Votes bring one budget fight to a close, but more loom
Congress yesterday OK'd a bipartisan pact that funds the government until October while cutting $38 billion in budget authority -- including $1.6 billion from U.S. EPA and $1.1 billion from the Energy Department -- amid defections from conservatives and liberals alike in both chambers. The trillion-dollar continuing resolution (CR) cleared the House on a 260-167 vote, with 108 Democrats and 59 Republicans in opposition, before moving to an 81-19 approval in the Senate, with four Democrats and 15 Republicans dissenting. The final act of the acrimonious 2011 spending drama ended with both parties claiming a measure of victory and vowing to push harder on their core energy and environmental goals come the 2012 budget cycle.
Congress' failure to pass spending bill creates chaos in agencies
As federal agencies enter their sixth month without Congress approving a long-term spending bill, some employees are digging into their own pockets for everything from a spiral-bound notebook to an airplane ticket. Last week, Congress passed the fifth continuing resolution (CR) of this fiscal year, cutting about $6 billion from current spending. Lawmakers say a budget is forthcoming, but concern over a possible shutdown is palpable; 54 Republicans in the House voted against their own party's CR, with many claiming the cuts were not deep enough.
Climate and clean energy funds could be casualties in broader budget war ahead
Tea party fervor drove the House spending bill through a week of debate that finished with its pre-dawn passage on Saturday. But now that the bill moves to the Democratic-led Senate, it looms as a warm-up to more intense partisan bargaining to come. Democrats and the White House want to maintain spending at current levels, and Republicans want to send a message that they won't approve. The Republican bill cuts about $60 billion from domestic discretionary spending; President Obama has said he wants to maintain spending levels, making no cuts, for the rest of this fiscal year.
Coal, drilling amendments loom as House gallops to finish
The House prepared today for a final marathon of votes on its stopgap bill to keep the government running, a spending bill that could get done today or tomorrow as emboldened Republicans take on many of the Obama administration's energy and environmental policies. No matter when the House takes a final vote on its seven-month continuing resolution -- passage of which remains a near-certainty, given Republicans' sizable majority in the chamber -- the move represents only the first step in an epic political battle over federal spending that stands to consume the 112th Congress.
House endgame in sight
The House yesterday voted to stop U.S. EPA from setting limits on toxic emissions by the cement industry and to eliminate the salaries for several senior White House energy and environmental advisers as the chamber pushed toward a final vote on its short-term government funding measure. The amendment to the House continuing resolution (CR) that blocks EPA's pollution rules for cement kilns, offered by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), cleared on a 250-177 vote, while Rep. Steve Scalise's (R-La.) bid to defund the offices of presidential climate adviser Carol Browner and a handful of her colleagues passed, 249-179. A proposal from Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to close Lake Michigan's Chicago-area locks in hopes of stopping an onslaught of invasive Asian carp fell short, 137-292.