House Republicans approved legislation Friday that would slash nearly 40 percent of the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The funding bill, passed by a 213-203 vote, cuts 39 percent of the EPA’s budget and would be the smallest budget the agency has had in three decades. Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Mike Lawler (N.Y.) and Marc Molinaro (N.Y.) voted against the bill, while Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (Texas) was recorded as voting for it.
Republicans have had longstanding complaints about the agency, which takes on pollution, contamination and climate change, arguing that it overreaches.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs the subcommittee that wrote the bill, characterized the funding reductions it would deliver as necessary to curtail Inflation and the national debt.
“Cutting funding is never easy or pretty, but with the national debt in excess of $33 trillion and inflation at an unacceptable level, we had to make tough choices to rein in federal spending,” Simpson said on the floor Thursday.
The massive funding cut proposed by the GOP has virtually no chance of becoming law in this year’s budget but marks a starting point in negotiations for Republicans as they look to negotiate with Democrats in the Senate on funding the government.
The bill is one of 12 annual government funding bills Republicans hoped to have passed by a Nov. 17 deadline to prevent a shutdown. However, Republicans face a challenge in staying unified on spending as they look to approve the remaining five bills in the tight window.
In addition to the top-line EPA cuts, the GOP bill would also rescind provisions from the climate, tax and health care bill that Democrats passed last year. It targets funding aimed at helping underserved communities combat climate change and pollution.
It additionally seeks to defund the EPA’s efforts to curtail toxic pollution and planet-warming emissions, preventing the agency from using funding to enforce its rules on power plants.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine), the top Democrat on the Interior-Environment funding subcommittee, said the bill “debilitates America’s ability to address the climate crisis and hobbles the agencies within its jurisdiction.”
“I urge my colleagues to protect the world you are leaving to your children and grandchildren and oppose the bill,” she said.
The bill would also deliver cuts, albeit less dramatic ones, to the Interior Department, reducing its funding by about 4.5 percent. It delivers a steeper cut of 13 percent to the National Park Service.
The legislation would also require the Biden administration pursue drilling off the coast of Alaska, where the administration does not currently plan to offer new oil lease sales. It would require the administration to auction off the right to drill for oil there at least twice a year and would also require twice-a-year-oil lease sales in regions of the Gulf of Mexico.
The bill looks drastically different from its counterpart in the Senate, which calls for $7 billion more in total funding than the legislation passed in the House and was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support in committee earlier this year.
The gap comes as no surprise, as House Republicans announced earlier this year they would be marking up their fiscal 2024 government funding plans below the budget caps deal struck between President Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the summer.
Hard-line conservatives had sought to dial up pressure on GOP leadership to make further spending cuts.
The bill was expected to contain billions of dollars in additional cuts as part of an intraparty agreement later in the summer to lock down support from hard-line conservatives. Simpson is among the appropriators who voiced frustration with the pressure campaign by hard-liners at the time.
But Simpson and other top appropriators told The Hill in recent days that they have been backing away from earlier plans to further big-dollar cuts to the funding legislation, as conservatives have signaled they’ll give Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) some breathing room amid spending talks.
Updated at 11:44 a.m. ET