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Week ahead: House panel taking up EPA, Interior spending bill

Week ahead: House panel taking up EPA, Interior spending bill
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Lawmakers will mark up the $31.4 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) next week, the bill's next step on its way to the House floor.

The legislation, quickly approved by a subcommittee on Wednesday, would cut the EPA's budget by $528 million, or 6.5 percent, from current levels, plunging the agency's spending to its lowest level since 2008.

The bill does not cut nearly as deeply as President Trump wanted -- his budget would have slashed EPA's spending by 31 percent, ended 50 department programs and eliminated 3,200 of the agency's 15,000 jobs.

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The House bill also cuts Interior Department spending by about 7 percent, lower than the 10.9 percent cut for which Trump was aiming. It cuts funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey, though none absorb cuts like those Trump proposed.

Republicans are likely to support the funding bill when it goes before the full Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Democrats, though, have indicated their opposition to the package, with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the ranking member on the Interior, EPA subpanel, saying the bill's funding levels are "too low" and "a step in the wrong direction."

GOP leaders have said they hope to pass all 12 appropriations bills through committee by next week and begin the process of cobbling together an omnibus spending bill shortly afterwards. The Appropriations Committee approved the House's $37.6 billion energy and water spending bill on Wednesday.

In the Senate, the Energy and Natural Resources will hold a nomination hearing for six potential Trump administration officials on Thursday.

Senators are scheduled to hear from assistant secretary and under secretary nominees for the Interior and Energy Departments (DOE). Nominees include:

-Susan Combs, a former Texas comptroller tapped to lead the Policy, Management and Budget office at Interior;

-Paul Dabbar, a finance executive nominated to be the under secretary for science at DOE;

-Douglas Domenech, to be Interior assistant secretary for insular affairs;

-Brenda Burman to be commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and others.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has yet to schedule a hearing for two of Trump's picks to be Federal Energy Regulatory Commission members, Democrat Rich Glick and Republican Kevin McIntyre. Trump nominated Glick to FERC in late June and McIntyre on Thursday.

FERC only has one of its five commissioners right now, and has lacked a quorum since February. But between Glick, McIntyre and previous nominees Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson, the Senate now has all the names it needs to get the commission back up to full strength.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee in early June sent Chatterjee and Powelson's nominations to the floor, where they're still awaiting consideration.

 

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