The funding for the mixed-oxide fuel plant at Savannah River Site remains up in the air this week while Congress is on its Memorial Day recess and House leaders devise a plan for avoiding the combination of factors that wrecked the legislation last week.
Funding for MOX was part of the annual energy and water appropriations bill that was defeated Thursday in the House, rare for the 12 required yearly appropriations bills. Ironically, Augusta’s own representative might have played a role.
On the morning of the vote, Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., was invited to read from the Bible during the brief devotional period at the start of a closed-door meeting of House Republicans. He read Romans 1:18-32 and Revelation 22:18-19, according to his press secretary, Madison Fox.
Several members grew angry and stormed out of the meeting because the passages included admonitions against homosexuality, according to several news outlets. It followed a rancorous session the night before in which Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay member of New York’s delegation, offered an amendment prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees.
Maloney’s amendment had enough votes to pass when time expired, but Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., held the period open while members of the House leadership convinced enough Republicans to change their votes to “no” to defeat the amendment. Maloney and his allies’ cries of “shame” made national news.
“Rep. Allen made no mention of the Maloney Amendment, the overall bill, or members who voted for it,” Fox said.
Nevertheless, when the energy and water bill came before the House, Maloney again offered his amendment, which passed with Republican votes. However, Republicans also added provisions in unrecorded voice votes to block the Obama administration from withholding funds from North Carolina over its controversial transgender bathroom law.
When it was time for a vote on the amended bill, the Democrats all opposed it, as did enough Republicans to defeat it.
“I offered my amendment today – through an open process – to give my colleagues a second chance to do the right thing and stand
against discrimination,” Maloney said.
He told reporters he objected to the bill’s North Carolina amendment.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan blamed the Democrats for playing politics.
“What we learned today is that the Democrats were not looking to advance an issue but to sabotage the appropriations process,” he said. “The mere fact that they passed their amendment, then voted against the bill containing their amendment, proves this point.”
For his part, Allen wanted to see the MOX funding pass as it had in committee when the bill was being assembled.
“He would have supported the committee-passed legislation to appropriate the funding, but the left hijacked the bill for political purposes and, to Rep. Allen, the Maloney Amendment was a poison pill for the bill,” Fox said.
Ryan said he will bring the funding bill up for another vote at some point. Congressional aides
say it’s too early to predict when or how.
If it doesn’t pass, funding for the Department of Energy, the MOX project and other agencies covered by the energy and water bill would become subject to a continuing resolution that merely extends the current year’s funding.
A continuing resolution would actually be a victory for supporters of the MOX project because it would nullify the Senate version of the energy and water bill that reduced funding for it.