July 19th, 2017
Energy Star Survives, and Other Tales From the Budget Wars
A couple of months ago, I highlighted a phrase that Reason writer Katherine Mangu-Ward used to describe the annual presidential budget requests: “They’re essentially the White House asking Congress for a pony.”
It’s a good line, and this year, it’s looking more and more to be true.
In March, President Trump rolled out a budget plan for 2018 that would have slashed funding for a lot of programs and agencies that affect the door and window industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)? A 31-percent funding cut and no more Energy Star. Department of Energy? Take away $1.7 billion and eliminate the ARPA-E program, which funds research into highly efficient windows. That’s just a couple of examples.
So how’s that working out? So far, not too well for the administration.
Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a 2018 spending bill that preserves Energy Star (though it only provides the program $31 million, about half its current funding level). It also funds the EPA at $1.9 billion above the president’s request for 2018. And this week, a Senate appropriations subcommittee didn’t just reject the elimination of ARPA-E; it boosted its funding for 2018 by 8 percent to $330 million.
“We started with an unrealistic budget proposal from the president,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a big supporter of research programs like ARPA-E.
The annual battle over budgets in Washington always pits ideals against special interests. (For example, Alexander’s state is home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which gets almost all its funding from the DOE.) That’s why it’s not at all surprising that President Trump’s deep cuts are being rejected, often by members of his own party.
Still, the budgeting process isn’t over yet. Subcommittees will continue to work on appropriations bills, and some measures could come up for votes before the full Congress. But it’s still possible that Washington will be debating and arguing over spending right up to the end of September, when a budget bill must be passed to avoid a government shutdown.
By that point, ponies could be hard to come by.