Energy & Environment

Senate committee approves energy, veterans spending bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to pass a pair of spending bills covering the federal government’s energy, water, military construction and veterans’ affairs programs.

The votes line up the bills for consideration on the Senate floor, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he has planned for next week.

{mosads}The bills had bipartisan support, with senators agreeing to hold off on proposing any controversial amendments until it reaches the Senate floor.

The energy and water bill passed nearly unanimously, and the military construction and veterans’ affairs bill passed unanimously.

The energy and water legislation provides $37.5 billion for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s a slight increase over last year, though the defense-related programs received all of the increases, while non-defense spending decreased.

“The bill we’ve negotiated invests in waterways; puts us one step closer to doubling our basic energy research; helps to resolve the nuclear waste stalemate; cleans up hazardous materials at Cold War sites, and maintains our nuclear weapons stockpile,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the bill and its main sponsor.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on that panel, said she supported it, though the process involved numerous trade-offs.

“I believe this is a good bill. It’s a fair bill. It contains trade-offs and hard choices, but it’s a just bill,” she said. “I don’t agree with everything in this bill, but I support it.”

Senators brought up numerous amendments but agreed to withdraw all of them and save them for the floor. Those measures would have provided funding for dredging and levee repair in Louisiana, defunded the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule, put in additional funding for wind energy research, ordered a study on oil exports, increased clean energy research funding and put more money into construction for small harbors.

The military construction and veterans’ bill was similarly bipartisan.

“The bill provides $7.9 billion for 210 critical defense construction projects, at a cost of $500 million above the request. And that was to ensure our military is ready to fight and win when necessary,” said Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the sponsor and subcommittee chairman.

“For Veterans’ Affairs and related agencies, the bill provides $75.1 billion to protect our veterans,” he said. “This is record funding for the VA. The budget is up $3.4 billion to reflect increased healthcare costs.”

The panel also approved an amendment to that bill regarding an adoption program for certain veterans.

Tags Dianne Feinstein Lamar Alexander Mark Kirk Mitch McConnell Senate Appropriations Committee
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