House Republicans achieved a significant milestone by passing their first funding bill since Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) took office more than three weeks ago. This sweeping energy plan received a 210-199 vote on Thursday, with just one Republican voting against it. It marks only the second piece of legislation to move forward since Johnson’s election as Speaker.
Speaker Johnson expressed his satisfaction with this accomplishment, 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.”
The bill includes cuts of over $5 billion in spending, which were initially part of the Democrats’ comprehensive climate, tax, and healthcare legislation, passed without Republican support last year.
Although it’s unlikely to become law due to White House veto threats, this bill represents the House Republican stance on energy and water-related issues as they engage in funding negotiations for 2024 with the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House.
One Republican, Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.), broke ranks with his party to vote alongside Democrats in opposition to the bill. His spokesperson, Victoria Marshall, explained that the congressman’s objection stemmed from his desire for the bill to maintain funding at 2019 levels.
Among the provisions, the legislation passed by the House on Thursday aims at a program offering rebates to consumers who purchase electric appliances and cuts a program from the climate bill designed to help state and local governments adopt climate-friendly building codes.
Before the bill’s passage, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), who leads the subcommittee responsible for crafting the funding bill, defended it on social media as a measure that makes “America safer, more energy secure, and increases our global economic competitiveness.” He emphasized that Republicans are investing in the country while reducing wasteful and inflationary spending.
Conversely, the White House, in its earlier threat to veto the bill, asserted that the climate cuts would have “unacceptable harm to clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives that lower energy costs and critical investments in rural America.” The bill allocates funding for the Energy Department, providing about 8 per cent more than the previous year for the department’s nuclear weapons agency. However, the GOP is considering substantial cuts to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The bill, in its current form, reduces the department’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office by approximately $466 million, a 13 per cent decrease compared to the previous year’s appropriations bill, drawing criticism from Democrats. Furthermore, Republicans are considering even greater cuts, as a rule allowing for a vote’s consideration could lead to an additional $1 billion reduction in funding for the office, bringing the total cuts to about 42 percent. This office plays a critical role in researching and developing technologies related to manufacturing, building, energy management, and weatherization, which are vital for the nation’s growth and resilience, as emphasized by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), a Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.
The bill also seeks to rescind water regulations put in place by the Biden administration. This funding bill is one of the 12 annual bills crafted by House Republicans over the past few months. Having already passed four partisan funding bills before October, the party aims to pass the remaining seven in the coming weeks as part of its strategy to strengthen its position in spending negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate.
In a letter to his GOP colleagues, Speaker Johnson outlined a plan to pass the remaining funding bills by mid-November while proposing the possibility of another stopgap funding bill through the end of the year if needed.