Interior-Environment spending bill clears House committee
Those four bills are scheduled for the floor next week, including the Interior-Environment measure as well as the Energy and Water, Homeland Security and Military Construction-VA bills. House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., said party leaders have said to expect a long week, with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., serving notice that it will be a "full day on Friday, and if necessary on Saturday" to keep to the announced schedule of getting most of the bills done by the July Fourth recess.
The Interior-Environment spending bill passed without objection, although Republicans argued it spent too much money -- $1.9 billion above the White House request.
The panel adopted an amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., stipulating that the process of opening Alaska's Bristol Bay to energy production be done carefully so as to protect salmon fisheries in the area. That was scaled back from a blanket prohibition on Bristol Bay oil and gas exploration, but some members felt it was still too prohibitive, and the amendment barely squeaked through on a 33-30 vote.
Another Hinchey amendment, similar to one he attached last year to the Interior measure on a 252-165 vote, to bar oil and gas companies that hold royalty-free leases from buying future leases was approved by voice vote. An amendment by Rep. John Peterson, R-Pa., to lift the 25-year moratorium on natural gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf was defeated, 39-25, as GOP members from coastal areas joined most Democrats in opposing the amendment.