Senate panel rejects Trump’s proposed Interior, EPA cuts

Senate panel rejects Trump’s proposed Interior, EPA cuts
© Greg Nash

A Senate subcommittee moved Tuesday to advance a $35.85 billion funding bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rejecting many of the proposed cuts that the Trump administration sought for both agencies.

The total proposed funding level for fiscal 2019 is 26.7 percent higher than what President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE asked for in his budget proposal earlier this year, which was $28.3 billion. It’s about $600 million higher than the funding Congress gave to the agencies for fiscal 2018.

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The proposal gained recent bipartisan support in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subpanel with responsibility for Interior and EPA.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas MORE (R-Alaska), the subpanel’s chairwoman, said the bill rejects “unwarranted decreases proposed in the budget and [makes] investments in our highest priorities, especially infrastructure investment for the land management agencies, Indian country and wastewater and drinking water improvements.”

Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDHS watchdog to investigate COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities Hispanic Caucus makes major ad buy for New Mexico Democratic candidate for House Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (N.M.), the panel's top Democrat, said he was able to support the bill that he and Murkowski wrote because of the major budget agreement that Congress and Trump reached earlier this year.

“That allowed us to provide targeted but important increases to programs funded by this bill and to reject the administration’s unjustifiable cuts to Indian education and healthcare and EPA’s bedrock environmental enforcement functions, as well as its proposal to eliminate the Land and Water Conservation Fund and hemorrhage many of our national cultural institutions.”

The EPA’s funding would be $8.82 billion, the same as fiscal 2018. Trump had sought a cut to $6.1 billion.

The National Park Service would get $3.2 billion, $513 million higher than what Trump wanted.

Importantly, the bill has no policy provisions, except ones that were in previous legislation that made it through Congress.

“We have assembled a package that both sides can support in committee, with the ultimate goal of taking the bill to the Senate floor,” Murkowski said.

But Udall was not able to insert a provision he wanted to increase penalties for federal employees who violate ethical standards.

“I intend to continue to working on this issue, because I’m frankly appalled at the level of ethics scandals plaguing this administration, especially the EPA,” he said, referring to the string of scandals involving EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump official violated ethics rules in seeking EPA job for relative, watchdog finds Pelosi hammers Pompeo, Trump: 'Scandalous' to dismiss IGs EPA emails reveal talks between Trump officials, chemical group before 2017 settlement MORE, including allegations of improper dealings with lobbyists.

As is the standard practice in the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel did not release the full text or details of the bill Tuesday; that will likely happen Thursday after the full committee votes on it.

The subcommittee also did not conduct a formal vote on the bill, another standard Appropriations Committee practice.