With a White House veto threat looming, top Senate Democrats on Thursday froze progress on a key spending bill.
At issue: a Republican attempt to attach language to the measure that would block President Obama’s plan to use the Environmental Protection Agency to address power plants’ contributions to global warming.
The declaration signals Obama’s determination to uphold the recently unveiled global-warming rule, which stands to become the linchpin of the president’s environmental legacy.
Congress has until the end of September to approve the spending bills needed to stave off another government shutdown, but the fight over climate action raises another hurdle to passing this section of the budget — which would lay out the next fiscal year’s worth of finances on energy and water programs.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the chair of the Senate panel where the bill was set to be marked up, said the legislation would have to be voted on eventually, but that she pulled it from consideration Thursday after receiving word from the White House that the president would veto any anti-EPA riders.
“The amendment was a bill killer,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, another Democrat on the panel, said during the hearing. “If it didn’t lead to defeat on the Senate floor, it would have resulted in a White House veto; that was confirmed to me by the White House yesterday.”
Administration officials weighed in during an eleventh-hour scramble Wednesday night as Mikulski and Feinstein tried to decide whether to proceed.
Republican members of the panel cast the decision as another instance of Senate Democrats disallowing amendment votes sought by the minority.
“I’m so troubled by the decision today,” said Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander. “I hope we think about what we’re doing here. This cannot be the way the Senate works.”
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Trump wants to move the two grants, the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant and the Drug Free Communities Act, to the Justice and Health and Human Services departments, respectively. This would result in a $300 million plus reduction in funding, about 95 percent of the cost of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. "'I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,'" said Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP chief of staff during the Obama administration. This is the second time the Trump Administration has proposed gutting the agency.
A new report assembled by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has identified more than 500 potential conflicts of interest in President Trump's first year. First, the report notes, Trump spent 122 days at his properties during his first year. He has been accompanied by 70 federal officials and 30 members of Congress. "Second, far from this signaled access to power being an empty promise, those who patronize President Trump’s businesses have, in fact, gained access to the president and his inner circle." Lastly, about 40 special interest groups and 11 foreign governments have held events at Trump properties.