A $4 Billion Oil Win for Biden?

A $4 Billion Oil Win for Biden?

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Reuters
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, December 19, 2022

Happy Monday! The 117th Congress is working to wrap up its business before the holidays. Today, that meant the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol held its final public hearing and voted to refer to the Justice Department unprecedented criminal charges against former president Donald Trump. It also means that lawmakers and their staffs were scrambling to finalize a roughly $1.7 trillion package funding the government through the end of the fiscal year.

Here's what we’re watching:

Congress Races to Close Out 'Last Major Item' for 2022

‘Tis the season for budget crunches on Capitol Hill. Once again, government funding runs out Friday night and lawmakers face a deadline to prevent a Christmas shutdown of federal offices, set spending levels through September and get the heck out of town.

Congressional appropriators worked through the weekend to finalize the massive package containing the 12 annual spending bills and other legislation — and, as of Monday evening, they were reportedly just about ready to unveil the text, expected to run thousands of pages long.

“Appropriators are racing around the clock to finish the last major item on our to-do list for 2022: an omnibus package that will keep the government funded into next fall,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. “Despite having a little more work to do, the omnibus continues heading in the right direction. We must wrap the whole process up and vote on final passage before the end of the week. It won’t be easy, but we are working hard so we can get it done before the end of the week and be with our families for Christmas.”

The details of the package are likely to face some criticism once they are released, as is the process for passing the bill. House Republicans have railed against Senate Republicans for working with Democrats to pass full-year funding legislation this year rather than waiting until 2023, when the GOP will control the House and could have leverage to force spending cuts. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday defended the year-end package and portrayed it as a win for Republicans, who appear to have successfully pushed back on Democratic demands for “parity” in spending increases for defense and non-defense programs.

“This bill will grow defense spending and cut non-defense, non-veteran spending after inflation,” McConnell said. “This is a strong outcome of Republicans and, much more importantly, it’s the outcome that our nation’s security actually needs.”

Quote of the Day

“If we’re successful, we’ll have probably done them a favor. There probably won’t be much thanks for it.”

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key negotiator of the massive year-end spending bill, as quoted by Politico on House Republicans and others in his party who have been criticizing the spending bill and had hoped to push off the budget deal until next year, when their party controls the House. Shelby, Politico reports, “thinks his work will help save the House GOP majority from itself next year, staving off months of bitter infighting over federal spending bills.”

Senate Republican Leader McConnell on Monday paid tribute to Shelby, who is retiring after 36 years in the Senate and eight years before that in the House. “People around the Senate like to say that Richard Shelby doesn’t just see down the road,” he said. “He sees down the road and also around the corner.” Which means he’s likely right about House Republicans.

Number of the Day: $4 Billion

President Joe Biden earlier this year authorized the emergency release of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of an effort to down gas prices that had surged to record highs. The U.S. government sold 180 million barrels of oil for an average price of $96.25 a barrel, far higher than the recent market price near $75 a barrel. That means that, as of now, the U.S. has a theoretical profit of almost $4 billion ahead on its oil trade, The Wall Street Journal reports. And, by the way, gas prices have fallen to an average of $3.14 a gallon, their lowest level since July 2021.

Now the government is set to begin replenishing its oil reserves, though it’s not clear yet just how much it will ultimately add back. The Energy Department last week solicited bids for 3 million barrels under new rules that give it more flexibility in buying back oil and allow for fixed-price purchases, potentially reducing exposure to market volatility. “This repurchase is an opportunity to secure a good deal for American taxpayers by repurchasing oil at a lower price than the $96 per barrel average price it was sold for, as well as to strengthen energy security,” the Energy Department said.

Biden Aims to Cut Homelessness by 25%

On any given night, more than half a million people are homeless in the U.S., and on Monday the White House released a new plan to reduce that number by 25% over the next two years.

The White House strategy, developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and titled “All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” provides guidance to multiple federal agencies on how they can use billions of dollars provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide shelter and services for the homeless.

The White House says its approach is based on policies implemented during the Obama administration between 2010 and 2016, during which time there were significant reductions in homelessness. The plan calls for a coordinated effort across agencies to address the multiple causes of homelessness, including a housing shortage, slow wage growth, lack of access to support services, and fatigue among service providers. Racial disparities among the homeless will be a particular focus.

“My plan offers a roadmap for not only getting people into housing but also ensuring that they have access to the support, services, and income that allow them to thrive,” Biden said in a statement. “It is a plan that is grounded in the best evidence and aims to improve equity and strengthen collaboration at all levels.”

Read the full federal plan on homelessness here.

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