Congress reaches deal on fiscal 2020 spending levels

Congressional negotiators reached a deal over the weekend that could pave the way for energy and environmental agencies to receive fresh fiscal 2020 dollars by the end of the year.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) came to an agreement on top-line allocations for all 12 annual spending bills.

"Subcommittees are now negotiating individual bills. The goal is to complete all 12 bills by Dec. 20," said a person familiar with the talks, who said appropriators won't reveal the allocations publicly until the bills are introduced.

No plan has been finalized for moving the bills through Congress, but a catchall omnibus or minibus containing most or some of the measures is seen as the most likely option.

Congress has yet to send the president any fiscal 2020 bills because it had been unable to agree on allocations for months. As a result, federal agencies are operating under a stopgap bill through Dec. 20 at fiscal 2019 levels.

Most agencies, including EPA and the Interior and Energy departments, are expected to see spending increases as a result of a broader deal this summer that freed up tens of billions of dollars more for domestic spending over the next two years.

The contours of the final bills now being written lie somewhere between the versions that the House and Senate have already passed.

For Energy and Water, the House passed a $46.1 billion bill, while the Senate's version calls for $48.9 billion. The compromise is expected to contain more spending for clean energy research, a priority that has bipartisan support (Greenwire, Sept. 12).

Negotiators are close on spending for Interior-EPA, which could provide EPA its first notable boost in years. The House Interior-EPA proposal would provide $37.2 billion, while the Senate has backed $35.8 billion.

Environmental riders remain an issue to be resolved. New riders proposed by House Democrats blocking regulatory rollbacks seem likely to fall out.

But policy provisions from past years could stay in, including provisions allowing biomass to be considered carbon neutral and limits on making the sage grouse an endangered species (E&E Daily, Nov. 19).

Another complication toward any broad omnibus could be billions of dollars in spending sought by the White House for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Negotiators, for now, have set that issue aside and will return to it when crafting bill details.

Twitter: @GeorgeCahlinkEmail:

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