Senate Republicans introduce bill to control nation’s debt

A group of Republican Senators introduced Wednesday legislation seeking to reduce the nation’s debt.© Shutterstock The Federal Debt Emergency Control Act — introduced by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — would require the Office of Management and Budget to declare a “Federal Debt Emergency” in […]

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A group of Republican Senators introduced Wednesday legislation seeking to reduce the nation’s debt.

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The Federal Debt Emergency Control Act — introduced by U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — would require the Office of Management and Budget to declare a “Federal Debt Emergency” in any fiscal year where the federal debt held by the public in the prior fiscal year exceeded 100 percent of that year’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“America has a debt crisis. Our nation is barreling toward $30 trillion in debt – an unimaginable $233,000 in debt for every family in America,” Scott said. “It’s a crisis caused by decades of wasteful and reckless spending by Washington politicians. Now, President Biden is continuing this way of governing by pushing for trillions in wasteful spending, raising the U.S. federal debt by 60 percent to $39 trillion and the debt-to-GDP ratio to 117% in 2030, the highest level ever recorded in American history.”

This emergency declaration would trigger steps to reduce the federal debt to levels below 100 percent of GDP. Among them, it would terminate any unobligated funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and any previous stimulus bills and require all legislation that increases the federal deficit, as determined by the Congressional Budget Office, to carry its offsets. Further, it would fast-track any legislation that would reduce the federal deficit by at least 5 percent over ten years.

“Spending beyond our means has consequences,” Scott added. “We’re already seeing rising inflation, which disproportionately hurts the poorest families, like mine growing up. That’s why today, I am leading my colleagues in introducing the Federal Debt Emergency Control Act to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending.”

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Security Industry Association supports Senate passage of research, innovation legislation

Security Industry Association (SIA) officials are expressing support for the Senate passage of legislation designed to increase research and development, education, and supply chain security innovation.© Shutterstock The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act strengthens domestic leadership in key technologies via research in key focus areas: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, high-performance computing, advanced computer hardware […]

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Security Industry Association (SIA) officials are expressing support for the Senate passage of legislation designed to increase research and development, education, and supply chain security innovation.

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The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act strengthens domestic leadership in key technologies via research in key focus areas: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, high-performance computing, advanced computer hardware and software, and robotics.

The measure was introduced by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN).

“The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act promotes valuable investment in federal R&D in areas like biometrics, AI and machine learning – emerging technologies that have a robust array of applications in security and life safety,” SIA CEO Don Erickson said. “SIA has long supported U.S. and allied leadership in innovation and applauds Sens. Schumer and Young for their bipartisan leadership on this beneficial legislation.”

SIA is committed to promoting policies supporting security innovation and life safety technologies while supporting domestic leadership in technology areas that include biometrics.

The organization noted it recently forwarded correspondence to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as a means of encouraging the administration and legislators to consider policies enabling leadership in developing biometric technologies and issue policy principles guiding the commercial sector, government agencies, and law enforcement on how to use facial recognition responsibly and ethically.

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ICI supports SEC plan to require companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions data

The Investment Company Institute (ICI) said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require companies to disclose direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions data and demographic information about their workforces.© Shutterstock The statement responds to a call for feedback that the SEC recently put out on climate change-related corporate disclosure. Consistent, comparable, and reliable data […]

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The Investment Company Institute (ICI) said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require companies to disclose direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions data and demographic information about their workforces.

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The statement responds to a call for feedback that the SEC recently put out on climate change-related corporate disclosure. Consistent, comparable, and reliable data about climate change and workforce diversity make it easier for fund managers to make investment decisions on behalf of retail investors who invest in their funds, ICI officials said.

