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Congress Returns to Face Appropriations Issues

When the House and Senate return next week from their extended summer break, they will be forced to take up Federal appropriations issues for fiscal year 2015 to avoid a government-wide shut down just ahead of the November elections.

The most likely funding scenario will be a Continuing Resolution (CR) that covers government spending for a limited time, certainly until after the elections, and probably through mid-December.  If that case plays out, it means that EPA would continue to operate using FY 14 funding levels.  Should Congress choose to act more swiftly and pursue an Omnibus Appropriations measure, the landscape for drinking water issues is less settled.

While the House Appropriations Committee has finished its work on EPA funding, the measure has not been taken up for a vote on the House Floor.  The Senate Interior & Environment Appropriations Subcommittee has released its proposal for FY 15 funding but it has not been vetted through the full Committee as yet.

The House measure chops slightly more than $588 million from FY 14 levels and funds the Agency at $2,946,895,000.  For the DWSRF, funding would be decreased by $149,896,000 to an appropriated level of $757 million.  House FY 15 PWSS funding would be stable with FY 14 levels at $101,963,000.  However, both of these programs fall under the State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) program which is subject to a $45 million rescission.  House language did not specify where or how the decrease should be applied.

The Senate Subcommittee measure is a bit more generous than the House version.  Overall Agency funding would decrease by only $11 million from $3.535 billion to $3.524 billion.  Both DWSRF and PWSS funding would be maintained at FY 14 levels, $906.8 million and $101.9 million respectively.  It remains to be seen whether the full Committee chooses to act on this funding measure.

Using a CR comes with its own set of potential pitfalls.  Without traditional funding packages, special interests will be keenly intent on adding their projects or programs to the CR.  It already seems likely that new provisions related to border security would be part of any resolution.  Otherwise, Congressional leaders want to hold the line on policy riders to avoid putting Members up for reelection into potentially awkward positions.