What: All Issues : Environment : Renewable Energy : (H.R. 6160) Final passage of legislation directing the Energy Department to develop technology to guarantee a long-term supply of “rare earth elements” (17 periodic table elements which have proved critical to a number of technologies, such as windmill systems, hybrid cars, and computer disk drives), of which China controlled 97% of the world’s current supply and had frozen exports. (2010 house Roll Call 555)
 Who: All Members
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(H.R. 6160) Final passage of legislation directing the Energy Department to develop technology to guarantee a long-term supply of “rare earth elements” (17 periodic table elements which have proved critical to a number of technologies, such as windmill systems, hybrid cars, and computer disk drives), of which China controlled 97% of the world’s current supply and had frozen exports.
house Roll Call 555     Sep 29, 2010
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rule and pass legislation directing the Energy Department to develop technology to guarantee a long-term supply of “rare earth elements” (17 periodic table elements which have proved critical to a number of technologies, such as windmill systems, hybrid cars, and computer disc drives), of which China controlled 97% of the world’s current supply and had frozen exports. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.

The bill authorized $10 million to be spent on rare earth materials research activities in 2011, and $15 million per year during the 2012-2015 period. The bill also authorized the Energy Department to make loan guarantees intended to spur investment in rare earth technology.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) urged support for the bill: “Rare earths are an essential component of technologies in a wide array of emerging and established industries. And, for everything from oil refining to hybrid cars, wind turbines to weapon systems, computer monitors to disk drives, the future demand for rare earths is only expected to grow. However, despite the U.S. at one time being the leader in this field, China now controls 97 percent of the global market. Making matters more urgent, China has begun limiting production and export of rare earths. This is clearly an untenable position for the U.S.”

While no Republicans expressed explicit opposition to the bill, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) voiced Republican concerns over the loan guarantees, arguing that government loan guarantees are inappropriate if such loans are already available within the private sector: “With respect to commercial supply needs, taxpayer subsidies in the form of loan guarantees should be restricted to those areas not undertaken by the private sector.” The official website of House Republicans also stated Republican sentiment towards the bill, arguing the bill would “increase spending, and provide taxpayer subsidized loans to private companies that are associated with the commercial use of rare earth materials.”

The House agreed to the motion to suspend the rules and pass the rare earths bill by a vote of 325-98. 251 Democrats and 74 Republicans voted “yea.” 97 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation authorizing $70 million to be spent on rare earth materials research activities through 2015, and authorizing the Energy Department to make loan guarantees intended to spur investment in rare earth technology.

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