Republicans used the looming debt crisis to force their anti-environment agenda on America. The credit ceiling agreement passed by the House on August 1, makes the Tea Party the big winner and intransigence the winning tactic. Although widely referred to as a “compromise,” the Democrats made most of the concessions including eradicating tax increases for the top 2 percent of Americans and big cuts to the EPA. There is also significantly reduced funding for important energy and water projects.
As reported in Platts, former Clinton administration energy advisor Elgie Holstein said the agreement will result in cuts to a range of energy and environmental programs. These cuts are expected to be around the same levels as those House Republicans proposed for the fiscal 2012 budget.
“I think the house FY12 numbers give us a preview of that, and these new numbers are probably going to be even tougher,” said Holstein, now a senior director at the Environmental Defense Fund. “While the big headline grabbing fight over the debt ceiling deadline may be settling down, the real program-by-program fights are just beginning.”
The agreement, raises the debt ceiling in two tiers each with an accompanying set of spending cuts. The bill immediately puts in place federal spending limits for the next 10 years, beginning with the fiscal 2012 budget.
For Democrats there is not a lot of good news. For those concerned about the environment it is even worse.
For fiscal 2012, the deal would allow a total of $1.043 trillion in federal discretionary spending. These spending caps make it very unlikely that the Senate will be able increase spending levels for energy and environmental programs.
The energy and water development appropriations bill (H.R. 2354) approved by the House on July 15, would provide the Department of Energy with $850 million less than it received in 2011 reducing the DOE budget to $24.7 billion in fiscal 2012.
Under the Interior appropriations bill (H.R. 2584), the Environmental Protection Agency, Interior Department and related agencies would receive $3.8 billion less than the amount requested by the White House reducing the budget to $27.5 billion. EPA would get $1.5 billion less than this year for a total budget of $7.1 billion in 2012.
The cuts are far from over with a congressional committee scheduled to find another $1.5 trillion in cuts later this year.
White House spokesman Jay Carney tried to find a silver lining to this dismal agreement for the environment by saying that oil subsidies could be on the table for congressional committee cuts later this year.
“If the joint committee decides, for example, that part of a balanced deal should be to eliminate tax subsidies for oil and gas companies — as the president has called for, they can do that and they would raise revenues through doing that,” Carney said at a White House briefing.
After being rewarded for their obstructionism, there is no reason to believe that Republicans will stop using the tactics that got them this far. Even though tax increases for the wealthiest 2 percent are supported by the majority of Americans, they are unlikely to get any Republican support.
Even with all the concessions made by Democrats, many Republicans are still complaining they did not get enough.
A vote will be held in the Senate later today where the agreement on the debt ceiling is expected to pass.
GOP partisanship is undermining America’s democracy. Although it does not reflect the democratic will of the American people, Republicans and their Tea Party supporters held America hostage, and won.
© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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