Senate Passes $145B Spending Bill, With Boost to Energy Innovation Programs

The bill now heads to conference for reconciliation with a House version.

The Senate voted through a $145 spending bill 86-5 on Monday, with provisions to fund the Energy Department (DOE) in the 2019 budget year.

The legislation keeps spending level or slightly increases funds for programs offered through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as well as the Energy Information Agency. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy received $375 million, the most since its creation. The DOE Office of Science also received record appropriations funding at $6.65 billion.

The bill (S.2975) includes $1.2 billion for nuclear energy research and development. A total of $43.8 billion was set aside for energy and water programs.

The bill passed Monday also funds veterans programs for the next fiscal year.

The Senate-approved numbers represent a rebuke of Trump administration efforts to roll back funds for energy programs. The funding levels approved by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development were over $7 billion higher than the president’s request.

After passing, the bill now heads to the House where lawmakers will work to reconcile the legislation with that chamber’s version (H.5875). The House has sought to cut spending on clean energy programs and recently approved a provision in its fiscal 2019 energy and water spending bill “to prohibit the use of funds to prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation or guidance related to the social cost of carbon.”

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, said the senate’s funding levels demonstrate the bipartisan consensus in Congress that “support for government-sponsored research should be part of the president’s ‘America First’ agenda.”

“We have invented the internet, the personal computer, nuclear power, the polio vaccine,” he added. “It is hard to think of a major technological invention since World War II that didn’t have some support from government-sponsored research.”

The vote also won plaudits from advocates for energy efficiency and other advanced energy technologies.

Heather Reams, managing director at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a conservative group promoting clean energy solutions, said the legislation is “critical to driving American innovation in clean energy and storage technology development, protecting our national security and creating good paying jobs here at home.”

Others echoed sentiments about U.S. leadership.

“This bill supports efficiency initiatives like advanced manufacturing and high-efficiency building technologies that have a track record of success in reducing energy waste, and that means a more productive and competitive economy, savings for consumers and businesses, and less pollution,” said Jason Hartke, president at the Alliance to Save Energy, in a statement on the vote. “It also keeps the U.S. in a leadership position in energy efficiency innovation.”

Those same organizations urged lawmakers to send a unified “minibus” bill to the president’s desk in the near future. Legislators, too, are hoping to avoid the jumbo-spending bill format they passed along to President Trump in March. At the time, he said he would “never sign another bill like this again.”

For some, passage of the Senate bill was a refreshing dose of normalcy in a government caught up often lately in political theater. Sen. Alexander said the vote was an example of “doing what the Senate is supposed to do.” Others said they hoped it bodes well for further spending decisions.

“It is my hope that we will not be led astray down the path of delay and partisanship that results in yet another omnibus,” said Republican Senator Richard Shelby in reference to the March bill. “That is no way to fund the government.”​

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