Appropriators battle over bill rider allowing mining near Grand Canyon

House Democrats repeatedly tried and failed to strip environmental riders from the 2012 Interior and Environment spending bill on Tuesday and they focused their strongest rhetoric against a rider that allows uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

Anti-earmark crusader Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFormer GOP lawmaker: Republican Party 'engulfed in lies and fear' Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Klain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' MORE (R-Ariz.), sponsor of the rider allowing mining, came under fire for supporting what Democrats called a special interest provision benefiting a Korean mining company.

“Why isn’t this a special interest item and why is it good for the people of America?” committee ranking member Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) asked.

“Oppose the Flake earmark for mining companies!” Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) yelled. 


Adding to the atmosphere, a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator attended the hearing to fight the rider.

Democrats offered an amendment that would have stripped the rider, which prevents the Interior Department from placing a 20-year moratorium on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranThe Hill's Top Lobbyists 2020 Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Star-studded cast to perform play based on Mueller report MORE (D-Va.) failed, 23-26.

 “Uranium mining outside of Grand Canyon National Park can create jobs and stimulate the economy in northern Arizona without jeopardizing the splendor and natural beauty within the Park,” Flake said in a statement.  “That’s why the proposed moratorium on new uranium claims is opposed by state and local officials in Arizona.”

The lengthy markup also featured the defeat of a Democratic amendment that would have stripped out 25 riders mostly related to the Environmental Protection Agency. The GOP has said it is using the bill to send a message to the EPA.

One amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) in particular would have restored the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Interior and Environment subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said that regardless of a member’s opinion on cap-and-trade or carbon taxes, the EPA’s attempt to impose carbon regulations without congressional action should be an “affront to every member of Congress.”

The Interior and Environment bill includes $27.5 billion in total spending. That’s $2.1 billion less than last year’s levels and $3.8 billion less than Obama’s fiscal 2012 request for the agencies, which in addition to the EPA include the Interior Department, the U.S. Forest Service and others.

The bill provides $7.1 billion for the EPA, much less than the agency’s current-year funding of $8.7 billion and $1.8 billion less than the White House is seeking for fiscal 2012.

It was expected to be reported out of full committee on Tuesday night.