 71 and Senate Joint Resolution 23 “disapprove” the regulations and are likely to pass as a significant statement of opposition. Alas, they are subject to a Presidential veto.
Is it 2016 yet?