Democrats won House passage Wednesday of a package of fiscal 2023 appropriations bills that includes new funding for conservation technical assistance and rural broadband as well as substantial spending increases for EPA and the Interior Department.
The package includes bills to fund USDA and FDA, as well as EPA, Interior, the Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Republicans argued that the funding increases were excessive, and the spending levels are likely to be cut significantly when negotiations with the Senate occur. Senate Republicans, for example, will insist on more funding for defense than House Democrats want.
The House approved the six FY23 bills Thursday on a strict, party-line vote, 220-207.
“This bill enhances the quality of life for everyone in urban, suburban, and rural America,” said Georgia Democrat Sanford Bishop, who chairs the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat who chairs the Interior-Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said, “Through investments in clean energy technology, climate mitigation programs, and by restoring environmental protection, the Interior bill will take a whole-of-government approach to securing a safe and habitable world for future generations.”
But the top Republican on the full committee, Kay Granger of Texas, said the spending increases were out of touch with voters’ concerns.
“The social spending pushed by members on the other side of the aisle is a key driver of today’s inflation. Simply put, record-high spending by the government means record-high prices for the American people,” Granger said.
Democrats are divided among themselves on some remaining bills, but the party leadership hoped to move three next week, the State-Foreign Operations, Labor-HHS and Commerce-Justice-Science measures.
Under the legislation that passed the House Wednesday, combined funding for USDA and FDA would be increased by more than 8%. EPA would get a 21% increase, and Interior would receive 14% more.
The White House requested $885.6 million in USDA conservation technical assistance for fiscal 2023, a $154 million increase from FY22, and the House legislation would provide most of that. Additionally, USDA would get $450 million in new funding for the ReConnect grant and loan program for rural broadband.
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which is responsible for combatting agricultural pests while also regulating plant biotechnology, would get a $52 million increase in funding in FY23, bringing its budget to $1.16 billion.
The bill also includes a provision that would continue a special allowance for fruits and vegetables in the Women, Infants and Children program.
FDA would get $3.6 billion, an increase of $341 million over FY22, including $77 million more for food safety.
EPA would get $11.5 billion, a $2 billion increase over the current fiscal year. Some $301 million in FY23 would be allocated for environmental justice work, an increase of $201 million in one year.
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The Interior Department would get $16.6 billion in FY23. The Bureau of Land Management would get $1.5 billion, including $81 million for sage-grouse conservation. The Fish and Wildfire Service would get $1.9 billion.
During floor debate on the bill, the House adopted an amendment led by Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind., that would give FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine an extra $8 million to speed the approval of labeling of animal feed ingredients. The funding is intended to address concerns about FDA’s lengthy review process for feed claims.
The additional funding "for feed ingredient reviews in the House-passed spending bill is a huge win for the U.S. feed industry, putting us more on-par with other countries that continue to move forward with safe ingredients to enhance the safety, quality, environmental impact and nutrition of feed and pet food," said American Feed Industry Association President and CEO Constance Cullman.
Another amendment, led by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., is intended to get FDA to issue guidance for new gene-edited plant varieties. "Clear, science-based and timely regulation of agricultural biotech traits is essential to the development and commercialization of critical agricultural biotechnology products in order to facilitate grower access to innovative tools," said John Murphy, chief policy officer for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.
The House also voted to increase funding for conservation technical assistance, USDA’s Farm to School program and other concerns.
The House rejected most GOP amendments, including a proposal by Rep. John Rose, R-Tenn., to bar the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring companies to track and disclose greenhouse gas emissions in their supply chains.
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