The House Appropriations Committee voted unanimously yesterday to block Interior Secretary James G. Watt from selling oil and gas leases off the northern and central coasts of California and wilderness areas for the rest of the fiscal year that ends next October.
The committee also took several other pokes at Watt in approving a $7.4 billion appropriations bill for the Interior Department, including trimming his office funds by $3.6 million on grounds that he should help "set an example in times of fiscal restraint."
Moreover, it recommended against use of National Park Service facilities for political or social events when they result in closing out the public, a not-so-subtle reminder of Watt's use of the Custis-Lee Mansion at Arlington National Cemetery for a party.
While the committee slashed $43.5 million for offshore energy development, it urged continued development of synthetic fuels and energy conservation and approved a $100 million increase in spending for parkland acquisition.
As the tempo of action on money bills increased, the Senate Appropriations Committee also approved $13.5 billion for energy and water projects, including continued funding for the controversial Clinch River breeder reactor and Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway, which critics are expected to try to kill or cripple on the Senate floor.
It also added $62.2 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission, bringing the total up to the House-proposed level of $145 million.
A House Appropriations subcommittee approved $9.7 billion in new spending authority for housing, including construction and modernization projects, as part of the Democrats' effort to put together a public works job-creating program.