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Rick Perry speaks at the Energy Policy Summit in 2017. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

HOUSTON — Energy Secretary Rick Perry signaled Wednesday that White House deliberations about the shape of looming steel tariffs are ongoing.

“I think this is an ongoing conversation, a debate if you will, an internal discussion."
— Rick Perry to reporters at CERAWeek

Why it matters: Perry was asked to respond to oil-and-gas concerns that trade penalties will raise pipeline costs and could prompt other countries to retaliate with measures that hurt U.S. energy exports. He cautioned that was not speaking for President Trump, but said, “I don’t think the president has made a decision with great specificity.”

Yes, but: Perry also emphasized that Trump wants to bolster U.S. manufacturing. "He does know that there are countries out there who are in fact impacting the market by their engagement of subsidies and what some would refer to as unfair trade practices,” Perry said at the big CERAWeek conference. “I think strategically deploying tariffs and messaging and regulations is the key here,” he added.

The intrigue: The comments come as oil-and-gas industry groups are urging the White House to provide exemptions to the tariffs for specialty steel products they cannot source domestically. Eight oil-and-gas trade groups released a letter to Trump earlier Wednesday warning that tariffs could cause delays or cancellation of pipeline projects.

Groups including the Association of Oil Pipe Lines and the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America write: “While we discourage you from imposing steel tariffs, we urge you at least to allow exemptions when steel products needed for energy production, processing, refining, transportation, and distribution are not sufficiently available in domestic markets."

Go deeper

15 mins ago - Health

Cuomo advisers reportedly altered July COVID-19 nursing homes report

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Seth Wenig/AFP via Getty Images

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.