The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to approve bills to fund the Agriculture and Energy departments and the Army Corps of Engineers. In an all-day markup, the panel considered numerous amendments to both the agriculture and the energy and water bills, eventually passing both on voice votes.
The agriculture bill, at $147.7 billion, had bipartisan support, although the Democrats tried — with mixed results — to change several provisions regarding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, food stamps and other policies.
The $37.4 billion energy and water spending bill had fewer amendment votes, although the partisan rancor reached a higher pitch amid debates over California’s drought and the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), chairman of the agriculture subcommittee, said the panel’s bill “focuses investments in programs that bolster U.S. agriculture, support rural communities, maintain food and drug safety and ensure sound markets and provide nutrition for children, families and seniors at home as well as abroad.
It “also targets funding to national programs that have the most benefit to the American people and the U.S. economy, while at the same time, it reduces inefficient, wasteful and low-priority programs and agencies,” Aderholt said.
The most controversy on the agriculture bill came in response to provisions regarding tobacco regulation, particularly as it applies to electronic cigarettes and specialty cigars, and the Obama administration’s policies.
The panel approved a measure from Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) to mandate that the FDA put e-cigarettes under an easier approval process than the administration wants to use.
The committee voted against amendments from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to allow regulations on specialty and flavored cigars and compounding pharmacies.
It rejected Democrats’ pleas to provide the Obama administration the $1.9 billion it requested to fight the Zika virus, and approved amendments regarding food stamp eligibility for retailers and rules for raising chickens.
On the energy and water bill, the panel did not approve any amendments.
“This is a responsible bill, one that corrects a number of budget gimmicks used by the administration to get around the discretionary budget caps,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), chairman of that subcommittee.
“This bill rejects the budget request proposal to reduce investments in the energy sources that we rely on today,” he continued, explaining decisions to take money away from renewable energy and efficiency programs and put it into fossil fuel research and development. “Within energy programs, the recommendation rebalances the portfolio to provide a true all-of-the-above energy strategy.”
The Democrats tried and failed to get two amendments passed.
One would have stricken all of the policy riders in the bill, which are on California’s drought, blocking the Clean Water Rule and allowing guns on Army Corps of Engineers land. The other would provide millions of dollars in emergency funding for Flint.
“This is a man-made crisis, caused by so-called cost-saving measures, delayed response and outright lies that have endangered families and children. And this is a public health crisis,” said DeLauro.