If you think that Congress is broken and nothing gets done, this story is for you.
The House has finished considering amendments for and is expected to pass a bill that will fund the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and several other related administrative offices. There is virtually zero chance that the bill will ever become law.
The bill, as written by the Republican-led House, prohibits the EPA from implementing the Clean Power Plan or the Waters of the United States rule, two key administration priorities and also helpful ways to keep our air and water at levels that can sustain human life. Even if the Senate version didn’t face a filibuster, President Obama has already said he will veto a bill that doesn’t allow the EPA to do its job.
But the House pushed forward with 130 amendments over the past two days, despite promises last fall that Congress would work together to provide Obama with a poison-pill-free set of appropriations bills.
During the appropriations process, the White House first provides Congress with a proposed budget. Congress then produces a set of appropriations bills — funding, to some degree or another, each of the president’s requests. The trouble comes when when Congress chooses to not simply fund the government, but to use the budgetary process as a way of micro-managing what it is allowed to do.
“The Interior appropriations bill is bloated with destructive, dangerous, even absurd provisions. It makes clear the Republican leadership’s goal: to block environmental progress on any and all fronts,” Scott Schlesinger, legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “This bill would effectively stop the EPA from advancing any new health or safety safeguards, no matter how great the need.”
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has said that the riders in the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill “threaten to undermine the most basic protections for America’s unique natural treasures and the people and wildlife that rely on them, as well as the ability of States and communities to address climate change and protect a resource that is essential to America’s health — clean water.”
Just consider some of the amendments House representatives passed Tuesday:
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) proposed that none of the funds in the bill could be used to declare a national monument
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) proposed that none of the funds “be used to finalize, implement, or enforce new regulations on offshore Arctic energy exploration and development”
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) proposed that none of the funds “be used to implement, administer, or enforce” a recent rule governing fracking on public and Native American lands
They got really specific.
Rep. Evan Johnson (R-WV) proposed that none of the funds “may be used by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop, finalize, promulgate, implement, administer, or enforce any rule under section 112 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7412) that applies to glass manufacturers that do not use continuous furnaces (emphasis added)
They even seemed to actively make EPA workers’ jobs harder.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) proposed that the EPA office that provides analysis and responses to Congress itself should be defunded
The office also coordinates the agency’s appearance at congressional hearings. It is the major liaison with the House, whose members apparently wish to stop communicating with the EPA. (In fact, they routinely request information from the EPA and have accused the agency of “lack of cooperation.”)
Overall, the bill cuts funding to the EPA by 11 percent — $399 million below the requested amount. Some of these cuts are likely hidden policy changes, specifically targeted at offices that House Republicans want to prevent from working.
But this is, sadly, par for the course. Already during the budget process, rider upon rider is building up, setting the country on track for yet another funding debacle in the fall. In the Senate, several budget bills are stalled, and with congressional recess looming, only one, the energy bill, is set for conference with the House in the fall.