In mid-September, the House passed an omnibus spending package containing all 12 of the major appropriations bills for fiscal year 2018. Senate appropriators are still working bills through the committee process. The House and Senate will need to reconcile their respective bills before the budget moves forward to President Trump for signature.
Shortly after returning to Washington following the August recess and Labor Day, Congress quickly approved a compromise package of legislation that included a three-month continuing resolution, initial disaster relief for hurricanes, and a debt ceiling increase that will fund the government through early December. The measure was quickly adopted by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump. With the federal fiscal year ending on September 30, the move provides some additional time to pass a budget. There continues to be a lack of agreement on top-line budget numbers, which may be slowing the process. It appears that the budget cuts sought by the President may not be as severe as feared based on the fiscal year 2017 budget passed by Congress earlier this year and the House’s 2018 appropriations bills. We will be tracking the Senate action on the budget.
AFS is watching budget bills for another reason, too. In late July, the House passed several appropriations bills containing a controversial provision to exempt the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule or Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule from the Administrative Procedures Act, which would eliminate the requirement for public comment on the process. Democrats were unable to prevail in their efforts to strip the WOTUS policy rider from the bills. It remains to be seen whether the Senate appropriators will introduce similar language. In response, AFS joined with outdoor enthusiasts and conservation groups on a letter urging them not to adopt the WOTUS rider in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee markup, the process Congress uses to debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation. AFS believes that there should be no place in a funding bill for a rider that would allow the administration to avoid public comment as it takes steps to lift protections for our nation’s water.
On September 21, AFS, in conjunction with the Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies (CASS), also submitted a letter to Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Udall requesting that the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee reject any policy rider that would exempt the repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedures Act.