“Mandating disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and workforce diversity will give fund managers the consistent, comparable, and reliable data they need to better assess current and future sustainability-related risks,” ICI President and CEO Eric Pan said. “While we believe certain disclosures should be mandatory, it’s essential that the SEC develops a regulatory framework that is flexible enough to allow disclosure practices to develop organically over time. Having a dynamic framework will enhance the quality and volume of disclosures about how sustainability-related risks could affect companies’ long-term value, which drives investment decisions. In the past, the SEC has successfully applied the materiality standard to principles-based regulation, and we believe that standard is an appropriate foundation for any climate change-related corporate disclosure framework.”

ICI also called on the SEC to promote the development of reporting practices before considering requiring companies to disclose other indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it should leverage private-sector initiatives so it can more easily catch up to sustainability-related reporting that US market participants voluntarily have achieved over the past decade.

Also, they said the SEC should allow companies to disclose climate change-related information in various formats and discourage the use of boilerplate language. In addition, it should promote a global framework for corporate sustainability disclosure, given the international nature of capital markets and the shared challenges that climate change poses worldwide.

Further, ICI states that the commission should require private companies that meet specific asset and shareholder criteria to disclose the same sustainability information as public companies so investors can assess those entities as well. Finally, it should establish a committee that includes a wide range of market participants — including companies, funds, and investors — to understand better how climate change risk affects companies.

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FHFA announces extension of forbearance for multifamily property owners

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced. © Shutterstock This is the third extension of the programs, which were set to expire on June 30, 2021. However, they remain subject to the continued tenant protections that […]

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced.

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This is the third extension of the programs, which were set to expire on June 30, 2021. However, they remain subject to the continued tenant protections that FHFA imposed during the pandemic.

“While COVID-19 cases are declining and many homeowners continue to emerge from forbearance, many renters, who are unable benefit from rising home prices, have not financially recovered from the pandemic. To help those families still struggling to pay their rent and to help multifamily property owners maintain their properties, FHFA is extending the multifamily COVID-19 forbearance and tenant protections through the end of September 2021,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said.

Property owners with Fannie or Freddie multifamily mortgages can enter a new or, if qualified, modified forbearance if they experience a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency. However, property owners who enter into a new or modified forbearance agreement must inform tenants in writing about tenant protections available during the property owner’s forbearance and repayment periods.

They must also agree not to evict tenants solely for the nonpayment of rent while the property is in forbearance. In addition, they must give tenants at least a 30-day notice to vacate and not charge late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent. Further, they must allow for tenant flexibility in the repayment of back-rent over time.

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Sens. Murray, Schatz introduce Climate Change Financial Risk Act

Legislation recently introduced in Congress would direct the Federal Reserve to conduct stress tests on large financial institutions to measure their resilience to climate-related financial risks.© Shutterstock The Climate Change Financial Risk Act of 2021 – introduced by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) along with Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) — would […]

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Legislation recently introduced in Congress would direct the Federal Reserve to conduct stress tests on large financial institutions to measure their resilience to climate-related financial risks.

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The Climate Change Financial Risk Act of 2021 – introduced by U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) along with Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) — would require the Fed to establish an advisory group of climate scientists and climate economists to help develop climate change scenarios for the financial stress tests.

“The climate crisis is already here—we see it in rising sea levels and more and more extreme weather events every year—and the significant financial costs that come with them,” Murray said. “We need to have contingencies ready to mitigate the financial damage of climate change to families in Washington state and our country’s economy as a whole. By ensuring the U.S. financial system is better prepared to confront climate change, we’re protecting the pockets of Washington state families. I’m glad that President Biden and his administration are taking the climate crisis seriously, and this bill will ensure that the Federal Reserve follows suit.”

With the input from the advisory group, the Fed will create three stress test scenarios: a 1.5-degree Celsius warming scenario; a two-degree scenario; and a “business as usual” scenario. For each scenario, the Fed will quantify how climate-related physical and transition risks could disrupt the economy and global business operations. The stress tests would be conducted every two years on the same large financial institutions currently subject to Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) stress tests. This includes firms with more than $250 billion in total consolidated assets,

Each covered institution would be required to create a remediation plan describing how it would evolve its capital planning, balance sheet, and other business operations to respond to the most recent test results. Fed objections to a remediation plan would limit the institution’s ability to proceed with capital distributions until the plan is adequately improved. Institutions would not have to increase their current capital based on the results of a climate stress test.

