"The Senate on Thursday approved big budget increases for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency as it passed a $32 billion spending measure for the budget year that starts next week.
The measure, passed 77-21, is especially generous with EPA grants to cities and counties for clean and safe drinking water projects. The money would ease a backlog and would, Democrats say, create much-needed infrastructure jobs.
The measure is the sixth of the 12 annual spending bills setting agency operating budgets to have passed the Senate. Like the others, the measure provides significant increases for the programs it covers, including a 33 percent increase for the EPA. The additional money mostly would cover the more than doubling of the budget for water and sewer grants — if money provided in the economic stimulus bill passed in February isn't included in the calculations.
All told, the bill would provide a 17 percent boost for its programs, including $2.6 billion for the Forest Service to combat wildfires, a 21 percent increase, and $4 billion for the Indian Health Service, an 11 percent increase.
The bill contains more than 300 pet projects known as earmarks sought by senators. They total $246 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based budget watchdog group. Many of those went to local governments to replace water and sewer lines, while others went for improvements at parks and wildlife refuges and to preserve historic structures."