Congress is increasingly likely to complete the appropriations process this year, in part because committee leaders in both houses, led by Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R-KY), are determined to finalize the bills before the 2015 fiscal year begins in the fall. Members are working to avoid a government shutdown a month before the elections. Relevant committee hearings will continue this week, after a week during which energy issues dominated much of the budget talks.
During a March 25 hearing on the Department of Energy’s requested fiscal year 2015 budget, House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee Chair Mike Simpson (D-ID) said that House appropriators plan to hasten efforts to draft and consider fiscal year 2015 energy and water bills so that they can have a budget finished on time. Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies as it considered President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for the Department of Interior March 25, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the agency would publish fracking regulations sometime this year. Republicans on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee said during a March 26 hearing that the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request for science agencies overemphasizes some priorities, including climate change, and fails to sufficiently consider other committee priorities, such as fracking. The House Appropriations Committee is hoping to finish hearings by mid-April and begin voting bills out of committee soon thereafter. House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) said March 27 that the Environmental Protection Agency, instead of defending its proposed fiscal year 2015 budget, indicates that it does not value its own work, because the request includes a 3.7 percent cut from the 2014 enacted budget. She is particularly concerned about reductions to the water loan funds.