Obama budget chief criticizes Senate energy spending bill

The head of the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rebuked a Senate energy and water spending bill on Tuesday, saying it underfunds "important investments" in the energy sector proposed by President Obama.

OMB Director Shaun DonovanShaun L. S. DonovanYang: 'Defund the police is the wrong approach for New York City' New York mayoral candidates go viral for vastly underestimating housing costs Five things to watch in the New York City mayoral race MORE sent a letter to Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBottom line Bottom line Alabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future MORE (R-Miss.) saying the White House has "serious concerns" with the committee's $35.4 billion energy and water appropriations package.

ADVERTISEMENT

The White House's basic objection to the bill is its adherence to "sequestration" spending caps Obama wants to remove. Donovan wrote a similar letter about the Senate's military construction and veterans affairs budget, and he sent one to House appropriators about their energy and water funding bill in April.

Obama's budget proposal ignores the spending caps, and the Senate's energy and water appropriations bill is $666 million lower than what Obama wants to spend next year. 

In his letter, Donovan wrote that the Senate's bill underfunds the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which he said "would slash the number of research, development, and demonstration projects supported in cooperation with industry, universities, and the national labs."

The bill cuts funding for electric grid reliability by 44 percent compared to Obama's budget, and Donovan said that would hurt efforts to modernize the grid. He slammed the bill for underfunding an energy research agency and cutting spending on climate change programs. 

The bill has "ideological riders" related to information technology oversight at Department of Energy labs, Donovan wrote, which "threatens to undermine an orderly appropriations process."

The Appropriations Committee approved the energy and water bill in May. Many Democrats on the committee supported it, and Republicans said they kept the most controversial riders off the bill, though they could come up in floor debate later on. 

Donovan's letters portend a larger fight between the administration and Congress on overall spending levels this session. 

"The President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto any legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments we need for our economy to compete in the future," Donovan wrote.