Further, the Fed would partner with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to design an exploratory survey to assess the ability of sub-systemic banks — those with more than $10 billion in assets — to withstand climate risks. The survey would be administered every two years.

Financial institutions face the risk of direct losses from severe weather events and fundamental changes like drought and sea-level rise, such as lower property values from increased flooding. They also face risks from market instability, an erosion of investor confidence, and changes in carbon-intensive asset values resulting from government policies and consumer preferences, the lawmakers said.

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Reps. Phillips, Walorski introduce bill to provide relief to startups

U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced legislation that would provide relief for startup businesses ineligible for other types of aid passed by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic.© Shutterstock The IGNITE American Innovation Act would help these small and mid-sized growth companies left out of the CARES Act and other stimulus packages […]

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U.S. Reps. Dean Phillips (D-MN) and Jackie Walorski (R-IN) introduced legislation that would provide relief for startup businesses ineligible for other types of aid passed by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The IGNITE American Innovation Act would help these small and mid-sized growth companies left out of the CARES Act and other stimulus packages to monetize up to $25 million of accumulated net operating losses (NOLs) and R&D credits.

“The Great Recession did severe and lasting damage to American entrepreneurship,” Phillips said. “We cannot and must not allow the COVID-19 pandemic to do the same. This bipartisan bill will deliver long-overdue relief to our nation’s innovators and ensure that they continue to develop the lifesaving and game-changing technologies our economy and communities rely on.”

Further, it would let them double the value of R&D credits generated by research into products to prevent, diagnose, or treat COVID-19 and future pandemic threats.

“High-tech innovators like medical device manufacturers in northern Indiana will be vital to rebuilding our economy after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walorski said. “Providing tax relief to cutting-edge startups is a commonsense way to ensure they can continue to develop life-saving technologies, discover treatments and cures, and create good jobs. I’m grateful to work across the aisle to boost small and mid-size businesses and drive innovation when we need it more than ever.”

The bill has gained the support of several industry groups, including Medical Device Manufacturers Association, TechNet, Medical Alley Association, Center for American Entrepreneurship, Angel Capital Association, Technology Councils of North America, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Advanced Medical Technology Association, and National Venture Capital Association.

“IGNITE will accelerate investments in startup ecosystems across the country to power the jobs and economy of the future. This bipartisan legislation will provide immediate liquidity to our most innovative companies that must be used to finance job creation, R&D, or facility construction, creating more economic opportunity, and boosting American competitiveness,” Bobby Franklin, president of the National Venture Capital Association, said.

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Pharmacy organizations applaud bill that will reform pharmacy fees

Several major organizations representing pharmacies and pharmacists voiced their support for legislation that addresses pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees.© Shutterstock DIR fees charged to pharmacies grew from $229 million in 2013 to an estimated $9.1 billion in 2019, according to a 2020 study. The Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act […]

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Several major organizations representing pharmacies and pharmacists voiced their support for legislation that addresses pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees.

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DIR fees charged to pharmacies grew from $229 million in 2013 to an estimated $9.1 billion in 2019, according to a 2020 study. The Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act (H.R. 3554), introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), seeks to reform DIR fees.

“DIR fees are exerting unnecessary and devastating pressures on patients, on pharmacies, and on communities – particularly the most vulnerable and the underserved. We welcome the introduction of the Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act, and we urge its passage this year,” the organizations stated.

The legislation Is backed by the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy, the American Pharmacists Association, the Food Industry Association, the National Grocers Association, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, and ASCP.

“Resulting from a regulatory loophole, DIR fees charged by payers to pharmacies have the net effect of needlessly inflating Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket prescription drug costs and jeopardizing the viability of pharmacies,” the organizations said. “This pivotal legislation seeks to reduce patients’ cost-sharing, prevent plans and pharmacy benefit managers from clawing back fees from pharmacies, enhance price transparency, and establish consistent pharmacy performance measures that foster quality care and that enhance the viability and predictability of pharmacy operations.”

