Recently in Washington
Last week, the House passed H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, by a vote of 408 to 2. The bill authorizes critical projects and activities related to the key missions of the Army Corps of Engineers – navigation, flood risk management, hurricane and storm damage reduction, and ecosystem restoration. The House also concurred in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3249, the Project Safe Neighborhoods Grant Program Authorization Act of 2017, by a vote of 394 to 13. The bill establishes a grant program to provide resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to combat gang activity in their communities.
On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 3, the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act, by a vote of 210 to 206. The bill rescinds approximately $15 billion of unobligated balances from previously appropriated funding. On Friday, the House passed H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019, by a vote of 235 to 179. The bill provides funding for national defense nuclear weapons activities, the Army Corps of Engineers, various programs under the Department of Energy, the Legislative Branch, the Department of Veterans Affairs, military construction and family housing for the Department of Defense, and other related agencies for Fiscal Year 2019. Congressman Simpson supported all of these bills.
Simpson’s Energy and Water Legislation Passes the House
House approves legislation including Energy and Water, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch Appropriations bill.
“The FY19 Energy and Water bill recognizes the leading national role that the Idaho National Laboratory plays in enhancing our national security and increasing American competitiveness,” said Chairman Simpson. “I’m proud to support their groundbreaking research in advanced reactor and fuel development, battery and bioenergy programs, and protecting the electric grid from cyber-attacks, and I am pleased this bill fulfills their needs to continue this critical work.”
The FY 2019 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill sets funding for the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy at $1.2 billion. Nuclear energy research and development programs that receive funding within the overall $1.2 billion allocation include:
Other vital priorities funded within the Energy and Water division include:
The bill also provides $420 million for cleanup activities associated with the Idaho Cleanup Project and the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project co-located on the Idaho desert with INL. The funding level will allow the significant cleanup activities currently underway to continue. The bill also includes an additional $5 million for the National Spent Fuel Program, putting the unique expertise of INL to work in order to provide solutions for managing the Department of Energy’s inventories of spent nuclear fuel.
The bill also contains funding to support the continued adjudication of the Yucca Mountain license application, ensuring the federal government will meet its commitments to Idaho and other states and dispose of used nuclear fuel.
Overall, the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill provides $44.7 billion for the functions of the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation and a number of independent agencies, including direction for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Bonneville Power Administration.
“This is a well-balanced bill that places emphasis where it is needed most: meeting critical national security needs and investing in our nation's infrastructure," Chairman Simpson said. "It prioritizes the maintenance and security of our nuclear weapons stockpile, while also supporting infrastructure projects and strategic research and development that will increase U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.”
Simpson also praised the passage of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill for Fiscal Year 2019, which was included in H.R. 5895. “This FY19 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill is landmark legislation- besides rebuilding our military infrastructure, the bill provides the largest dollar increase in history for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill funds healthcare for our veterans, modernizes the VA records system, continues to rebuild military infrastructure, and addresses the veterans compensation claims backlog. I am extremely proud to support this legislation which upholds our responsibility to veterans and military families.”
The FY19 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Bill also includes:
H.R. 5895 will now be conferenced with the Senate version of these pieces of legislation.
Watch the Congressman discuss Sage Grouse and Science Transparency at the EPA during the House Interior Appropriations Markup
“The House Appropriations Committee has once again put together a bill that reflects the priorities of Idaho and other western members,” said Simpson. “PILT, wildfire funding, and further relief from the last Administration’s regulations are a major focus of this bill and I look forward to seeing these provisions signed into law later this year.”
The Interior bill includes a number of priorities championed by Simpson that benefit Idaho, including:
Congressman Simpson also spoke against an amendment that would have eliminated the EPA’s ability to make the science used during the rulemaking process publicly available.
“The basis of science is that if you come to a conclusion, you should be able to verify the results,” said Simpson. “Without transparency on the science EPA is using to create some of these rules, we don’t know if they are justifiable in many cases. That is why I appreciate what the Administrator is trying to do by make science publicly available and also providing safeguards for confidential information such as medical records.”
