Congress will return after Labor Day far behind schedule on the 12 fiscal 2014 appropriations bills -- only five have come to a House floor vote and none in the Senate -- and the progress made this summer on the remainder has produced little bipartisan consensus.
Exhibit A is the House version of the Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which cleared subcommittee in July proposing a 34 percent cut in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, a plan now being protested by the National Treasury Employees Union.
A House Republican statement from July said, “The legislation reflects significant efforts to rein in the EPA -- an agency that has been rife with governmental overreach, overspending on ineffective and unnecessary programs, and costly and questionable regulations.”
It would cut EPA’s current $5.5 billion budget by $2.8 billion. It also “continues a cap on EPA’s personnel at the 1992 level, cuts operational accounts by $921 million (20 percent), cuts the office of the EPA administrator by more than 30 percent, cuts the EPA Congressional Affairs office by 50 percent, and makes other cuts and reductions to programs within the agency,” the lawmakers said.
The appropriators also attached provisions to “rein in various problematic, costly, and potentially job-killing regulatory actions” by the Obama administration.
On Thursday, NTEU President Colleen Kelley, whose union’s 150,000 members work in 31 agencies, called on members of the full House Appropriations Committee to reject the bill as it stands. “Reducing EPA’s budget by this magnitude will have a devastating effect on the services EPA provides to the nation,” she said in a letter dated Aug. 14.
“Employees at the EPA work on a daily basis to help ensure that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live and work,” she said. “Its laboratories perform essential work assessing environmental conditions and identifying, understanding, and solving current and future environmental problems.”
The current House bill would drop EPA’s funding, Kelley said, to the levels of the 1980s.