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Senate panel rejects Trump funding cuts on Energy Department programs

Senate panel rejects Trump funding cuts on Energy Department programs
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $38.4 billion spending bill for the Department of Energy and water programs.

The 30-1 vote rejected numerous proposals by President Trump that would have slashed programs that have bipartisan support. The $38.4 billion total passed by the committee is $4 billion more than Trump’s budget proposal.

The bill would fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at $330 million, a record high funding level for an agency that Trump had proposed eliminating completely.

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It also would fund the the Energy Department's energy efficiency and renewable energy at $1.94 billion — $1.2 billion above Trump’s budget proposal.

“Our recommendation sets new record levels of funding in a regular appropriations bill for the office of science — $5.55 billion — the Corps of Engineers — $6.72 billion — funds ARPA-E at a record level of $330 million, provides the amount authorized by Congress to dredge and maintain our harbors for the fourth consecutive year and makes full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund,” said Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.), chairman of the subpanel responsible for the bill.

The spending bill also includes funding to establish an interim storage site for nuclear waste. Unlike the House’s version of the bill, though, it does not include money to restart the consideration process for the Yucca Mountain permanent waste site in Nevada.

The sole vote against the bill came from Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump Trump changes tone on Saudi Arabia amid mounting pressure Trump rebukes Saudis, but also gives them more time MORE (R-S.C.). He objected to the bill including no funds to complete the Mixed-Oxide Fuel facility in South Carolina, with money instead going to shut down construction.

Graham pleaded with his colleagues to reverse course, saying the arguments that it is too expensive to complete are wrong.

“With due regard to my colleagues, these estimates that it’s going to take $12 billion to complete the 30 percent is beyond bogus,” he said.

“You’re going to have a building that is huge and can be completed, that won’t be completed because, I think, of bad estimates and just bogus information,” Graham continued.

Graham to withdraw an amendment to fund continued construction of the project.

Senators agreed to two amendments in the consideration process. One would ask the Army Corps of Engineers to release a study it has completed on how to keep the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and another one would ease restrictions on using federal water for hemp production.

The bill can now go to the full Senate for consideration.

In the House, leaders have combined the energy and water bill with numerous security-related appropriations bills for a package vote next week.