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Still, Republicans remain several votes shy of the 67 needed in the 100-member chamber to override a presidential veto.

The Senate passed legislation Thursday approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, setting up a looming veto showdown with the White House.

The legislation passed on a 62-36 vote, after lawmakers spent weeks considering amendments. The House passed a similar bill earlier this month, though there are slight differences that have to be ironed out before the bill can go to President Obama’s desk.

The vote nevertheless marked the first time the Senate has voted to approve the controversial Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline. Nine Democrats joined with 53 Republicans to back the measure.

“Constructing Keystone would pump billions into our economy,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote. “It would support thousands of good American jobs and as the president’s own State Department has indicated, it would do this with minimal environmental impact.”

Russ Girling, CEO of the company behind the project TransCanada, said in a statement Thursday afternoon the firm was “encouraged” by the “strong bipartisan” showing in the Senate.

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The EPA Makes Yet another Hypocritical Overreach

by Joyce Lambert on January 30, 2015

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The Environmental Protection Agency is hypocritically overreaching again in the name of protecting our environment and our citizens. Off the Grid News recently reported the EPA is about to finalize a set of regulations in February that will effectively ban the production of about 80% of the wood and pellet burning stoves and furnaces in America. One furnace company has already advertised that its classic outdoor furnaces will be outlawed by the new regulations and will no longer be available later this spring.

The EPA argues that such a ban would improve air quality, requiring that any wood furnaces used from now on must burn 85% more efficiently. The new regulations will prohibit the sale or trading in of old wood stoves. Currently, about 12% of homes in America rely upon wood as their primary source of heat.

Columnist Larry Bell of Forbes.com recently wrote, “It seems that even wood is not green or renewable enough any more…. [It’s] the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents. The agency’s stringent one-size-fits-all rules apply equally to heavily air polluted cities and far cleaner plus typically colder off-grid wilderness areas such as large regions of Alaska and the America West.”

Some local and state governments in Washington State and Utah have already applied wood burning bans which are even stricter than the new EPA rules.

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Romney announces he will not run for president in 2016

by Joyce Lambert on January 30, 2015

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No ‘third time is a charm’ for Romney.

Mitt Romney announced Friday he will not run for president in 2016, after briefly flirting with a third White House run — a decision that only slightly narrows the crowded field of potential Republican candidates.

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it’s best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney told donors on a conference call Friday morning.

The announcement comes after the 2012 GOP nominee, who repeatedly denied interest in another campaign, surprised donors earlier this month by telling them he was considering it.

Since then, the former Massachusetts governor spent three weeks calling donors and strategists and giving a handful of addresses, including to a Republican National Committee summit. But while some from his former campaign team were willing to wait for his decision, others were already gravitating toward the budding campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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Trey Gowdy, Elijah Cummings

“If you want all of the truth, you need all of the information.”

The Democratic members, headed by Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, seek veto power over the committee’s subpoenas and object to Gowdy’s examination of witnesses by only the GOP members.

The Democrats would rather debate the matter than hear what the witnesses have to say.

Gowdy, a former South Carolina prosecutor, knows that giving Democrats veto power over issuing subpoenas would mean no witnesses would be called at all.

“I am unwilling to let the minority party veto subpoenas when it is clear they have prejudged the outcome of the investigation,” Gowdy said, according to the Washington Examiner.

“The minority has repeatedly indicated it is unwilling to issue any subpoenas. If subpoenas are necessary for the committee to talk to relevant witnesses or access relevant documents, they will be issued.”

Gowdy is having none of it.

“But I will not allow the minority’s political games and unreasonable demands to interfere with the investigation,” he said. “The time for negotiations has passed, and the committee is moving on under the rules and scope approved by Congress.”

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So eager to help everyone else but Americans.
Check it out:

President Obama will ask Congress in his 2016 budget to approve $1 billion to help Central American countries in the wake of last summer’s surge of unaccompanied children entering the United States illegally.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said the “security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own.”

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tsa

If this prevents someone who is up to no good from boarding there shouldn’t be a problem….
Check it out:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says language included in a draft agreement that was to allow private contractors to scour air travelers’ social media activities and credit card purchases before approving them for expedited travel under the agency’s PreCheck program was included “inadvertently.”

The TSA recently fileda request for proposal which included the draft agreement with third-party vendors the agency plans to hire to pre-screen PreCheck applicants.

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What Does the Future Look Like for American Coal?

by Daily Policy Digest on January 30, 2015

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As the debate on global warming heats up, renewable energy has received increased attention.  As of 2012, 40 percent of the United States’ electricity came from coal. The rest came from natural gas (26 percent), nuclear power (20 percent) and hydropower, renewable energy and other sources (14 percent).

While coal remains America’s most used energy resource, it faces mounting challenges, writes Jacopo Zenti, research fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. Natural gas is becoming increasingly popular compared to coal due to a decrease in natural gas prices spurred by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies.  Worse, coal is the target of many Environmental Protection Agency regulations which seek to limit power plant emissions.

However, the decreased domestic demand for coal does not necessarily spell doom for coal producers.  In 2012, the United States produced 1 billion short tons of coal and exported 125 million short tons. More could be exported:

  • India, Japan and China all have increasing demand for coal, and China relies on coal for more than 70 percent of its energy production. 
  • Demand is also high in Europe — Germany decided in 2011 to replace its nuclear energy production with coal by 2022, which led to a doubling of American coal exports to Germany between 2010 and 2011. 
  • The United Kingdom and the Netherlands were the two largest importers of American coal in 2012, and American coal exports to Britain were 73 percent higher in the first three quarters of 2012 than in 2011.

