House Spending Bill Strikes at Piece of Trump Infrastructure Plan

By David Schultz

A bipartisan amendment added to a federal spending bill June 7 would block the Trump administration from fulfilling one of the items on its proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) and 19 other Republicans and Democrats, is the latest blow to the administration’s hopes of seeing its infrastructure proposal enacted into law.

The amendment would prevent the Energy Department from selling off the assets of its regional hydropower authorities to states, cities, or private companies. It was added to a House bill (H.R. 5895) that provides funding to the department and other agencies for the coming fiscal year.

Selling off hydropower assets “would amount to Congress abandoning an affordable solution for providing energy,” Newhouse said during floor debate for the bill. “This ill-advised proposal is another federal attempt to fix something that isn’t broken.”

The amendment was one of many that lawmakers considered on the House floor as they moved toward a final June 8 vote on the spending bill.

The chamber adopted amendments to give more money to the Army Corps of Engineers for studies of flood risks in natural disaster-prone areas. The House also blocked efforts by Nevada lawmakers to scuttle the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear storage project in Nevada.

The heart of the bill provides more than $44 billion for the Energy Department, Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies. The amount is over 20 percent more than what the Trump administration had asked for in its annual budget request.

Infrastructure Plan

Water resources legislation moving swiftly through the House and Senate (H.R. 8, S. 2800) contains few if any measures from Trump’s infrastructure proposal. And even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has acknowledged that it’s unlikely a comprehensive infrastructure bill will make it through Congress this year.

But the federal spending bill is far from final. Even if the House passes the bill with the hydropower amendment, it could get taken out when the House reconciles its version with the Senate’s.

The Senate’s version of this bill, which includes slightly less funding than the House version, was approved by its Appropriations Committee last month. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he wants to bring this package of spending bills to the floor sometime later this month.

The House bill is part of a so-called minibus that packages the energy and water spending with measures funding military construction, veterans’ affairs, and the legislative branch.