House panel advances Interior, EPA spending bill

House panel advances Interior, EPA spending bill
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A House Appropriations Committee subpanel on Wednesday approved a $32.1 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and environmental programs. 

The bill, rolled out on Tuesday, would cut $64 million from current spending levels for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other programs. 

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It is $1 billion less than President Obama requested in his budget, and contains a host of policy riders designed to block environmental regulations issued by his administration. 

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee’s Interior and Environment subcommittee on Wednesday acknowledged those riders, which would block rules related to water, power plant emissions and coal mining, saying they were necessary for stopping Obama administration overreach. 

“There is no question that regulations aimed at killing coal are largely to blame for the over 11,000 mining jobs lost in my district alone since 2008,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal RogersHarold (Hal) Dallas RogersMomentum for earmarks grows with Dem majority On The Money: GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat | Trump warns Japan ties could sour over trade | US businesses add 163k workers in August | House GOP huddles on 'tax cut 2.0' GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat MORE (R-Ky.). 

“Until we see relief from the onslaught of regulations coming from this administration, we’ll continue to see jobs eliminated in this sector.” 

The bill would cut the EPA’s budget by $164 million — a smaller total than Republicans have looked for in the past. But the GOP says those cuts are aimed at the agency’s regulatory agenda, which is 6 percent smaller in the bill. 

“There is a great deal of concern over the number of regulatory actions being pursued by EPA in the absence of legislation without clear congressional direction,” said Rep. Ken CalvertKenneth (Ken) Stanton CalvertMORE (R-Calif.), the chairman of the Interior and environment subcommittee. 

Rep. Betty McCollumBetty Louise McCollumLawmakers stunned by national park shutdown funding reversal Overnight Energy: GOP pushes back on climate | 2018 was fourth hottest year on record | Park Service reverses on using fees Park Service backtracks, won’t use entrance fees to pay for shutdown operations MORE (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the subcommittee, highlighted Democrats’ opposition to many provisions in the bill, including both the policy riders and funding levels. 

The bill "means the needs of many important programs vital to protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources will not be met, as they far outpace a stagnant allocation,” McCollum said. 

The riders, she said, are of “deep concern and disappointment” and “veto bait” for the Obama administration.

“Their effect would be to undermine important environmental laws, endanger public health and safety, and deny that climate change is having an impact on our planet,” McCollum said.

Republicans hope to move the spending bill through the House for the first time in several years. Last year, the GOP sent the bill to the House floor, only to see it fail when a fight over the display of the Confederate flag cropped up during the amendment process.