Senate vote on Interior spending bill imminent

The Senate will vote this week on a package of four spending bills that includes Fiscal Year 2020 funding for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate interior appropriations bill, which provides $35.8 billion in FY 2020 funding, was approved by the Appropriations Committee in late September. The House version of the bill, totaling $37.3 billion, cleared the House floor in June.

For most wildlife and conservation program, the House bill would provide more funding than the Senate measure. The Senate bill would provide $65 million — level funding — for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program, slightly less than the $71 included in the House bill. The National Wildlife Refuge System would receive $504.4 million under the Senate bill, slightly below the $514 million included in the House bill, but still an increase over FY19 funding.

The 2020 fiscal year began Oct. 1, without a final budget in place. A continuing resolution, passed in late September, will fund the government through Nov. 21. Congress has not yet finalized and sent to the president any FY 2020 appropriations bills.

Complicating matters is the fact that the House and Senate have not agreed on overall spending levels. Known as 302(b) allocations, the amounts allocated to the various appropriations bills, are not the same between the two chambers. For the Interior bill, there is a difference of $1.5 billion between the House and Senate 302(b) allocations.

Amendments and policy riders also differ between the two. For example, the House bill would put in place limits on offshore and Alaskan oil and gas drilling. More than 150 amendments to the Senate bill were filed, although relatively few garnered discussion, partly as a result of leadership’s desire to avoid controversy and keep the bill moving. The Interior section of the Senate bill did not include any new policy riders.

Another complicating factor affecting the lawmakers’ push to complete the appropriations process before the continuing resolution expires are the developing impeachment hearings, which could take floor time away from appropriations bills and prevent lawmakers from completing the appropriations process.

Read The Wildlife Society’s recommendations for FY 2020 funding for Interior agencies.

Header Image: The Senate will likely approve a spending bill that would fund the Department of the Interior in FY 2020.
©Doug Canfield/USFWS