The HILL By Miranda Green – 09/24/19 10:43 AM EDT
A final Senate budget deal appears set to offer no funding for the Trump administration’s plans to move the headquarters of the Interior Department’s land management agency out West.
Funding for the Interior Department passed out of committee Tuesday deprives the Trump administration of requested funds to move an anticipated nearly 300 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees out of Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colo., and other locations in the Western U.S.
Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member on the Senate Appropriations interior subcommittee, said he was “pleased” that the bill failed to include any new funding for the “ill-advised” BLM reorganization.
“Between this bill and the strong statement made by the House to oppose the reorganization, the administration would be well-advised to stop trying to ram these changes through and actually work with Congress on a good faith basis,” Udall said Tuesday.
The funding news come as the Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved a $35.8 billion measure to fund the Interior Department, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Indian Health Service and other agencies. Interior had initially requested that Congress reallocate $5.3 million in their existing budget towards the BLM reorganization.
An Interior Spokesperson said the agency is regardless “moving full speed ahead” with its reorganization plans.
“As previously approved by Congress, we have the means to complete this relocation and establish the new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. The Department intends to give BLM employees their legally authorized compensation and incentives, but ultimately it is up to Congress to decide if they want to deny these benefits to our employees,” the spokesperson said Tuesday.
A full markup on the bill is scheduled for Thursday.
The House similarly offered no funding for the Interior Department’s highly debated plans to move the majority of its BLM staff away from Washington, D.C.
The House recommendation read that the “Committee is not convinced of the efficacy of moving additional personnel out of the headquarters area when approximately 93 percent of Bureau employees are already working in the field and directs that no additional relocations of headquarters staff take place.”