The organizations point out that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has attributed the growth of pharmacy DIR fees to plans’ use of “performance assessments” of pharmacies. CMS found that fees based on these measures jumped 225 percent from 2012 to 2017.

DIR fee reform, according to CMS, will save beneficiaries approximately $7.1-$9.2 billion in reduced cost-sharing.

“Rightfully, much has been said during the pandemic about the importance of there being a pharmacy within five miles of 90 percent of Americans. This is a powerful statement about the needs of Americans and about the value of pharmacies, and the Pharmacy DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act is a necessary response to the health and wellness needs of all Americans,” the organizations added.

A companion bill (S.1909) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

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Rep. Cleaver receives support for bill to study climate-related risks to pensions

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) endorsed a bill that looks at the impact of climate-related risks on federal pensions.© Shutterstock The Restructuring Environmentally Sound Pensions in Order to Negate Disaster (RESPOND) Act would establish a Federal Advisory Panel on Climate Change within the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to study the financial risks […]

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) endorsed a bill that looks at the impact of climate-related risks on federal pensions.

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The Restructuring Environmentally Sound Pensions in Order to Negate Disaster (RESPOND) Act would establish a Federal Advisory Panel on Climate Change within the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to study the financial risks posed by climate change to federal employee retirement benefits. If the board finds that federal pensions would be better protected by divesting from the fossil fuel industry, the board would be required to establish a plan.

The bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

“Curbing investments in harmful, fossil fuels is not only good for the environment and our planet – it’s good for workers, too,” said Everett Kelley, national president of AFGE. “According to Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, removing fossil fuels securities from the Thrift Savings Plan will have no negative impact on the rate of return federal employees get on their retirement savings. This change is an opportunity to take an important step toward addressing our climate emergency and saving our environment with no sacrifice to employees’ retirement savings. That’s why we support President Biden’s call to mitigate the impact of federal agencies’ financial activities on the environment.”

Cleaver applauded the AFGE for its support.

“As the largest union of federal employees, the AFGE has always been the strongest proponent of protecting federal workers and their hard-earned pensions,” Cleaver said. “It has become abundantly clear, based on multiple studies from reputable asset management firms and economists, that investments in the fossil fuel industry are a one-way ticket to the financial disaster. By allowing the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to formally study the risks of climate-related investments and immediately begin to set a plan in place to divest, we can ensure the lifelong work of federal employees isn’t at risk of disaster—all while protecting our environment and the only planet God gave us.”

In May, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to study whether investments in the fossil fuel industry threatened the Thrift Savings Plan. Cleaver would like to see Congress codify this executive order into law and go a step further by ensuring the Board immediately puts a plan in place to divest from the fossil fuel industry if the study shows that federal pensions would be better served by doing so.

The RESPOND Act is endorsed by Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, Ceres, 350.org, Climate Hawks Vote, Climate Health Now, Catholic Network US, Earth Guardians, Center for International Environment Environmental Law, TIAA-Divest from Climate Destruction, Fossil Free California, Businesses for a Livable Climate, GreenFaith, Divest New Jersey Coalition, Colorado Businesses for a Livable Climate, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Zero Hour, Citizens Climate Lobby of Kansas City, and the Climate Council of Greater Kansas City, among others.

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Reps. Walorksi, Brady introduce bill to increase paid family leave, access to childcare

U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced a draft of a bill that would increase access to paid family and medical leave and affordable childcare.© Shutterstock The Protecting Worker Paychecks and Family Choice Act would expand the employer-provided paid family and medical leave tax credit and create new family savings accounts. It […]

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U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) and Kevin Brady (R-TX) introduced a draft of a bill that would increase access to paid family and medical leave and affordable childcare.

