The legislation spends $30.4 billion in 2014 on the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers and several independent agencies. The GOP-supported bill makes a priority of maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile and U.S. waterways, and makes cuts to several other programs that Republicans said are necessary given federal budget constraints.

Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessHouse approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk Overnight Health Care: New allegations against VA nominee | Dems worry House moving too fast on opioid bills | HHS chief back in DC | FDA reexamines safety of controversial Parkinson's drug Top Dems on Energy and Commerce panel concerned House opioid push moving too quickly MORE (R-Texas) said the cuts are needed "at a time of fiscal constraint, when government, like our constituents, must make tough choices on where to spend smartly."

Democrats criticized the bill for making cuts to programs like the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which they said helps fund energy development projects.

"This legislation is fundamentally flawed," said Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). "It under-funds programs that not only grow our nation's clean energy sources, but also create jobs, promote emerging technologies and maintain critical infrastructure.

"Here we have a bill that prioritizes unnecessary weapons and defense programs at the expense of our nation's innovation and international competitiveness."

Passage of the rule allows for debate Tuesday afternoon, and then consideration of as many germane amendments as members wish to offer. Votes on amendments are expected in the early and late evening, but passage of the entire bill is likely on Wednesday.

The Obama administration has said President Obama would veto the bill if it found its way to his desk, which is unlikely given Democratic opposition in the Senate.

Most Democrats used the rule debate not to speak about the water and energy bill, but rather the need to pass a bill lowering the 6.8 percent interest rate on federally backed student loans. That prompted the usual debate over whose fault it was — Republicans said the House passed a bill and the Senate failed to pass anything by the July 1 deadline, while Democrats said that failure means House Republicans need to pass a more acceptable bill.