This was a vote on passage of legislation providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior and for environmental agencies. The measure increased corresponding 2009 spending by $4.7 billion, or 17%.
The legislation was included in a conference report developed by representatives of the House and the Senate. The House and Senate had each passed different versions of the funding bill. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of representatives of both bodies.
Rep. Dicks (D-Wash) chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the House version of the bill and participated in the conference in which the final version was negotiated. He led the support for the conference report during the debate on it. Dicks claimed that “the programs funded through this bill have been chronically underfunded” during the previous Bush Administration, and that this measure “would reverse that trend”.
Dicks noted that, between 2001 and 2008, when adjusted for inflation, the amount the Bush Administration had requested for the Interior Department declined by 16%, the amount requested for EPA declined by 29% percent, and the amount requested for the Forest Service other than for fire-fighting declined by35%. He claimed: “(T)his bill invests taxpayers' dollars in our natural resources, and for this investment all Americans will see a great return.”
Rep. Simpson (R-Idaho) is the Ranking Republican on the subcommittee that developed H.R. 2996, and was leading the minority during the debate on the bill. He began his remarks by saying that “many things (have been) achieved by this legislation. . . .” He then went on to say: “(H)owever . . . this conference agreement . . . assumes that more money is the answer to every problem we face . . . (The measure) provides a disproportionate level of funding to one agency, the EPA, and creates an imbalance that undermines what could be a very fine piece of legislation . . . .”
Simpson further argued: “(T)his package also provides large increases in programs without having clearly defined goals or sufficient processes in place to measure results or the return on our investment.
The legislation passed by a vote of 247-178. Two hundred and thirty-seven Democrats and ten Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-three Republicans and fifteen Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House passed and sent to the Senate the final version of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Interior Department, which included a continuing resolution that funded the other federal departments and agencies through mid-December of 2010.