Watch Simpson discuss science transparency at the EPA during the markup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Px2215PKiI
The bill will now head to the floor of the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Simpson Supports Troops
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson votes for legislation that increases military funding
Idaho Congressman Simpson applauded the passage of H.R. 5515, the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. Simpson supported the legislation, which fulfills the constitutional responsibility of Congress to provide for the common defense by funding the Department of Defense.
“The annual NDAA bill is one of the most important votes I take each year, and FY 2019 is no different,” said Simpson. “The United States continues to face evolving threats, and H.R. 5515 demonstrates Congress’ commitment to improve readiness and rebuild the military by increasing topline funding to support our troops. I am especially pleased that the bill recognizes the continued importance of the A-10 fleet.”
The FY2019 NDAA includes $163.7 million in the base budget for A-10 modifications, an increase of $65 million for the A-10 wing replacement program, and contains language preventing the retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which currently operates at Gowen Field in Boise. Additionally, it prohibits the Secretary of the Air Force from reducing A-10 squadrons until results from comparative testing and evaluation between the capabilities of the F-35 and A-10 are submitted to Congress.
The bill also provides for a pay raise of 2.6% for our service members, the largest in nine years.
H.R. 5515 passed in the House with a bipartisan vote of 351-66.
At 12:00 p.m., the House Committee on Appropriations will hold a markup of the fiscal year 2019 Defense and Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bills.
MONDAY, JUNE 11TH
1) H.R. 449 - Synthetic Drug Awareness Act of 2018, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries / Energy and Commerce Committee)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13TH
1) H.R. 5294 - Treating Barriers to Prosperity Act of 2018 (Sponsored by Rep. Lou Barletta / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee)
Panel reverses, says white potatoes OK for WIC recipients
By Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press, February 3, 2015
The prestigious Institute of Medicine said Tuesday that pregnant women and moms should be allowed to buy white potatoes with subsidies from the government's Women, Infants and Children program. An IOM panel said people aren't getting enough starchy vegetables or potassium and fiber, nutrients that are plentiful in potatoes.
That's a reversal of a 2006 IOM report that recommended against including white potatoes in the WIC program, saying people were eating too many of them. WIC gives needy pregnant women and mothers government-subsidized food vouchers to ensure good nutrition for their families.
What's changed since 2006? The government's dietary guidelines increased the recommendation for starchy vegetables to 3.5 cups per week for children and 5 cups per week for women. Under the newer recommendations, the panel estimates that children are consuming about 64 percent of what is recommended and women are consuming about 56 percent.
"Intakes of all vegetable subgroups should be improved, including those of starchy vegetables," the report says. White potatoes include russet, red, yellow, fingerling, blue, and purple potatoes.
Allowing white potatoes into WIC doesn't mean potatoes and french fries. The WIC program only allows the purchase of vegetables without added sugars, fats or oils. The exact requirements vary state to state, but they can be fresh, frozen or canned, as long as they don't have the added ingredients.
The USDA uses the IOM recommendations to decide what exactly will be allowed in the WIC program.
But they also have taken on political overtones. The new recommendations are a major victory for the potato industry and lawmakers from potato-growing states, who have lobbied for several years to include potatoes in WIC. Those lawmakers successfully added language to a massive year-end spending bill that allowed potatoes in the program for the first time.
The spending bill expires later this year, and Tuesday's IOM recommendation likely means Congress won't have to intervene on the issue going forward.
Officials who fought congressional efforts to intervene appeared to welcome IOM's new advice. When the spending bill adding potatoes to WIC passed in December, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said lawmakers shouldn't be meddling in science. USDA spokesman Cullen Schwarz said Tuesday that the department thanks the IOM for their analysis and will "continue to ensure that WIC reflects the panel's recommendations."
Douglas Greenaway, president of the National WIC Association, said the report proves that "science should be at the center" of decisions about foods in WIC. He said Congress making decisions on WIC "opens the doors to special interest groups to press for their particular foods to be in the food package."
