Senate Democrats score rare win on appropriations rider

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, July 10, 2015

Senate Democrats today successfully amended the fiscal 2016 State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs spending bill to soften the impact of a policy rider that sought to bar the United States from contributing to the U.N. Green Climate Fund.

The Appropriations Committee voted 16-14 for an amendment by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to strike language from the bill that made funding for the climate fund contingent on later authorization by Congress.

The $49 billion bill originally aimed to stop the United States from making good on President Obama’s pledge last year to contribute $3 billion to the fund over four years. The fund is intended to help poorer nations reduce their own carbon emissions, and is considered a crucial part of securing an international climate deal later this year in Paris (E&E Daily, July 8).

Joining Democrats in supporting the amendment were Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who co-sponsored it. Kirk’s support followed a statewide ad campaign by the Sierra Club attacking the Republican — who is up for re-election and is considered vulnerable — for voting against an amendment to strip a rider blocking the Clean Power Plan during last month’s Appropriations markup of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies spending bill (Greenwire, July 6).

The Senate panel today rejected on a party-line vote an amendment by State-Foreign Operations ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would have boosted funding for multiple programs in the bill, including $500 million for the climate fund. The underlying spending bill advanced on a 27-3 vote.

But appropriators by voice vote backed another Leahy amendment that limits to one year another rider targeting policies limiting financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States and other lenders for foreign coal plants.

The House’s State-Foreign Operations bill contains a similar rider that would have permanently barred the policy, while also providing no funds to the Green Climate Fund.

Oxfam America praised Senate appropriators for bucking the House on the U.N. fund.

“The Senate has demonstrated today with a bipartisan 16-14 vote that the US is willing to stand up as a leader in bringing all countries to the table to achieve ambitious climate action,” Heather Coleman, the group’s climate change policy manager, said in a statement.

“The Green Climate Fund will support millions of people in poor and vulnerable communities around the world who are hit first and worst by climate change.”