House panel releases $35 billion spending bill for energy, water

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a $35.4 billion fiscal 2016 energy and water development spending bill, a funding level that's $633 million below President Obama’s budget request.

Members of the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over those areas will mark up the bill on Wednesday. House GOP leaders have scheduled a floor vote on the bill before the House leaves for its next recess in early May.

The 56-page bill, which is $1.2 billion above the level Congress enacted for 2015, funds Energy Department programs, the Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains and develops the nation’s water systems, and other related agencies.

For the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons security programs, the bill would provide $12.3 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers would receive $5.6 billion, which is $142 million above the 2015 level and $865 million above Obama’s request.

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Energy programs, by contrast, would receive $10.3 billion, which is $1.3 billion below the president’s request.

Science research programs would get $5.1 billion, up $29 million from 2015.

The bill would also fund research and development to advance natural gas, oil, coal and other fossil technologies. Renewable energy programs would get $1.7 billion, down $279 million from 2015 levels.

The bill would also support the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository and denies an Obama administration proposal for non-Yucca nuclear waste activities.

Appropriators are also drafting the 2016 spending bill that covers military construction and veterans so that it gets a floor vote by the end of the month.

Floor votes on the spending bills, however, cannot happen before May 15 unless Republicans in the House and Senate reach a deal on their separate budgets. The leadership’s floor schedule indicates GOP lawmakers are confident they’ll reach an agreement before the end of April.

If Congress can’t pass all 12 appropriations bills before the end of September and have them signed by President Obama, lawmakers will likely have no choice but to wrap the spending bills into several packages or one major one.