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Trouble Brewing on Spending

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Mike Johanns is likely to force a vote on an amendment to an appropriations bill that would forbid the use of federal funds to regulate farm dust.

"My legislation [would say], you can't regulate farm dust, that's absurd," Johanns said. "It's just indicative of what this administration is about. They are so incredibly out of touch. You can't farm without creating dust."

Democrats say the issue is a red herring — the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture say no regulation is forthcoming. But Johanns said he has been in contact with the EPA and feels it has not been clear.

"If [EPA Administrator] Lisa Jackson would write me a letter, or something, saying, 'We are not going to regulate farm dust,' we'd solve the problem," Johanns said.

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) dismissed Johanns' complaints.

"Lisa Jackson of the EPA has declared repeatedly that there is no [farm] dust [rule afoot]," Johnson said.

Other possible amendments to the package include proposals from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to cut spending in the individual bills.

"We will bring it down so that we will actually be changing the money that is spent," Paul said.

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) might offer an amendment to the Agriculture spending bill that would prevent the Food and Drug Administration from spending any funds on approving genetically engineered salmon.

The agency is considering an application by AquaBounty Technologies Inc. to grow genetically engineered salmon in Panama for importation into the United States, with plans to eventually grow the fish in the U.S., according to his office.

The fish would grow faster than natural fish, and some lawmakers, including Begich, have concerns about the effect of escaped fish on wild salmon stocks, the suitability of such fish for human consumption and the FDA's approval process for the fish.

But the main front of the war will almost certainly be in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will likely need the help of Democrats to pass either an omnibus or a series of minibus bills.

With leadership remaining adamant that the funding levels agreed to in the August debt deal be used, House conservatives are gearing up to take a stand on policy riders instead.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a thorn in the side of leadership, is circulating a letter calling on Boehner to use the sort of open process to pass the fiscal 2012 spending package as he used on H.R. 1.

"Given the likely truncated process forthcoming ... shutting down an open floor process would clearly send taxpayers the wrong message," Flake writes in the letter.

An Oct. 4 legislative bulletin from the conservative Republican Study Committee listed several riders that are priorities for the right. The list includes a ban on federal funding for abortion providers, measures aimed at halting new environmental and Net neutrality regulations, and efforts to strip funding for National Public Radio, the Palestinian Authority and the Legal Services Corp.

"I expect a defunding of the Palestinian Authority to come up as a larger issue," a senior GOP aide confirmed, in addition to the EPA and abortion riders.

Securing many of these riders would go a long way toward easing the bruised feelings many conservatives have over the stopgap bill — and the higher spending levels that were agreed to under the debt deal when compared to the House GOP's budget.

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