Dems block energy and water spending bill

Source: Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, October 9, 2015

Democrats yesterday afternoon blocked the Republican majority’s latest attempt to move forward with consideration of spending bills under disputed budget caps.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to vote “yes” on a motion to proceed on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s energy and water spending bill. He recently expressed interest in debating fossil fuel technology spending (E&E Daily, Oct. 7).

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, accused Democrats of violating regular order and silencing lawmakers on the legislation.

“This will give you a say, and you will be doing your job,” Alexander said minutes before the vote. “Why would you stop us from having a discussion?”

But Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, top Democrat on the Senate spending panel, repeated her party’s call for negotiations for higher spending top lines.

“We need a bipartisan budget agreement. We’ve been trying to get budget negotiations going since May,” Mikulski said. “We need a new top line so we can have a better bottom line.”

The White House released a statement of administration policy as the Senate was considering whether to move forward with the energy and water spending bill.

The president expressed concerns about funding for renewable energy and policy provisions, including a prohibition on changing the definition of fill material, a step that could restrict mining.

But the administration’s main concern — and top reason for threatening to veto the bill — was an effort to pressure lawmakers into bipartisan spending negotiations (E&E Daily, Oct. 8).

“The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and non-defense priorities and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as members of Congress from both parties have urged,” said the White House.

Republicans have been moving forward bills that many Democrats may find hard to oppose, including a spending bill to fund military and veterans issues, and now water development issues.

But the only time recently that many Democrats bucked party leaders and President Obama’s veto threat was in moving forward with the National Defense Authorization Act.