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McCollum: House Should Follow Regular Order for Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill

July 11, 2016
Press Release

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) delivered the following remarks at the House Rules Committee's hearing on the FY 2017 Interior-Environemnt Appropriations Bill:

Chairman Sessions, Ranking Member Slaughter, and Members of the Rules Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the FY 2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Before I get into the specifics of this bill, I would like to be clear that I believe consideration of this bill on the House floor should be under an open rule.

That is the traditional process for appropriations legislation, and it is being undermined by these structured rules.

With the successful passage of a bipartisan amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, this Congress went on record to support the protection of our LGBT brothers and sisters from employment discrimination.

I’m proud of that vote. But instead of embracing the will of Congress and the American people, Republican leadership has shut down the open process to avoid votes they don’t want to take.

That is wrong. Every member should be free to offer an amendment if it is germane to the bill.

That is why I hope my colleagues on the Rules Committee today will make in order the bipartisan amendment offered by Congressman Maloney and colleagues.

Despite my disappointment in the lack of an open floor process, I do want to express my appreciation as the Ranking Member of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, to Chairman Calvert and his staff. It has been my pleasure to work together on this bill, and I thank him and his staff for their open and collaborative approach.

In particular, I want to express how proud I am of this subcommittee’s non-partisan approach to addressing issues facing Native Americans.

I am pleased that the bill recommends an increase of $343 million for programs critical to Indian country. The health, education, and safety in tribal communities is a federal responsibility that Chairman Calvert and I, as well as our fellow subcommittee members, take very seriously.

The larger character of this bill, however, is a cause of great concern.

This subcommittee's allocation is $64 million less than last year’s enacted level. This means the needs of many important programs vital to protecting our nation’s natural and cultural resources will not be met as they far outpace a stagnant allocation.

Within this constrained topline number, difficult choices had to be made and, sadly, the majority cut important programs that protect the American public and conserve our natural resources.

The most significant programmatic cut is to the Environmental Protection Agency, which is slashed by $164 million.

This cut will impact the Agency’s ability to protect human health and the health of our environment and to ensure clean air and clean water for our families and future generations.

This year, the critical need for the EPA was unmistakable as our nation watched a tragedy unfold in Flint, Michigan where children were poisoned by lead in their drinking-water.

So, I find it difficult to reconcile the cuts recommended in this bill with the public health challenges faced by this community, and throughout our country.

Flint is a culmination of years of weakening EPA through budget cuts and over-reliance on state agencies to manage federal environmental laws.

All of our communities deserve and expect their government to provide clean water and basic public health protections.

In addition to the irresponsible cuts to the EPA, I am also troubled by the 30% reduction for Endangered Species Listing.

Reducing funding for this program opens the door for litigation and it delays protecting and recovering vulnerable species.

Lastly, I must express my concern and disappointment with the partisan riders in this bill.

This bill contains 38 egregious riders that pander to special interests at the expense of the public good.

These veto-bait provisions seek to turn back protections for endangered species like the sage grouse and the gray wolf, to restrict control of greenhouse gas emissions, and to undermine clean water and clean air protections. They do not belong in this bill.

Mr. Chairman, I request that when H.R. 5538 comes to the floor, it be considered under a true open rule so the House can have a thorough and informed debate on the bill.

The health of our environment and our communities, and the legacy we leave for future generations, will be impacted by the spending and policy decisions made by this legislation. Those decisions deserve full and open consideration.

Again, I thank you and the Members of the Rules Committee for the opportunity to testify on H.R. 5538.