House May Follow Senate, Advance Appropriations Bill That Spends More Than Obama Requested
Philip Wegmann /
The White House has threatened to veto the House’s energy and water appropriations bill, which spends more than President Barack Obama requested, but contains provisions that restrict government power.
This week the House will consider the $37.5 billion spending package, which spends $259 million more than the level enacted in 2016 and $168 million above the president’s request.
But on Monday, the White House signaled a veto threat, announcing that “the administration strongly opposes” the bill. The objection stems not from the higher spending level, but from conservative policy riders included in the package.
“The legislation includes highly problematic ideological provisions,” the administration wrote in an Office of Management and Budget statement, “including provisions that threaten to undermine our ability to protect a resource that is essential to America’s health: clean water.”
Unlike the Senate version of the bill, which also spends more than the president requested, the House legislation includes some prominent policy riders.
In particular, the bill would bar the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using appropriated funds to enforce the administration’s controversial Waters of the United States rule. Known by the acronym WOTUS, the rule has become a regular sticking point between Democrats and Republicans.
Supporters contend the rule is critical to ensure clean water for public and environmental health.
Daren Bakst of The Heritage Foundation praised the policy rider for blocking what he described as an “egregious” regulation. “The WOTUS rule is a power grab and attack on property rights by the EPA and Corps,” he said, “both of which are attempting to regulate almost every water in this country.”
In addition, the legislation would amend the Clean Water Act to change the permit processes governing “fill material” and “dredge-and-fill” practices that impact both the mining and agriculture industry.
If the energy and water package passes this week, House and Senate lawmakers could go to conference to hash out the differences between their legislation soon after Memorial Day. But it remains unclear if conservative policy riders could survive the conference process.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., pledged in March only to support appropriations bills “clean” of what he considers “controversial riders.”
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., according to Greenwire, said that he expects conference representatives will be appointed before Congress recesses for the holiday weekend.