House passes energy bill $6B below Obama's request

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — As lawmakers argued over long-term deficit reduction, the Republican-led House on Friday cut 20 percent from President Barack Obama's budget request for energy and water projects.

Republicans called the bill a model of restraint but the White House said it jeopardized economic growth and clean energy.

The $30.6 billion bill, covering Energy Department and Army Corps of Engineers programs, was down $1 billion from this year and was nearly $6 billion less than the White House wanted.

An amendment to the bill would allow companies to make and sell old 100-watt light bulbs after January 1, when they are scheduled to be phased out. Republicans had previously tried and failed to overturn a 2007 law requiring light bulbs to be more energy efficient starting next year.

The bill also steered $1 billion away from high-speed rail projects and used the money instead to pay for flood relief along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. And it provided $1.3 billion for renewable energy programs, about $491 million below this year's level.

Democrats objected to all those provisions and all but 10 Democrats voted against the bill. The bill now moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is certain to take a different approach.

"This bill is proof that we can make commonsense spending reductions without damaging or impairing the programs that help keep our country safe and our citizens at work," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

With the vote, the House has now passed five of the 12 federal spending bills in the upcoming fiscal year. The Senate has yet to pass any.

The House bill blocks the administration from closing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project in Nevada. Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada want to terminate that program. The government has spent $15 billion on Yucca Mountain, which is still not open for storing spent nuclear fuel from power plants.

The legislation slightly increased spending on nuclear security programs, to $10.6 billion, and slightly decreased spending on scientific research, to $4.8 billion. Another $4.9 billion would be spent to clean pollution at nuclear weapons plants.

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