This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) that would have increased funding by $227 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and would also have cut $227 million from nuclear weapons programs. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Energy Department programs and the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012.
Specifically, the amendment would have increased funding for three separate programs. The first was the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provided rebates for home renovations that reduce energy use. The second was the State Energy Program, which provided federal funding to states for energy efficiency initiatives. The third was the Building Technologies program, which funds the development of new technologies that reduce energy use in buildings.
Tonko urged support for his amendment: “First, this amendment will restore funding to the Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP. WAP is the largest residential efficiency program in our nation. It reduces the energy burden on low-income families and the elderly and disabled, and creates jobs, invests in local businesses, and advances technology, state-of-the-art technology….Second, the amendment restores funding to the State Energy Program or SEP. SEP is the only cost-shared program administered by the United States Department of Energy that provides resources directly to the States for allocation by the Governor for use in energy efficiency…Finally, the…amendment restores funding to the Building Technologies Programs. Buildings in the United States use about 40 percent of our total energy and two-thirds of our electricity. As such, this program seeks to promote American innovation and technologies to reduce operating costs to building owners, which is vital in today's market….I wish to close by saying I do not believe we can afford to slip any further behind our global competitors in energy investments. A vote for this amendment is a vote in favor of decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, creating local, private sector contracting jobs, and providing State control on energy projects.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed Tonko’s amendment: “In order to increase funding for this energy efficiency and renewable account, the gentleman's amendment…suggests we decrease funding for weapons activities….the nuclear complex is a critical national security priority and must be refunded. Reductions of this magnitude would be unacceptable and impact our ability and our nuclear security strategy. These reductions in the nuclear account would be to increase funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs primarily in the area of weatherization in the State Energy Program. For your information, these two programs have $3.4 billion in unspent funds from the 2009 stimulus [funds leftover from an economic stimulus law enacted in 2009]…They don't need any more money.”
The House rejected Tonko’s amendment by a vote of 149-273. Voting “yea” were 139 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 10 Republicans. 226 Republicans and 47 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have increased funding by $227 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, and would also have cut $227 million from nuclear weapons programs.