Senate passes Interior-EPA appropriations bill

The Senate has passed the appropriations bill (H.R. 6147) for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies as part of a small omnibus package, or “minibus,” with the Agriculture, Financial Services-General Government and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bills.

The Aug. 1 passage is the first time since 2010 that the Senate was able to advance the Interior-EPA appropriations bill without including it as a large omnibus spending package at the end of the fiscal year. The Interior-EPA bill is often controversial because it is a popular vehicle for environmental policy riders.

The Senate version of the bill is largely free of riders thanks to an agreement between Democrats and Republicans to reduce the number of amendments to the bill in order to ease passage. However, combining the bill with the House version in a conference committee may be difficult because the House version contains many of the controversial policy riders the Senate avoided, including some that would affect enforcement and management under the Endangered Species Act.

Overall, funding levels between the two bills are relatively similar. The House version would provide $35.3 billion for the Interior-EPA bill, while the Senate version puts funding levels at 35.9 billion. The Interior Department would be funded at $13.1 billion in the House bill and $13 billion in the Senate. The Land and Water Conservation fund would receive $360 million in the House version and $425 million in the Senate version, much more than the budget proposal, which would cut the program entirely. Many agencies and programs would be funded similarly to fiscal year 2018 enacted levels and much more than the 2019 budget request.

FY 2019 Interior appropriations
Agency Program FY 2018 Enacted House Senate
FWS State & Tribal Wildlife Grants Program 63.6 M 63.6 M 65.6 M
National Wildlife Refuge System 486.6 M 488.8 491.2
Ecological Services 247.8 M 249.7 250.9
NAWCA 40.0 M 42.0 M 43.0 M
NMBCA 4.0 M 3.9 M 3.9 M
Partners for Fish and Wildlife 51.6 M 51.9 M 51.6 M
Migratory Bird Management 48.4 M 46.1 M 49.7 M
BLM Wildlife & Fisheries Management 115.8 M 103.3 M 182.5 M*
T&E Species Management 21.6 M
Wild Horse & Burro Management 75.0 M 75.0 M 80.5 M
USGS Ecosystems Mission Area 157.7 M 157.7 M 158.2 M
Cooperative Research Units 17.4 M 19.3 M 17.6 M
USFS Wildlife & Fisheries Habitat 136.4 M 182.5 M 137.0 M
Forest and Rangeland Research 297.0 M 297.0 M 230.0 M

*Adoption of T&E Species Management into line item for Wildlife & Fisheries Management

Although the House is in recess until early September, congressional leaders are optimistic that most of the 12 fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills will be in place before the new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. However with several appropriations bills still to be discussed and negotiations delayed on the first minibus from June — along with other high-profile items like the Farm Bill, a Supreme Court nomination, and upcoming mid-term elections — it is likely Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution to maintain current funding levels and avoid a federal government shutdown until all the appropriations bills are passed.

Header Image: The two versions of the appropriations bills are expected to be combined into a single bill in a conference committee in September. ©12019