Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spending bill would fix 'grain glitch,' fund wildfire fighting, clear gun-violence research, help gun-purchase checks, etc.

In what Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post calls a "swing and a miss" for the White House, the spending bill awaiting passage in Congress mostly preserves the environmental and clean-energy programs the Trump administration said it wanted to cut. The bill also would fix the so-called grain glitch, which threatens to distort grain markets by giving special advantage to cooperatives; clarify that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can do gun-violence research (which it abandoned in 1996 after Congress said it couldn't “advocate or promote gun control”); strengthen background checks for gun purchases by penalizing agencies that don't report records; and greenlight almost $3 billion in funding to fight the opioid epidemic, Sylvan Lane reports for The Hill.

Democrats blocked riders that would have permanently rescinded the "waters of the United States" definition written to keep farm runoff and other pollution from going into streams, prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing Obama-era methane rules, and taken gray wolves in Wyoming and near the Great Lakes from the endangered-species list, Grandoni reports. The bill would also fill the gap in funding of fighting wildfires, the Eugene Register-Guard reports.

The National Park Service will get a $150 million funding increase to help address its $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. The bill also boosts EPA appropriations for cleaning up Superfund sites by $66 million. Though overall funding for the EPA's regulatory programs was reduced $23.5 million, the bill fully funds the agency's state and regional grants. It also denied EPA the funding to execute a large-scale buyout of its staff, including scientists.

"Energy programs within the Energy Department will get a $1.6 billion boost to a total of $12.9 billion in funding. Congress will increase funding for the department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, an energy technology nursery that the department's head Rick Perry called 'impressive' and 'simply a preview of our possibilities' last week, by $47 million for a total of $353 million. For two years in a row, the White House had called for eliminating the agency," Grandoni reports. "Another part of the department targeted by Trump for heavy cuts, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, received $2.3 billion, or about a 14 percent increase in funding from current levels. The Trump administration wanted to cut funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by nearly three-fourths."

Trump got a small win on the border wall: "The bill is expected to include $641 million for 33 miles of new border fencing, and $1.296 billion in funding new border technology such as levees and fences, not a concrete wall. Trump hoped to win $25 billion in money that could be put in a trust for the wall," Lane reports.

The bill was generally supported by moderate Republicans and Democrats, but fiscal hawks rebelled. Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said the bill was a "Great Dane-size whiz down the leg of every taxpayer in America." One senator could delay consideration of the bill tomorrow, the deadline to avoid another government shutdown. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did that last time, and has called the current bill wasteful. If there is an objection to immediate action in the Senate, Congress could pass a stopgap resolution to prevent a shutdown for a few days.

No comments: