Senate passes $37.5B energy and water bill after ending Iran fight

Senate passes $37.5B energy and water bill after ending Iran fight
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The Senate on Thursday passed a $37.5 billion package to fund energy and water programs in 2017. 

Senators approved the bill in a 90-8 vote after weeks of work that included a protracted fight over an amendment related to Iran. 

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With Thursday’s vote, the energy and water funding becomes the first 2017 appropriations measure approved this year. 

“We know that this bill is the result of a great deal of effort, research and collaboration across the aisle,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.) said.

“The energy security and water infrastructure bill is important for our country,” he said. “We know it will support public safety, waterways infrastructure, energy innovation [and] our nuclear deterrence posture.”

Much of the legislation is uncontroversial. It increases funding $355 million over 2016 levels, with a $1.163 billion increase for the Department of Energy's defense-related programs and an $808 million decrease for the nondefense portions of the bill, including other DOE programs and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Senators went out of their way to leave out the policy riders lawmakers included in the House version of the bill, and the Appropriations Committee in April approved it unanimously.

But debate over an amendment dealing with the Iran nuclear deal had held up action on the legislation. 

Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising MORE (R-Ark.) had hoped to use the bill to block future American purchases of heavy water — a component of some nuclear reactors — from Iran. Democrats opposed the provision, saying that because its inclusion would draw a veto from President Obama, it shouldn’t even get close to the final bill. They voted three times against ending debate on the spending bill before finally voting down the Iran measure on Wednesday. 

That action cleared the way for Thursday’s approval. 

Despite the bill's popular support in the Senate, the White House has threatened to veto it, saying the measure doesn't provide enough research funding for advanced energy projects or renewable energy sources. 

"At this funding level, the number of research, development, and demonstration projects supported in cooperation with industry, universities, and the national labs would be reduced, limiting innovation and technological advancement," the White House said in an April statement.

Despite that, members said Thursday they were happy just to begin the appropriations process. Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (R-Tenn.), the bill's sponsor, noted that the bill was the earliest appropriations measure to pass the Senate in 40 years. 

“We give and we take. We have a process by which we stick to our principles, but we do our best to come to a result, which we have done,” Alexander said in a floor speech.