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 McConnellSenate passes 6B defense bill Poll: Kim Jong Un has higher approval among Republicans than Pelosi The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonHillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review Senate votes to block Trump's ZTE deal On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump nominates budget official Kraninger for consumer chief | Senate votes to block Trump ZTE deal | Stocks fall on trade tensions | House panel moves to markup budget 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 AlexanderIBM-led coalition pushes senators for action on better tech skills training Dems seek to leverage ObamaCare fight for midterms GOP senator: DOJ's ObamaCare argument 'as far-fetched as any I've ever heard' 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.