DOE Appropriations Bill Sent to White House While Other Bills Await Action

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Publication date: 
16 October 2009

With a vote of 80 to 17, the Senate voted yesterday to send the FY 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill to President Obama.  This action follows approval of this final legislation by the full House on a 308 to 114 vote on October 1.

The bill increases the budget for the DOE Office of Science by 3.1 percent or $146.1 million, with program increases ranging from 0.5 to 6.8 percent. Funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration increased by 7.3 percent.

The Energy and Water Development Appropriations Bill is the third of the twelve  appropriations bills (or conference reports) to be sent to the President, the others being the Agriculture and the Legislative Branch bills.  Since Fiscal Year 2010 began on October 1, temporary funding is being provided to maintain government operations.  This funding expires at the end of October.

Congressional leaders have been trying to pass each of the appropriations bill separately.  While House rules control the amount of time a bill is considered on the House floor, Senate rules make it much more difficult to do so.  The opportunity for separate passage of the remaining appropriations bills is becoming more remote.

The Senate started debate on its version of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill on October 5.  This bill provides funding for the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, along with many other agencies and departments.  After much floor consideration, a measure was offered to limit further debate on  October 13.  Sixty votes were required to do so; the vote was 56 to 38.  With that, and largely because of an impasse regarding whether a question should appear on the upcoming census regarding U.S. citizenship (the Census Bureau is under the Department of Commerce), the bill was pulled from the Senate floor.  If the Senate does pass this bill, a final version still must be written by a conference of House and Senate appropriators.

A similar situation exists for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Bill.  The House has passed its version of the bill.  On August 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent its bill to the Senate floor; no further action has been taken.  This bill provides funding for the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, and many other agencies and departments.

The Senate passed its version of the Defense Appropriations Bill on October 6.  It has appointed the senators who will sit on the conference committee to write the final version of this bill.  The House, which passed its bill on July 30, has not named conferees.  Further action will probably not occur until later this month.

The Interior Bill provides funding for the U.S. Geological Survey.  The House and Senate have each passed versions of this bill.  Senators have been named to a conference to write the final bill; representatives have not been appointed.  Further action on this bill could occur next week.

Floor time will become very scarce when health care legislation comes to the floor.  No one has predicted if congressional leaders will take the incomplete appropriations bills and bundle them into a single omnibus bill or pass another short term funding bill.  Agreement will be needed to move the remaining appropriations bills separately, and that is in short supply, with one senator saying after the Senate finally passed the Energy and Water Development bill, “It is reflective of what is happening in this Chamber. Regrettably, there is very little cooperation.”