House Republicans made a significant move on Thursday, advancing a contentious energy plan, marking the first funding bill to clear the floor following the recent ousting of their Speaker, a development that occurred over three weeks ago.
The measure secured approval in a 210-199 vote on Thursday afternoon, with just a single Republican dissenting. It stands as only the second legislative piece to navigate the floor since the installation of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on Wednesday.
A Slim Chance of Passing
Speaker Johnson expressed his satisfaction, stating, “This is the first step in getting our appropriations done. Yesterday, I promised we were going to get back to work for the American people and today we proved it.” Notably, the bill trims over $5 billion in expenditures previously greenlit within the Democrats’ hallmark climate, tax, and healthcare bill, a measure passed last year without any GOP support.
Despite its passage, the legislation’s prospects for becoming law appear dim, given the White House’s looming veto threat. Nevertheless, it serves as a tangible representation of House Republicans’ stance on energy and water-related matters as they engage in budget negotiations with their counterparts in the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House.
In a noteworthy departure from party lines, Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.) aligned himself with Democrats in opposing the bill. Buck’s spokesperson, Victoria Marshall, elaborated in an email that the congressman’s vote against the measure stemmed from his desire to maintain funding at 2019 levels.
Among the legislation’s various provisions, Thursday’s House passage specifically takes aim at a program extending rebates to consumers who make purchases of electric appliances.
Trying to Push Through
As the House moved towards passing the bill, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, chairing the subcommittee responsible for the funding bill’s formulation, defended the measure’s merits on the X platform. He championed it as a means to enhance America’s safety, energy security, and global economic competitiveness. According to him, Republicans were committed to investing in the nation while eliminating billions in spending deemed wasteful, unnecessary, and inflationary.
However, the White House, in a recent veto threat against the bill, voiced concerns over the detrimental impact of the proposed climate-related cuts. They argued that these cuts would inflict unacceptable harm on clean energy initiatives and energy efficiency programs that reduce energy costs while crucially supporting rural America.
The bill, if passed, would allocate funds to the Energy Department, with an increase of approximately 8 percent compared to the previous year for the department’s nuclear weapons agency. Nonetheless, the GOP is actively considering substantial reductions in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Within the bill’s provisions lies a reduction of approximately $466 million (13 percent) for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office compared to the previous year’s appropriations bill, drawing criticism from Democrats. Furthermore, Republicans are contemplating even more extensive cuts, as a rule permitting the vote’s consideration would add an extra $1 billion to the reductions for the office, resulting in total cuts of about 42 percent.
Additionally, the bill includes cuts to a climate bill program that supports state and local governments in adopting climate-friendly building codes.
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