Spending fight breaks out in Interior funding hearing

Lawmakers on a House committee sparred Tuesday over President Obama’s 2017 budget request for the Interior Department — and Republicans’ inability to so far agree on a budget blueprint of their own.

The committee’s leading Republican and Democrat sparred Tuesday over both the Interior budget request and the recent failure of the House to pass a spending plan for the Interior Department.

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Rep. Rob BishopRob BishopThe Hill's 12:30 Report GOP makes new push on wildfire bills Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Utah), the committee’s chairman, targeted public land provisions, energy policies, Endangered Species Act proposals and spending levels in Obama’s $13.4 billion budget Interior budget, it calling it  “basically the same old” thing Obama has always requested.

“Your spin is going to be the envy of every Las Vegas contortionist,” Bishop said to Democrats on the committee. “This budget could have been a blueprint for future cooperation, and instead I think it’s a blueprint for future partisan bickering. It’s not what it could have been and I feel bad about that.”

But Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the committee's ranking member, slammed Republicans for their complaints over the spending proposals, saying, “to fail to do your job then criticize those who are doing theirs is hypocritical and irresponsible.”

Grijalva noted Republicans have not, so far, produced a budget proposal of their own. Members are still jostling over an extra $30 billion of spending within the budget, and the impasse has lasted for weeks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellProgressive group changes tone on Kaine Trump hits Kaine on TPP: He supports a 'job killer' Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ky.) told House members Tuesday to quickly end their fighting and put together a budget package.

Either way, Tuesday’s hearing will be the first of likely many political fights over the Interior budget. Lawmakers haven’t passed a standalone spending bill for the agency since 2009, though House Republicans got close to pushing one through last year before a political fight over the display of the Confederate flag at national cemeteries sunk the legislation.

Interior’s funding is connected to the Environmental Protection Agency in the appropriations process, making it hard for Republicans and Democrats to agree on spending levels and policy provisions related to climate change and environmental regulations.

“House Republicans have no budget of their own and can’t seem to pass appropriations bills,” Grijalva said. “But that doesn’t seem to stop them from having loud opinions about the administration’s proposals.”