This vote was on passing the conference report on a bill that would appropriate $32.3 billion in fiscal 2010 or the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other related programs. A conference report represents the final compromise version of any legislation in which the House and Senate pass different bills.
The measure would provide $11 billion for the Interior Department and $10.3 billion for the EPA. This bill also contains funding for programs such as the National Endowment for the arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution.
This particular bill also carries the text of a “continuing resolution,” which basically is stopgap spending for other agencies to keep them functioning through Dec. 18, 2009. This gives Congress more time to enact spending bills for those agencies before the end of the year.
The bill’s sum total for Interior and EPA spending stands at about 17 percent more than received in fiscal 2009 (not counting an additional $11 billion enacted as part of the stimulus law). Most of the jump in spending is due to beefed up accounts for wastewater and safe drinking water improvements. This level of spending prompted protests from Republicans who argued that the measure’s funding is irresponsible.
“It is stunning in its increase in spending at a time when we are not able to spend at this level,” said Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
But Democrats counter that this is important spending on key programs and that much of it is simply restoring deep cuts made under George W. Bush’s administration.
By a vote of 72-28, the Senate adopted the conference report. All but three Democrats present voted for the measure. Of Republicans present, 15 voted for the measure and 25 voted against it. The end result is that the conference report on the fiscal 2010 Interior Department and EPA spending bill was adopted. Because the House had already adopted the same bill, it was then sent to President Obama.