The potato industry had another major legislative victory in 2011, when Congress voted to thwart the Agriculture Department's recommendation that only two servings a week of potatoes and other starchy vegetables be served in federally subsidized school lunches. The USDA effort was an attempt to limit the proliferation of french fries on school lunch lines.
Nutrition advocates have been concerned that WIC recipients would use potatoes for french fries as well. The panel didn't review how potatoes purchased on WIC were prepared at home, but doctors on the committee pointed out that people often add oils and cheese to other vegetables, besides potatoes.
"We're not sure that potatoes are prepared in the home a whole lot differently from other vegetables," said Dr. Susan Baker of the Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who led the congressional push to add potatoes to WIC, praised the IOM report. She said USDA should weigh in on how potatoes are prepared.
"Instead of prohibiting the purchase of the fresh potato, USDA should encourage its healthy preparation," Collins said.
A new version of the dietary guidelines is due later this year. The IOM said its recommendation should be re-evaluated if the current guidelines for starchy vegetables change.
WIC provides grants to states to provide food vouchers to low-income pregnant women, women who have recently given birth and infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk. Only a handful of foods meant to boost nutrition are allowed, such as whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits and vegetables.
Kathleen Rasmussen, a professor of nutrition at Cornell University, chaired the IOM committee. She says they don't know exactly how the recommendation will affect WIC recipients' buying patterns, but there is some evidence that those consumers like other vegetables just as much as they like potatoes.
"People like potatoes and they buy a lot of potatoes, but when you give them a voucher they don't necessarily buy potatoes with it," she said.
Advancing federal budgets impact Idaho
By: Bryan Clark, Post Register, June 8, 2018
The appropriations process is underway in the U.S. House. It's a process that has a large local impact due to the importance of federal institutions such as Idaho National Laboratory, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in the Gem State.
The budget was crafted by the Energy and Water Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, serves as chairman of the subcommittee.
"I was very pleased that it passed by a good margin," Simpson said Friday.
Simpson said he was happy with big increases for the country's nuclear weapons arsenal, nuclear energy and cybersecurity funding. Both the nuclear energy budget and the cybersecurity budget are sources of funding for INL.
The cybersecurity budget saw the largest relative increase, of 53 percent over last year. Simpson said that comes in response to a growing awareness of threats faced by the nation from hackers working on behalf of foreign powers or independently.
"They could hack into our energy systems and bring down the grid," he said. "Or into the banking system. You name it. The threat of hacking into these systems is great."
A number of other provisions that will affect federal agencies with important impacts in the Gem State is the budget for the Department of the Interior, which includes agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
That budget earlier this week cleared the mark-up process, where a large number of amendments proposed by members of the budget committee are considered and voted on.
Democrats warned the budget could run into trouble in the Senate over a so-called "policy rider" - a provision within the budget bill authorizing the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw an earlier proposed ruling on the scope of the term "Waters of United States." The definition of that term is at the heart of a fight over the scope of the EPA to protect the quality of smaller and intermittent water streams under the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act originally extended the EPA authority to regulate the "navigable waters" of the U.S., but the meaning of the term "navigable" has never been entirely clear.
"Navigable to what? A steam ship? A canoe? A rubber raft," Simpson said.
Simpson said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is in the process of writing a version of the rule that will restrict the federal government's ability to regulate some smaller and intermittent streams, leaving such regulation up to states.
Republicans have long opposed the the EPA's current proposed definition, saying it would overextend the authority of the agency to regulate waters traditionally regulated by states.
EPA officials have previously argued that the proposed definition is important for ensuring the quality of larger bodies of water. The agency's proposed definition allowed it to regulate any stream that had a "significant nexus" - or important connection - to larger bodies of water. Agency officials under the Obama Administration argued if such smaller water bodies are polluted, it makes it more difficult to ensure water quality downstream.
"This guidance will keep safe the streams and wetlands that affect the quality of the water used for drinking, swimming, fishing, farming, manufacturing, tourism and other activities essential to the American economy and quality of life," the EPA argued in its proposal.
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