By Madeline Urbish
Last week, Senate Democrats blocked consideration of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 2028) in an effort to push Republicans to negotiate a larger budget deal. The procedural vote for cloture, which requires 60 yes votes, failed 49-47. Interestingly enough, three Republicans joined Democrats in voting against proceeding on the bill, including Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), David Perdue (R-GA), and Dean Heller (R-NV); Senator Angus King (I-ME), who caucuses with the Republicans also voted against consideration.
Senate Democrats were expected to block the bill, as they did with the FY 2016 Defense and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs legislation. The typically uncontroversial Energy and Water spending bill was stopped by Democrats as part of a larger strategy to bring Republicans to the negotiating table. Democrats have called ending the across the board spending cuts implemented by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which are often referred to as sequester. The Energy and Water Appropriations bill usually enjoys bipartisan support, however, Senate Democrats have vowed to block any and all appropriations bills until Republicans agree to negotiate on increasing spending levels.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also issued a statement expressing its disapproval of the bill. "Although the bill supports key national security items, the bill drastically under funds critical investments that develop American energy sources...If the President were presented with H.R. 2028, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill." In fact, President Obama has already threatened to veto previously considered spending bills that keep sequester-level funding in place.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), vice chairman of the Democratic conference, acknowledged the tactic employed by the minority party, as well as its success in getting Republicans to start discussing a budget deal. According to Energy & Environment Daily, Sen. Schumer told reporters "They've been beginning to talk, but we've got to get serious. We've got o come up with pay-fors so that we can avoid sequestration."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remarked on the legislation's support from both sides of the aisle prior to the vote in an effort to pressure Democrats to allow debate of the bill. Additionally, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), described the procedural vote as "A 'yes' vote...to be involved in the energy and water appropriations process...It's our job to debate." Despite these efforts, Senate Democrats followed through on their promise to filibuster the Energy and Water Development bill, and it remains unclear when Sen. McConnell will attempt to bring the bill back up for debate.
For more information, contact Madeline Urbish at firstname.lastname@example.org.