Tales from the Trail

No more Mr. Nice Guy, Republican sets sights on Obama’s energy czar

Michigan Republican Fred Upton is known as a moderate who disappointed many conservatives by voting with the Democratic majority on some major issues including the taxpayer bailout of U.S. automobile manufacturers.USA/

But expect no more Mr. Nice Guy if Republicans win big on November 2 and he becomes chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Upton has a hit list of White House policy czars he plans to investigate starting with White House energy adviser Carol Browner. 

Upton says he’s in position to be awarded the chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. His staff circulated an interview with “Politico” in which he states his intention to investigate President Barack Obama’s “poisonous regulations” and the role of policy “czars” in the White House, including Browner.

“If we have the gavel, I can assure you that the oversight subcommittee will be very busy,” Upton said, adding that Browner can expect frequent invitations to testify.

Team Obama’s Environmental Irony Tour

OBAMA/Okay, so it’s August in Washington. It’s hot. Congress has gone home. Even the summer interns are packing up and getting out of town. So it’s not surprising that top members of the Obama administration might be ready for a road trip.

That’s basically what the White House announced in a statement headlined: “Obama Administration Officials Travel America, Talk Clean Energy Economy.” President Obama went to Indiana to announce $2.4 billion in funding for advanced battery and electric drive projects; Energy Secretary Steven Chu headed for Minnesota to look at renewable energy projects and North Carolina to announce a big grant to a lithium battery firm, finishing up the week in Massachusetts to talk about clean energy jobs at Harvard; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to a solar panel company in Colorado; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Florida and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Missouri.

ENVIRONMENT-USA/WINDProbably only a crank would wonder just how much greenhouse gas all this official travel spewed into the atmosphere. There’s no hybrid Air Force One, after all. But it does seem like an exquisite irony that, with the best of environmental intentions, the Obama team may have stomped all over the United States with a heavy-duty carbon footprint.

The First Draft: Green shoots and budget talk

USA-OBAMA/After the Obama team’s big announcement on health care and an even bigger deficit, now comes the hard part — actually sitting down and figuring out how much it’s going to cost, and how to make it cost less. President Barack Obama’s first public appearance today is a round-table discussion with business leaders on cutting employer health care costs.

Later, behind closed doors at the White House, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Commanding General Raymond Odierno, the head of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Then the president meets with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, one day after Gates replaced the top U.S. Afghanistan commander.

In congressional action, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano faces questions about her department’s 2010 budget from both sides of Capitol Hill. Lisa Jackson, who heads the Environmental Protection Agency, also faces budget questioning from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

First Draft: Al Gore heads for the Hill

GORE/Al Gore — who sometimes jokes that he “used to be the next president of the United States” — heads for Capitol Hill to testify about the fight against climate change. The former vice president and star of the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is slated to go before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he’ll discuss the latest legislation to curb the greenhouse gases that spur global warming.

Gore shares the spotlight with former Senator John Warner, the Virginia Republican who pushed a bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, his last year in Congress.

It’s been an environmentally-friendly week in Washington, with Earth Day on Wednesday prompting almost every U.S. agency to go green, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson headed for the Hill to urge passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the climate bill working its way through the House of Representatives. A similar bill failed last year, but that was then. Supporters hope that with a new administration which has been clear on its commitment to curb climate warming emissions, this kind of law has a better chance.

The First Draft: tax torture

The second round of Barack Obama‘s cabinet picks undergo their Capitol Hill hazing today. Who else screwed up on their taxes? Our elected representatives are sure to find out.

USA-OBAMA/ANNOUNCMENTConfirmation hearings today: Tom Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary; Lisa Jackson for the Environmental Protection Agency; Peter Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget; and Erik Shinseki at Veterans Affairs.

Keep an eye on Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. He’s the one who revealed that Timothy Geithner, who as Treasury Secretary would oversee the IRS, made a hash of his tax returns. Will Grassley make the issue more than simply an embarrassment for the Obama administration’s top money man?