House defeats water, energy funding bill

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 26, 2016 - A spending bill that included a rider to stop the Obama administration from implementing its “waters of the U.S.” rule failed in the House after conservatives bolted over an amendment that was adopted to protect LGBT rights. 

The defeat of the bill threw in doubt the open amendment process that the GOP leadership was using to debate appropriations bills.  

Democrats opposed to the bill, which failed, 112-305, because of the WOTUS rider and other provisions. Only six Democrats voted for the legislation, while 130 Republicans voted against it. 

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In addition to the WOTUS rider, the Energy-Water bill also included provisions that would roll back endangered species protections that have limited the flow of irrigation water in California's Central Valley. 

The White House earlier in the week had threatened to veto the measure. 

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the open amendment process, which he had committed to when he agreed to run for the speakership last fall, “means fewer predetermined outcomes, and, yes, more unpredictability.” 

Ryan said the vote showed Democrats were bent on sabotaging appropriations bills, but Democrats said GOP leaders were just giving in to the party's far right.  “The American people deserve having bipartisan legislation coming out of Appropriations to face the huge challenges we have,” said Nita Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

The House on Wednesday approved an amendment by Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., that would bar discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Waterways Council Inc. was pleased with the funding levels in the bill for the Army Corps of Engineers and expressed disappointed with the measure's defeat. “With so many lock and dam infrastructure needs, it is our hope that the House can return to this bill and strike compromise with a better outcome,” said the group's president and CEO, Michael J. Toohey.

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The Western Growers Association said it was pleased that the drought-relief provisions were added to a separate energy policy measure that passed the House this week. 

“The ball is now in the Senate's court,” said the group's president and CEO, Tom Nassif. 

“We urge all of the Western senators to engage their House counterparts in good faith with an eye toward producing a compromise that is acceptable to all stakeholders and beneficial to their respective constituents throughout the region. The moment has arrived for our elected leaders to prove they can resolve real problems, helping to restore our confidence in government.”

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