House Democrats are sending a message that they view deep budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency as a non-starter, setting down another marker for future spending battles with the White House in the months ahead.
The Democrat-led House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released a draft funding bill for Interior, Environment and related agencies for fiscal year 2020 that rejects proposed cuts at EPA outlined in President Donald Trump's most recent budget.
Trump's budget proposal called for cutting EPA funding by 31% -- bringing it down to $6.1 billion from its fiscal year 2019 level of roughly $8.8 billion. The House funding bill released on Tuesday calls for EPA to be funded at a level of $9.52 billion for fiscal year 2020, an increase over both the current level and the President's budget request.
Presidential budgets are largely messaging documents and the House bill is an opening bid in an annual appropriations process that won't be completed for months and will ultimately require House and Senate negotiators to come together to find common ground.
The House bill will be subject to changes as soon as Wednesday when it is taken up for consideration in a subcommittee. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its version of the Interior and Environment funding bill for fiscal year 2020.
The bill is another example, however, of congressional Democrats pushing back on budget requests made by the President and gives Democrats an opportunity to draw further contrasts with the White House.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, the chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior, Environment and related agencies, said that the bill "totally rejects the pro-pollution, anti-public lands, anti-environmental protection budget proposal submitted to Congress by President Trump."
The distance between House Democrats and the administration over proposed EPA funding underscores what is expected to be a painful spending fight to come as congressional Democrats, Republicans and the White House face pressure and deadlines to reach agreement over contentious funding priorities.
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