Unfortunately, Zenti says projects that would aid in the exportation of coal have been delayed by environmental groups who want the global environmental impact of coal exports to be taken into account before authorizing new, local projects.  This has led to extensive delays and the cancellation of several projects.

While one might think increasing coal exports hurts the environment, Zenti says it’s not the environmental detriment that many would expect — restricting American coal exports to China, for example, will do nothing to reduce coal emissions, because China will consume more of its own coal (which comes from less regulated sources and is arguably dirtier than American coal) or import it from other countries. In short, other countries will not stop burning coal if America restricts its exports — they will simply stop burning American coal.

Source: Jacopo Zenti, "The Future of the American Coal Industry," National Center for Policy Analysis, January 30, 2015.

For more on Environment Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=31

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Getting Rid of Depreciation with Full Expensing

by Daily Policy Digest on January 30, 2015

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America’s tax code is confusing, to say the least. Often, businesses are not treated equally under the U.S. tax code, in part because of the way that they are required to "depreciate" their assets. A new report from Jason Fichtner and Adam Michel of the Mercatus Center explains the situation: While one might expect that businesses — like any person — deduct their expenses from their revenue each year in order to determine their profits, they don’t. Instead, the tax code requires them to take certain expenses — capital purchases, such as equipment or buildings — and deduct them slowly, over time.

The tax code classifies the "life" of all sorts of assets, and depreciation schedules are based on those lives. Tax-wise, the federal government benefits from depreciation, because it gives them more dollars to tax than if an investment were expensed, which Fichtner and Michel equate to an "interest-free loan." Businesses, on the other hand, suffer, and their investments lose value: Fichtner and Michel note that a $1 investment expensed immediately means a $1 tax write-off. But if that $1 investment is depreciated over a 39-year period, the tax write-off ultimately ends up being worth just 37 cents.

What’s an answer to this problem? Fichtner and Michel advocate for "full expensing" — allowing businesses to deduct their expenditures in the year that they are purchased. This would make investment more attractive, improve the profitability of assets and treat all investments equally (Fichtner and Michel note that the current depreciation system allows for special treatment of favored industries, because all investments are treated differently).

Ultimately, full expensing would mean more economic growth — the report cites figures from the Tax Foundation finding that full expensing would raise GDP by more than 5 percent, increase capital stock by more than 15 percent and raise Americans’ wages by more than 4 percent — not to mention creating more than 885,000 new jobs.

Source: Jason J. Fichtner and Adam N. Michel, "Options for Corporate Capital Cost Recovery: Tax Rates and Depreciation," Mercatus Center, January 29, 2015. 

For more on Economic Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=17

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Government Intervention in Manufacturing

by Daily Policy Digest on January 30, 2015

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Included in the massive omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in December was the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. The bill gives the Commerce Department authority to establish networks of manufacturing innovation centers across the country.

Writing at Real Clear Policy, Thomas A. Hemphill, NCPA senior fellow and professor at the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management, explains the centers:

  • The Department of Commerce can appropriate $5 million each year for administrative expenses for the centers for 10 years, and the Secretary of Energy can transfer $250 million over a decade to match state and private funding for the centers.
  • Each center will have a specific, manufacturing-related focus, such as a new process or a new material.
  • Federal funding for each center will begin decreasing after two years of funding and will disappear after seven years. However, Hemphill notes there are that allow the Commerce Department to alter funding for the centers.

While promoting manufacturing has bipartisan support, Hemphill says the bill tilts the playing field in favor of the technologies the government decides to promote, moving away from policies that simply set ground rules that allow for industrial innovation and moving towards government intervention in the manufacturing sector.

Source: Thomas A. Hemphill, "Enabling Manufacturing vs. Tilting the Playing Field," Real Clear Policy, January 29, 2015. 

For more on Tax and Spending Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=25

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Which Cities Get the Most Return on their Educational Investment?

by Daily Policy Digest on January 30, 2015

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With student loans at record highs and college tuition rates rising dramatically, education spending talk has focused lately on higher education costs. But what about traditional public education? It’s hardly cheap. In 2012, state and local education costs were a whopping $869.2 billion.

In a new report, Richie Bernardo of WalletHub has compiled a list of American cities with the most and least efficient spending on education — which cities are getting the best return on their educational investment? The report compared standardized test scores for students in fourth through eighth grades with per capita spending, then adjusted for socioeconomic factors. What did it find?

  • Out of 90 cities, Miami, Florida had the highest return on investment score. While its test scores ranked 47th out of 90, its per capita education expenditures were the eighth lowest among the cities analyzed.
  • Second on the list was Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose test scores took 10th place among the 90 cities and whose education expenditures were just behind Miami’s.
  • Corpus Christi, Texas, had the highest standardized test scores, but it ranked 41st for per capita student spending, putting it in eleventh place for its return on investment.
  • The city with the lowest per capita spending was San Francisco, at $980 per pupil, but its test scores ranked 71st, putting it in the 51st spot for return on investment out of the 90 cities.
  • Buffalo, New York, spent the most per pupil ($3,409). Its high spending combined with poor test scores (it placed 70th out of the 90 cities) put it in the 87th spot for return on investment.
  • In last place was Rochester, New York, with the worst standardized test scores among the 90 cities and the second-worst per capita spending (at $3,176).

Bernardo interviewed NCPA Senior Research Fellow Lloyd Bentsen on education spending in the United States. Bentsen said that pouring more money into schools is not the way to improve education quality, noting that per-pupil costs in the United States have doubled over the last five decades, yet student achievement has remained flat.

Source: Richie Bernardo, "2015’s Cities with the Most & Least Efficient Spending on Education," WalletHub, January 2015. 

For more on Education Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/?Article_Category=27

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