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Senate Passes $154.2B Minibus, Includes Funding for EPA, Interior

The Senate passed a $154.2 billion "minibus" spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2019 on Wednesday that includes more funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Interior (DOI) than initially proposed by President Trump, a fact that was not lost on the White House.

The minibus, aka House Resolution (HR) 6147, passed the Senate on a 92-6 vote. The minibus is composed of four of the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government, including the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, which provides funding for the DOI and EPA. The other three appropriations bills included in HR 6147 cover Agriculture, Financial Services and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.

Lawmakers will now head to conference to try and iron out differences between the Senate version of the minibus and one that passed the House on July 19 on a 217-199 vote.

"The funding provided by these bills will help to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, fight against opioid abuse, make important investments in American agriculture, and promote and support the growth of our economy," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

According to reports, the Interior-Environment spending bill totals $35.9 billion, and would include $8.1 billion in funding for EPA and $13.1 million for DOI. By comparison, the House version of the spending bill totaled $35.2 billion but matched the allocation to DOI.

It was unclear whether Trump would ultimately sign the minibus. The president signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending package for FY2018 last March, but only after threatening an eleventh-hour veto. Trump also threatened to "never sign another bill like this again," but Congress appears to have avoided a similar controversy this time by passing the appropriations bills in a piecemeal fashion.

Nevertheless, the White House said it was "concerned" that the minibus was, at one point, nearly $38 billion more than its FY2019 budget request and "includes certain objectionable policy provisions, and excludes important administration policy priorities."

"The administration appreciates the support for priority DOI programs, but is concerned that the bill also provides funding in excess of the FY2019 budget request for a number of DOI programs," the White House said in a policy statement issued to the Senate on July 24. The administration also bemoaned EPA funding "for programs that are outside of the agency's core responsibilities."

All six of the dissenting votes on HR 6147 were cast by Republicans: Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania.

The Senate passed three additional appropriations bills in a second minibus, HR 5895, on an 86-5 vote on June 25. The second minibus, totaling $145.6 billion, included appropriations for Energy and Water, the Legislative branch and Military and Veterans Affairs.

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