Now that the July 4 recess is over, the appropriations process on Capitol Hill is heating up again, with strong language coming from the Administration on their displeasure with respect to the process. According to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shaun Donovan, “Representatives are attempting to hijack the appropriations process,” by continuing sequestration funding levels, and adding controversial amendments and policy riders. For a refresher on energy and climate riders added in the House, check out our recent article.
Most appropriations bills have passed the House and will be considered on the Senate floor next week. All 12 spending bills are expected to pass out of committee, but their fate on the Senate floor, remains unknown. Funding levels for financial year 2016 are shaping up to be at the lowest levels in a decade, according to OMB. Both President Obama and Senate Democrats have vowed to block a spending bill that does not address the spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Given the lower chamber’s dramatic budgetary cuts, it appears unlikely that a spending package will be finalized by the August recess. This gives lawmakers just four weeks to finalize the 2016 budget, raising the possibility that a continuing resolution will become necessary in order to avoid a government shutdown.
On Wednesday, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill was approved by House appropriators, and the Interior-Environment Appropriations bill is on the House floor this week. This past week, lawmakers have been especially focused on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Administration’s ability to enter into international climate negotiations, and other environmental programs that the majority increasingly views as ‘regulatory overreach’. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed that the Senate would continue to use appropriations to seek cuts to the EPA.
In the agriculture appropriations bill, amendments were offered to end loopholes allowing the very wealthiest farmers to receive farm subsidies, but they were struck down. Significantly, the rights of poultry farmers to speak out against large meatpackers and poultry companies was not denied – as it has been in previous years (in what was known as the “GIPSA rider”). Bolstering the rights of poultry farmers is perhaps the only bright spot in a bill that significantly cuts farm conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy funding.
In the coming weeks, Congress will also tackle the production tax credit (PTC) for both the wind and solar industries which has expired multiple times and is currently expired. Meanwhile, House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) pulled consideration of the Interior-Environment bill off the House floor late Thursday, until heated debate on whether or not to ban the use of federal funds to display Confederate flags on federal property and land could be resolved.
For more information see:
House Committee Passes USDA-FDA Funding Bill, Rejects Reform Amendments, National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition
Renewable backers prep for Senate extenders markup, E&E Publishing