EPA, DoE Budgets Stand Firm as U.S. Negotiator-in-Chief Blinks Bigly
Key climate and energy programs in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Energy emerged nearly unscathed from federal budget negotiations this week, as Congress finalized a budget designed to keep the U.S. government in operation through the end of September.
Donald Trump had huffed and puffed mightily about blowing down large parts of the American government charged with protecting its citizens—while building a “beautiful” wall along his country’s southern border. But the bluster had little effect at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave., where Congress was setting the United States’ actual spending for the next six months.
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In the Washington Post’s phrase, the author of The Art of the Deal “got rolled,” as Congressional Republicans reached across the aisle to draft a spending bill that will gain enough votes to pass—but which contains almost nothing that Trump had asked for in rallies or a one-page budget teaser he released just before he marked his first 100 days in office.
Trump said he would sign the “bipartisan, US$1.1-trillion spending bill that largely tracks Democratic priorities and rejects most of his wish list, including funds for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Bloomberg reports.
The Environmental Protection Agency will see its budget cut—but by only 1%, not the more than 30% that Trump’s budget office had threatened—and it will be spared staff reductions. Other agencies that had been in the administration’s budget-slashing crosshairs received increases.
Under the draft deal, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will see $17 million more in 2017 than last year, the Office of Science an additional $42 million. The Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, “which fund experimental energy research and has been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration,” will see a $15-million budget hike. And coal miners’ health benefits receive a permanent extension that had been left out of the budget plan tabled by the former reality TV star who had avowed that he “digs coal”.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy welcomed a bipartisan agreement that preserves the federal government programs that set appliance efficiency standards, provide weatherization assistance to low-income families, and develop fuel efficiency technologies and better batteries.
The White House did get half of the $30-billion boost Trump had asked for in America’s war budget, and $1.5 billion for border security, Bloomberg observes, “but it can’t be used for the border wall or additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.”
Overall, the news agency remarks, “the compromise resembles more of an Obama administration-era spending bill than a Trump one.”
The Washington Post was rather more biting in its morning headline: “Eight ways Trump got rolled in his first budget negotiation.” In addition to the draft spending bill’s “explicit restrictions to block the border wall,” and its preservation of EPA funding, the outlet drew attention to its omission of more than 160 unrelated legislative riders, many of which would have watered won down environmental regulations.
In a separate report, the paper added that Congressional Democrats’ “lopsided victory, which is likely to be approved this week, means it will be very difficult—if not impossible—for the GOP to exert its will in future budget negotiations, including when it comes to Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint.”
The Post’s reasoning: too many far-right Freedom Caucus Republicans oppose even miserly social or environmental spending for that party’s less radical members to pass legislation, despite the party’s numeric majorities in both houses of Congress. To move a law means courting Democratic support, which “means Democrats are in the driver’s seat, even with Trump in the White House.”
The draft spending agreement is not quite a done deal yet. Citing line-by-line coverage in Roll Call, Vox notes that “before it gets to Trump’s desk, the bill will have to pass through Congress. It could head to the House floor Wednesday. Senate consideration could then happen before the end of the week, which would avoid a potential government shutdown, as current appropriations will expire Friday at midnight.”