House passes Interior, EPA spending bill

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The House passed a $32.1 billion bill funding the Interior Department and environmental programs next year, the first time the legislation has cleared the House since 2009.

The bill would cut spending for Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other programs by $64 billion over current levels, and is $1 billion less than what President Obama requested in his budget.

{mosads}It includes a handful of policy riders to block EPA regulations, including those dealing with water, power plant emissions and coal mining near waterways.

“There is a great deal of concern over the number of regulatory actions being pursued by EPA in the absence of legislation and without clear congressional direction,” said. Rep. Ken Cavert (R-Calif.) during floor debate this week.

“For this reason, the bill includes a number of provisions to stop unnecessary and damaging regulatory overreach by the agency.”

Because of the funding levels and the riders, most Democrats opposed the bill; it passed 231-196. The White House threatened to veto the bill earlier this week, and environmental groups encouraged members to vote against it.

The bill will “impact the [EPA’s] ability to protect human health and the health of our environment and to ensure clean air and clean water for our families and future generations,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.).

Democrats also hit the bill for reducing clean water funding and endangered species provisions, though both sides spoke highly of funding levels for Native American programming and the National Parks components of the bill.

The House hasn’t approved an Interior and EPA spending bill in years. Republicans brought it up last summer and were anticipating passage, but leadership pulled it before the vote to avoid a floor fight over the display of the Confederate flag at national cemeteries.

This year, the bill came up under a rule limiting amendments to it. The House voted down on Thursday Democratic amendments to undo some of the policy riders, but it also defeated Republican measures to further cut the EPA’s budget and undo other environmental rules.

Members adopted a measure to fund water testing in Flint, Mich., and forgive some of the city’s loans as it recovers from a drinking water crisis. A Republican also withdrew his amendment to block EPA officials from traveling by plane for official business.

The House passed the bill on the last day before its seven-week recess and the start of summer and fall campaigning season. That, combined with long-standing differences on environmental policy between Republicans and Democrats, makes it highly unlikely Congress will pass a final Interior and EPA spending bill this year.


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