Senate panel rejects Trump’s proposed Interior, EPA cuts

Senate panel rejects Trump’s proposed Interior, EPA cuts
© Greg Nash

A Senate subcommittee moved Tuesday to advance a $35.85 billion funding bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rejecting many of the proposed cuts that the Trump administration sought for both agencies.

The total proposed funding level for fiscal 2019 is 26.7 percent higher than what President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE asked for in his budget proposal earlier this year, which was $28.3 billion. It’s about $600 million higher than the funding Congress gave to the agencies for fiscal 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT

The proposal gained recent bipartisan support in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel with responsibility for Interior and EPA.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHeitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Icebreaking ships are not America’s top priority in the Arctic 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (R-Alaska), the subpanel’s chairwoman, said the bill rejects “unwarranted decreases proposed in the budget and [makes] investments in our highest priorities, especially infrastructure investment for the land management agencies, Indian country and wastewater and drinking water improvements.”

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release Senate committee targets Pruitt scandals in spending bill Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets MORE (N.M.), the panel's top Democrat, said he was able to support the bill that he and Murkowski wrote because of the major budget agreement that Congress and Trump reached earlier this year.

“That allowed us to provide targeted but important increases to programs funded by this bill and to reject the administration’s unjustifiable cuts to Indian education and healthcare and EPA’s bedrock environmental enforcement functions, as well as its proposal to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund and hemorrhage many of our national cultural institutions.”

The EPA’s funding would be $8.82 billion, the same as fiscal 2018. Trump had sought a cut to $6.1 billion.

The National Park Service would get $3.2 billion, $513 million higher than what Trump wanted.

Importantly, the bill has no policy provisions, except ones that were in previous legislation that made it through Congress.

“We have assembled a package that both sides can support in committee, with the ultimate goal of taking the bill to the Senate floor,” Murkowski said.

But Udall was not able to insert a provision he wanted to increase penalties for federal employees who violate ethical standards.

“I intend to continue to working on this issue, because I’m frankly appalled at the level of ethics scandals plaguing this administration, especially the EPA,” he said, referring to the string of scandals involving EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: OPEC strikes deal to boost crude production | Pruitt sent one work email outside EPA in first 10 months | Perry, oil execs head to gas conference EPA: Pruitt sent just one email to an outside address during first 10 months Trump is the GOP's midterm Katrina MORE, including allegations of improper dealings with lobbyists.

As is the standard practice in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel did not release the full text or details of the bill Tuesday; that will likely happen Thursday after the full committee votes on it.

The subcommittee also did not conduct a formal vote on the bill, another standard Appropriations Committee practice.