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The Protecting Worker Paychecks and Family Choice Act would expand the employer-provided paid family and medical leave tax credit and create new family savings accounts. It would also incentivize and reduce costs for small employers to offer paid family leave to their employees by providing more generous tax credits and paving the way for pooling and cost-sharing. Further, it would expand access to affordable childcare by leveraging the existing $50 billion in new investments, targeting funds, and preserving parent choice.

“Working families face many challenges balancing the demands of work with their needs at home,” Walorski said. “They want good jobs, growing paychecks, access to child care, and paid leave that works for them – not the tax hikes, job-killing mandates, and one-size-fits-all government programs Democrats are offering. Republicans’ commonsense proposal will improve access to paid family leave and affordable childcare in a way that puts working families first and keeps small businesses on the path to rebuilding our economy.”

The bill would also create a bipartisan commission to make recommendations to Congress on streamlining and reducing duplication in the financing of federal early care and education programs.

“Republicans’ approach to childcare and paid leave puts families and Main Street businesses first, while Democrats’ one-size-fits-all socialist solution gives Washington control,” Brady said. “By putting the IRS in charge of your time off and child care, Democrats’ path will leave you with lower paychecks for life, less choice, fewer jobs, and greater hardships. Republicans’ proposal shows a bipartisan way to build on the proven success of pro-growth tax reform’s family-centered policies.”

Walorski serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is the ranking member of the House Ethics Committee. She introduced the legislation at a subcommittee hearing on expanding access to paid family leave and childcare.

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Senate Finance Committee advances Clean Energy for America Act

The Senate Finance Committee advanced the Clean Energy for America Act, which incentivizes clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency.© Shutterstock The bill passed by a vote of 14-14 and now moves to the full Senate for approval. “Today is a momentous day. For the first time, the Senate Finance Committee has advanced comprehensive clean-energy […]

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The Senate Finance Committee advanced the Clean Energy for America Act, which incentivizes clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency.

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The bill passed by a vote of 14-14 and now moves to the full Senate for approval.

“Today is a momentous day. For the first time, the Senate Finance Committee has advanced comprehensive clean-energy legislation,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chair of the committee, said. “The American people know the climate crisis is an existential threat and strongly support bold action. The Clean Energy for America Act would both put us on the path to achieve our emissions-reductions goals and help create hundreds of thousands of good-paying, clean-energy jobs. As we move forward with President Biden’s jobs and infrastructure agenda, our bill should be the linchpin of our efforts on clean energy. I look forward to working with my colleagues to finally enact clean-energy legislation to build a better future for our children, both in terms of the climate and economy.”

Wyden explained that this bill replaces a “hodgepodge” of 44 different energy tax breaks for a host of fuel sources and technologies.

“These tax breaks have stacked up over the decades like dusty old papers on the messiest desk in the office. The system is anti-competitive and anti-innovation. It puts the government in the role of picking winners and losers by giving some fuels and technologies big, permanent tax breaks while others have short-term, temporary extensions. It has survived in this form for one reason only: Congress has long found it easier to pile on so-called “tax extenders” than clean things up once and for all,” Wyden said.

The Clean Energy for America Act replaces those old rules with a bill to reduce carbon emissions, focusing on three goals — clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency.

“The system on the books today is bad for competition, bad for innovation, and bad for climate. I want to take what I consider to be a classic American approach: use policy to set a big goal and then get out of the way. Let American entrepreneurs and inventors do what they do best. That’s what the Clean Energy for America Act is all about. It’s going big on the proposition that everybody will be interested in new incentives to cut carbon and create high-wage, high-skill jobs at the same time,” Wyden said.

Wyden added that the bill would put the country on a path to a zero net-emissions power sector by 2035 while creating a net gain of more than 600,000 new jobs.

“The reality is, countries around the world have no choice but to turn away from carbon. Clean energy and transportation jobs are coming, it’s just a question of where. If Congress sticks with the 44 breaks of yesteryear, those jobs will go to China, India, Germany, and elsewhere. This committee and the Senate cannot afford to pass up this opportunity,” Wyden said.

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