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 TrumpArizona GOP Senate candidate defends bus tour with far-right activist Alyssa Milano protests Kavanaugh in 'Handmaid's Tale' costume Bomb in deadly Yemen school bus attack was manufactured by US firm: report 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.

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

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Trump nominee won't say if he supports funding agency he was selected to run 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 UdallCourt orders Trump EPA to ban controversial pesticide Top Dems: Trump tweet telling Sessions to end Mueller probe was obstruction of justice Dem senators introduce resolution calling on Trump to stop attacking the press 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: Court orders EPA to enforce chemical safety rule | Dem says Zinke would 'sell' his grandkids for the oil industry | EPA reportedly poised to unveil climate rule replacement Court throws out EPA delay of Obama chemical plant safety rule The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) 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.