As early as today, the Senate is scheduled to take up three appropriation bills in a collective package. Marine Conservation Institute is paying particular attention to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, as it allocates funds for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Tell your Senators TODAY that you support funding at enacted Fiscal Year 2010 levels for NOAA conservation and management programs, such as the National Marine Sanctuaries Program, Marine Protected Areas Program, Coral Reef Conservation Program, Deep Sea Coral Research and Technology Program, and Marine Debris Program, as well as efforts to combat ocean acidification, develop a coastal and marine spatial planning framework, and support recovery efforts for the Hawaiian monk seal.
***Marine Conservation Institute is particularly concerned about an effort to remove funding for Regional Ocean Partnerships, a grant program that facilitates the cooperation and integration of ocean and coastal resources management between local, state, and federal agencies.
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The following is from Environment & Energy Daily:
Senate to take up trio of spending bills -- Reid
Jason Plautz and Amanda Peterka, E&E reporters
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
The Senate today is scheduled to take up a trio of fiscal 2012 appropriations bills with the aim of completing them before a scheduled recess at the end of next week, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said late yesterday.
The three spending bills -- Agriculture; Commerce, Justice and Science; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development -- will be packaged together as a single vehicle, but Reid said they would be divisible so that members could offer amendments to specific pieces. He said his goal was to get a vote on the package by the end of next week, because the Senate had a scheduled recess the following week and would then have to work on the continuing resolution, which is scheduled to expire on Nov. 18.
"My goal is to get as many of these appropriation bills done as we can before we leave here this year," Reid said.
Reid also implied that other spending bills could see movement in a similar form, but he declined to say which bills may come up or when.
Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), the House Appropriations Committee's transportation subpanel chief, said yesterday that he hoped the Senate's move would smooth the way for talks between the chambers on setting a top-line number for that spending bill. As the Nov. 18 expiration of the current stopgap funding bill approaches, Latham added, a conference on today's "mini-bus" between the House and Senate could become a candidate "to carry" other fiscal 2012 spending bills.
But asked if Senate passage of its appropriations trio would heighten the prospects for an omnibus spending bill as opposed to a continuing resolution (CR), which tends to make broader, across-the-board cuts to federal agency budgets, Latham demurred.
"I don't know if one bill matters that much," he said. "Obviously, if we could conference it, it would be very good."
One House appropriations subpanel chief whose politically volatile spending bill has yet to receive even a markup in the Senate, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), also welcomed the Senate-side movement yesterday. "I don't know" if passage of the transportation, commerce, and agriculture bills bodes well for bicameral spending cooperation, Simpson said. "We'll see how the conference goes."
The transportation bill, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 28-2 vote, sets budget authority at $55.3 billion in fiscal 2012, $100 million below 2011 enacted levels. The bill maintained funding for several Obama administration initiatives, including a transit grant program, the TIGER livability grants and a sustainable communities initiative.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) shepherded in an amendment in the full committee that devotes $100 million to high-speed rail, which was zeroed out in the original bill. High-speed rail, a signature Obama administration initiative, also saw cuts in a House appropriations bill and saw its funding zeroed out in the budget deal last spring (E&E Daily, Sept. 22).
It is possible the rail money, which has been derided as pork by some Republicans, will be the target of budget-cutting amendments, but an Appropriations Committee spokesman said the committee had not yet heard what amendments would come up on the floor.
A House bill that passed the transportation subcommittee set levels at $55.15 billion, although it attracted the ire of observers because it made severe cuts to transit and livability programs, including cuts to state-supported Amtrak routes.
Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee expressed frustration that the funding levels for transportation were relatively low but said they were constrained by the income from the federal gas tax. Legislators on the Senate Finance and Environment and Public Works committees are working on a reauthorization bill that could mean a new funding source.
The Senate will also consider a $5 billion budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that boosts funding for the agency's weather and climate satellite program.
The measure gives $920 million to the satellite program, known as the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). The program had been slashed deeply in the 2011 spending cycle.
"The committee cannot deny that these satellites are a national asset crucial to predicting weather," reads the Appropriations Committee report on the spending bill. "As a result, more than one-third of NOAA's 2012 appropriation is provided for satellite acquisitions in this bill."
Other NOAA programs will see administrative and overhead reductions to make up for the increased funding for the satellite program. NOAA's overall budget would be about a half-a-billion-dollar increase over the agency's fiscal 2011 budget but about half a billion less than what President Obama requested.
The NOAA budget is included in a larger measure that funds the Commerce Department, Justice Department and other science agencies and was approved 16-14 by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It is $5 billion below what Obama requested and $626 million below 2011 levels (ClimateWire, Sept. 16).
The Senate will also take up an appropriations measure that allocates about $19.8 billion to the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. The measure calls for a cut of $6.8 billion from the level approved for fiscal 2011 (E&E Daily, Sept. 8).
Conservation groups strongly opposed the measure when it was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in a 29-1 vote. It cuts USDA's conservation spending by 12 percent, or $726 million, from the levels authorized by the farm bill. Cuts would affect programs that help farms set aside land for conservation and make environmental improvements.
The reductions are less, however, than in the appropriations bill that the House passed in June, which reduced conservation programs by $1.1 billion.
The Senate's measure also slashes funding for the Rural Energy for America Program, which helps farmers make energy-efficiency improvements, by almost 50 percent.
On the floor, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is expected to offer what she termed the "Frankenfish amendment," which would block FDA approval of genetically modified salmon. The amendment is the same as one that was added to House appropriations measure.
"There's no reason to believe that we'll be able to keep these genetically modified fish contained," Murkowski said at an Appropriations Committee markup on the bill.
Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the agriculture appropriations subcommittee, opposed it: "I believe it is a slippery slope and could dissuade investments in other biotechnology products."
The Senate floor is also expected to consider an amendment that would transfer $15 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers many of USDA's conservation programs, into dam maintenance.
Reporter Elana Schor contributed.