APPROPRIATIONS

House slogs through barrage of amendments to energy and water bill

In its first marathon day, the House voted down several Democratic attempts to boost clean energy spending in a $30 billion spending bill for energy and water programs while voting to maintain language blocking new efforts to regulate rivers and streams.

Debate is scheduled to continue through today on the bill to fund the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and related agencies through fiscal 2014. Final passage is expected as soon as tonight, but a showdown looms with the Senate, which is considering a bill that would spend $4 billion more.

If the gap cannot be bridged by the Oct. 1 start of the next fiscal year, the government is in danger of shutting down. The appropriations process has been complicated this year by an overarching disagreement between the two chambers over how to account for "sequestration" spending cuts, and the showdown has become more acute due to GOP efforts to stop House and Senate budget writers from establishing a conference committee to agree on unified spending targets.

Many lawmakers, aides and outside observers fear the chambers will be unable to bridge their differences and will be left funding the government for another year with a continuing resolution generally maintaining current spending levels, as they did this year. But House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has previously said he would not allow another long-term CR, further heightening the ongoing drama.

Lawmakers made it through about half of the spending bill last night, voting on a long list of amendments offered by members of both parties, most of which failed.

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Democrats focused much of their attention throughout the afternoon and evening on the steep reductions in the underlying bill to DOE's clean energy and research programs. The bill would combine the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, while cutting their combined budget by more than half. And the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would lose more than 80 percent of its budget under the House bill.

Meanwhile, some Republicans tried to further reduce those and other accounts to fund priorities such as nuclear weapons cleanup activities or rural water programs. And some of the most conservative GOP lawmakers, such as Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia and Tom McClintock of California, offered amendments to further cut -- or completely eliminate -- those accounts to put the money toward deficit reduction.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the ranking member of the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, said her GOP colleagues were living in the past and refusing to support technologies of the future in their efforts to stop clean energy and research spending.

"It just doesn't happen by magic that one moves a technology forward," Kaptur said in opposition to a McClintock amendment that would have eliminated several DOE offices, including those focused on research into renewable, fossil and nuclear energy. "Most businesses don't have the interest or the funding to put into this direct research."

McClintock's attempt to cut a total of $1.5 billion from DOE's Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency; Nuclear Energy; and Fossil Energy Research and Development accounts failed 115-300.

And two Broun amendments calling for less drastic cuts also were voted down. A Broun amendment to cut $9.8 million from the combined efficiency, renewable and reliability account failed 153-257, while another amendment to cut $4.75 million from the same account failed 158-256.

The House did approve some GOP amendments to shift funds.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) succeeded in shifting $25 million to a rural water program, while reducing spending on efficiency, renewables and reliability and DOE administration by $15 million each. And Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) managed to increase spending on nuclear weapons cleanup activities -- such as those ongoing at the Hanford site in his state -- by $22.5 million, while reducing Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency by $9.5 million and Departmental Administration by $20 million. Both amendments passed on voice votes.

Democrats looked to a variety of opportunities to reduce accounts in order to boost clean energy spending, but all their efforts failed last night.

Among the amendments voted down was Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's language to reduce Defense Environmental Cleanup by $1.65 billion and increase Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency by $992 million, Science by $430 million and ARPA-E by $233 million. The amendment failed on a voice vote.

And Rep. Mark Takano's (D-Calif.) amendment to boost Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency by $245 million and cut the same amount from National Nuclear Security Administration-Weapons Activities failed 152-264.

In addition to the spending levels, Democrats also took aim at riders included in the appropriations bill.

The House voted down, 188-226, an amendment from Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) that would have stripped language from the bill preventing the Army Corps from changing the definition of fill material under the Clean Water Act, which could lead to stricter regulation.

The chamber also voted 177-236 against a second Moran amendment that would have removed language blocking the Army Corps from implementing guidance to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act -- a long-standing topic of partisan contention.

"Clarity is needed to this issue," Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said during floor debate. "But I will tell you, clarity simply for clarity's sake is not an answer. Death is a clarity; it's not necessarily the outcome you want, though."

Other amendments

  • Rep. Scott Perry's (R-Pa.) amendment to increase the Water Power Energy Program by $31 million and cut DOE Administration by the same amount failed 140-275.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen's (D-Tenn.) amendment to add $50 million to Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency and cut the same amount from NNSA Weapons Activities failed 168-241.
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell's (D-Calif.) amendment to shift $1 million to Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency from Departmental Administration failed 201-217.
  • Rep. Scott Peters' (D-Calif.) amendment to add $10 million to Electricity Delivery and Reliability from Departmental Administration failed 191-223.
  • Rep. Ed Perlmutter's (D-Colo.) amendment to increase spending on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory $15 million by cutting the same amount from Weapons Activities failed 177-238.
  • Rep. Gerry Connolly's (D-Va.) amendment to add $15.5 million to Renewable Energy, Energy Reliability and Efficiency and cut the same amount from Weapons Activities failed 174-242.
  • Takano's amendment to add $20 million to the Vehicles Technology Program by cutting the same amount from Weapons Activities failed 164-252.
  • Takano's amendment to add $40 million to DOE's Weatherization Assistance Program by cutting from Weapons Activities failed 166-250.
  • Rep. Joe Heck's (R-Nev.) amendment to cut $25 million intended for Yucca Mountain and increase DOE's Science account by the same amount failed 81-335.
  • Rep. George Butterfield's (D-N.C.) language to increase ARPA-E by $127 million and offset that with cuts to Fossil Energy Research and Development and Weapons Activities failed 150-266.
  • Rep. Tom Reed's (R-N.Y.) amendment to increase Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup by $18.9 million while cutting the same amount from Departmental Administration and the Office of the Administrator passed on a voice vote.
  • Broun's amendment to cut DOE's Science account by $158 million failed on a voice vote.
  • Rep. Bill Foster's (D-Ill.) amendment to shift $500 million to the Science account from Weapons Activities failed 143-273.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) amendment to shift $20 million to ARPA-E from Departmental Administration passed on a voice vote.
  • Broun's amendment to reduce DOE salaries by $9.5 million failed on a voice vote.

Reporter Annie Snider contributed.

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