House set to pass energy-water bill with riders intact

Source: George Cahlink and Geof Koss, E&E reporters • Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2016

The House is on track to pass a $37.4 billion fiscal 2017 energy and water spending bill today, after adding contentious riders aimed at limiting the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal and addressing rights for LGBT individuals.

Lawmakers plowed through dozens of amendments yesterday for H.R. 5055, which funds the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers and federal nuclear programs and research. The bill will need to be reconciled with the Senate’s $37.5 billion version approved earlier this month that notably dropped the Iran deal language after threats of a Democratic filibuster and contains no other contentious riders.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a leader of the House Freedom Caucus, said yesterday that hard-line conservatives who have opposed overall spending levels for fiscal 2017 were unlikely to reject the energy measure because it funds national security programs.

“I don’t expect a coup,” on this bill, said Meadows, adding that conservatives are more likely to oppose domestic spending bills yet to come to the floor, like the Interior and environment spending measure.

Asked about the prospects for the House bill being conferenced with the Senate version, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the ranking member on the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, said, “We’ve got to get rid of the riders.”

One of those provisions, adopted 230-188, would bar the use of funds to use the administration’s controversial social cost of carbon formula for writing regulations or guidance. No similar language is in the Senate bill.

A conference fight is certain over two amendments that Republicans added to blunt the impact of the Iran nuclear deal. The White House has said it would veto any bill that tries to hamstring the accord.

One provision, approved 251-168, would aim to prevent the Energy Department from purchasing heavy water, a component used in nuclear reactors, from Iran. Another, adopted by voice vote, would more broadly bar the United States from entering into any new agreements with Iran.

The debate also steered into the controversy over LGBT protections. None of the provisions attached on the hot-button issue are in the Senate bill.

The chamber voted 227-192 for an amendment by Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) that prohibits funds to be used to revoke funding previously awarded to his home state — a proposal that pushes back against the Obama administration’s threat to revoke federal funds over the state’s “bathroom” law.

House members voted 223-195 in support of an amendment by Rep. Sean Maloney (D-N.Y.) that aimed to bar LGBT users from discrimination from federal contractors. A similar amendment caused an uproar last week during debate over the Military Construction and Veterans Administration funding after GOP leaders twisted arms and forced enough Republicans to switch their votes so it failed.

This time around, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) amended Maloney’s proposal to add an exemption for the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as Article I of the Constitution, and approval was greeted with cheers in the chamber.

An amendment by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) to limits funds that contravene certain religious rights was also adopted, 233-186.

More amendment action

The following amendments were rejected by roll call votes:

  • A Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) amendment to cut $7 million from DOE’s loan guarantee program and steer the funds to a spending reduction account fell, 158-260.
  • A Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) amendment to create an Office of Good Jobs funded with a $1 million cut from DOE’s departmental administration account failed, 174-245.
  • A Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) proposal to strip a funding limitation targeting the administration’s National Ocean Policy was rejected, 189-228.
  • A Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) amendment to prohibit funding from being used to expand plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos National Laboratory failed, 126-293.
  • A plan by Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) that would bar the use of funds for DOE’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research fell, 206-213.
  • An amendment by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to cut 1 percent in funding from all accounts in the bill failed, 158-258.
  • A proposal by Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) that would cut funding to multiple DOE programs failed, 128-291.

The following amendments were adopted by voice voice:

  • An amendment, by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), that would prohibit funding for DOE’s Climate Model Development and Validation program.
  • An amendment, by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), to prohibit funding for the Cape Wind Energy Project on the outer continental shelf in Nantucket Sound.
  • An amendment, by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), that would bar the administration from taking final regulatory actions having more than a $100 million impact on the economy from the general election on Nov. 8 until a new president is sworn in on Jan. 20.
  • An amendment, by Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), that would bar DOE from transporting liquid nuclear waste from Canada into the United States for reprocessing at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
  • An amendment, by Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), that would bar implementing energy efficiency conservation standards for dishwashers, ceiling fans and vending machines.
  • An amendment, by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), that would block funding for DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program.

Among the provisions defeated on voice vote or withdrawn were:

  • An amendment by Garamendi that would have barred the Bureau of Reclamation from issuing a permit for the California WaterFix project.
  • An amendment by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) that would have increased funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission to $7.5 million by cutting the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.