APPROPRIATIONS:

Reid urges fast action on amendments to energy and water bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), eager to make progress on annual spending bills, today urged lawmakers to hurry up with plans to seek amendments to the fiscal 2010 energy and water appropriations bill.

"If you have an amendment, you better get it over here today, because tomorrow may not be available to you," Reid said on the Senate floor this morning.

The Senate began debate yesterday on the nearly $34.3 billion measure that funds the Energy Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water projects, and several independent agencies. The Senate version of the bill is S. 1436.

The Senate has already completed the legislative branch and homeland security spending bills, and Reid hopes to complete the energy and water bill and then the Agriculture Department spending bills before the August break. That would mean completion of a third of the 12 annual spending bills before the recess.

"We need to move forward," Reid said. "We don't want another big omnibus bill."

Senators have begun filing proposed amendments to the bill.

An amendment filed by Louisiana Sens. Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R) would direct the Army Corps to pursue a flood protection plan for New Orleans that would involve redesigning three outfall canals to drain water from the city, building a single-pump system for each and eliminating worrisome floodwalls.

Both senators have criticized the Army Corps for deciding to proceed with a less expensive plan to build pumping stations that would run in tandem with municipal pumps.

An amendment by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) would direct the corps to undertake a boulder-removal project to improve navigation at Charlestown Breachway and Inlet in Charlestown, R.I.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) filed 24 amendments that would strike earmarks for a slew of individual water and energy projects. For instance, one would bar funding for the Fort Peck Dry Prairie Rural Water System in Montana. The committee bill report allots $14 million to the project.

An amendment by New Mexico Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D) and Tom Udall (D) would steer $2.5 million into the Acequias Irrigation System in that state and $2.2 million to the Upper Rio Grande Water Operations Model Study.

Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) have drafted an amendment to help ensure the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can lease new office space near its Rockville, Md., headquarters.

The House approved its version of the bill earlier this month. President Obama backs the measures, even though both break with some administration proposals, such as rebuffing Energy Secretary Steven Chu's plan to end funding for hydrogen-powered cars.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said he hoped to complete the bill by tomorrow evening, or as soon as tonight.