The funding for the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility 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 congressman may have played a role.
But in the complex world of Washington, that may ultimately amount to a win.
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 close-door meeting of House Republicans. He read Romans 1:18-32 and Revelations 22: 18-19, according to his press secretary Madison Fox.
Several members grew angry and stormed out of the meeting, according to several news outlets, because the passages the freshman chose included admonitions against homosexuality. It followed a rancorous session the night before in which Democrat Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the first openly gay member of the New York delegation, offered an amendment prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual 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” for the defeat. 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 LGBT 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 for a state law keeping cities from requiring transgender bathrooms.
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.
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 as 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, the funding for the Department of Energy, MOX, and other agencies covered by the energy and water bill would become subject to a continuing resolution which merely extends the current year’s funding.
A continuing resolution would actually be a victory for supporters of MOX because it would nullify the Senate version of the energy and water bill that reduced funding for the Aiken-based project.