WASHINGTON—House Democrats are pushing climate-change and environmental provisions in the chamber’s spending packages, hoping to force the Republican-controlled Senate to at least consider the measures in the must-pass legislation.
The House passed the first in a series of spending packages—dubbed a “minibus”—on Wednesday that would provide nearly $1 trillion for the Departments of Defense, State, Health and Human Services, and Labor, among others. Every Republican in the chamber and seven Democrats voted against its passage, but the presence of those environmental provisions in the House bill means they will at least be subject to negotiation when the two chambers eventually compromise on spending legislation.
This week’s measure increases funding across several agencies for research efforts and global climate-change initiatives. It puts $2.65 billion toward research and development of renewable energy resources at the Energy Department, where President Trump had sought to make cuts, and calls for $1.3 billion for research and development of nuclear energy, nearly $500 million above the administration’s request, for example.
Beyond the funding bumps, the spending package also includes language aimed at nullifying some of the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back or weaken climate-change policies from previous administrations.
This week’s minibus would bar the administration from using money to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global climate-change accord that Mr. Trump has moved to leave by November 2020. The White House has indicated it would veto the House bill, a moot point since the Senate won’t pass it in its current form.
House Democrats passed a stand-alone bill last month that made the same push to block the administration’s plan to leave the Paris Agreement, but the GOP-controlled Senate hasn’t taken it up.
“These bills are moving. They are going to be taken up by the Senate,” said Rep. Katherine Clark (D., Mass.), a member of the Appropriations Committee and the vice chairwoman of the House Democratic caucus. “This is another opportunity to get through that Senate door and get these issues talked about in a bipartisan way.”
Both parties often insert measures in the annual spending bills to attempt to enact their policy agenda—Republicans will likely do the same in the Senate—though they are often stripped from the final legislation, especially in a divided Congress. The House and Senate haven’t even reached an agreement on overall funding levels for the next fiscal year, and the Senate hasn’t crafted its appropriations bills.
“I don’t think this is a year where we’re likely to see any new controversial riders as part of the bill that gets on the president’s desk. We’ll take care of that in conference with them if we can get there,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a member of Senate GOP leadership.
But House Democrats still see the appropriations process as a mechanism to advance efforts important to the party’s platform. A nearly $400 billion minibus that the House will take up next week would increase funding for agencies that conduct research about climate change and the environment, including $9.53 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency—more than $3 billion above the Trump administration’s request. It also includes a provision banning the Trump administration from ending fuel-economy standards put in place by the Obama administration.
While liberal Democratic lawmakers have praised the appropriations efforts, some are still waiting to see the party pass broader climate-change legislation. The introduction of the Green New Deal, a wide-ranging effort to reshape the U.S. economy to be emissions-neutral, divided members of the party, as some endorsed it as necessary and others cautioned it was impractical.
Though riders aimed at stopping the Trump administration’s policy initiatives may be short-lived in the Senate, Democrats believe that efforts to increase agency funding could be successful. Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he would consider the climate efforts after lawmakers reach a broader deal on spending levels.
“I’d just have to look at the proposals. That’s a legitimate question,” he said. “But my concerns are larger. At the rate we’re going, we’re not going to have a budget at all.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D., Maine), a member of the Appropriations Committee and a supporter of the Green New Deal, said Democrats may have more success by moving incrementally on climate change in the spending process.
“I think a lot more might make it through than you might think because it won’t be in the context of ‘this is climate-change-hippie-Birkenstock legislation.’ It will be: ‘Here’s a piece of it,’” she said.
Original story here.