APPROPRIATIONS:

CR provides across-the-board funding boost, adds $800M for wildfires, keeps light bulb rider

A six-month spending bill unveiled last night would provide a small, across-the-board funding increase for the Energy Department, U.S. EPA, the Interior Department and other agencies while adding $800 million for wildfire suppression and maintaining a controversial provision blocking enforcement of light bulb efficiency standards.

The so-called continuing resolution would keep the government running through March 27, assuming it passes the House and Senate before the existing funding expires at the end of this month. The House plans to vote on the measure Thursday, with a Senate vote expected next week.

Because the bill was based on overall funding levels of $1.047 trillion decided by last year's Budget Control Act -- the deal lawmakers reached to raise the debt ceiling -- it provides a slight boost over fiscal 2012 spending levels of about 0.6 percent, which is distributed evenly across discretionary spending accounts.

The bill also adds about $800 million to accounts managed by Interior and the Forest Service to fund wildfire suppression, an Appropriations Committee spokeswoman said last night. And it includes a provision allowing for the launch of new weather satellites to proceed, "ensuring the continuation of critical weather information, especially in the event of weather-related natural disasters," according to a committee press release. The measure also extends the current pay freeze for federal workers.

More than 7 million acres have been consumed by wildfires so far this year with weeks remaining in the annual fire season, putting 2012 on track to be the worst wildfire year on record (ClimateWire, Aug. 27).

Policy provisions, typically referred to as "riders," that were included in the fiscal 2012 spending bill carry over into the continuing resolution. Among the most closely watched of those was a rider barring DOE from enforcing light bulb efficiency standards that were established by the 2007 energy law and went into effect this year (E&E Daily, Sept. 10).

The House Rules Committee will consider the bill tomorrow, when it is expected to adopt a "closed rule" barring amendments and setting aside an hour of debate on the bill for Thursday.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-Ky.) called the CR a "good-faith effort to provide limited, yet fair and adequate funding for government programs and services" until a final deal can be struck.

"This bill is very restricted in its scope, does not contain extensive or controversial policy riders or funding levels that dramatically differ from current levels, and protects critical funding for our national defense," he said in a statement.

Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), like Rodgers, stressed the need for Congress to return to approving regular appropriations bills, but he urged his fellow Democrats to vote for the measure.

"I am happy to report that no additional partisan or special interest riders have been added to this CR," he said in a statement. "Although I would much prefer to be considering an omnibus bill, this is truly a bipartisan product and I urge my colleagues to support it."

Schedule: The Rules Committee meets tomorrow at 3 p.m. in H-313.