Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Rep. McCollum Statement on Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Markup

June 10, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – This morning, the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee held a markup of the FY16 funding bill put forth by Chairmen Ken Calvert (R-CA).  Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) is the ranking Democratic member on the subcommittee and issued the following opening statement (as prepared for delivery).

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.

I appreciate the cooperation exhibited by you and the subcommittee staff as we have attempted to work through the many issues facing the subcommittee in what is yet another difficult budget year.

You are to be commended for chairing 14 budget hearings this year where we received testimony from nearly 150 witnesses.

We heard repeatedly from these witnesses about the important work our bill is supposed to fund—

from conserving our natural and historical resources to protecting the air and water every American breaths and drinks. 

Yet the challenges grow and the threats from invasive species, drought, wild fires, and climate change only become more complex and more expensive.

Some of our most moving testimony was from our friends in the Native American community, who documented the unmet needs that still exist and made a compelling case for this subcommittee to build upon its past work to further the social and economic well-being of Native Americans, especially in the area of Indian Education.

The agency heads, tribal councilmembers, and nonprofit leaders that testified here reminded us all of the tremendous value of the federal investments we make, and of the responsibilities we have to protect our public health, our public lands, and the public good. 

This committee is well aware of the real and growing needs that exist across the agencies and programs funded by this subcommittee.

Yet, instead of responsibly addressing those needs on behalf of the American people, this bill once again forces agencies to do more with less –an unrealistic and increasingly impossible task.

Clearly the current budget caps have put a stranglehold on the appropriations process that is dangerously eroding our ability to meet our responsibilities to the American people.

This subcommittee’s 302(b) allocation for FY16 is $246 million dollars below the FY 2015 enacted level.  A quarter of a billion dollar cut! 

When this cut is added to the cuts of the past 5 years, it puts this bill more than $2 BILLION below our 2010 appropriated level. 

We are going backwards and the consequences will be felt in communities all across the country.

The subcommittee funding level is unfortunate because my working relationship with you, Mr. Chairman, has been first rate.

And while I recognize the difficulties you faced in crafting this bill, I cannot support the bill as it now stands.

As a result of the majority’s budget decisions, many agencies and programs are either flat-funded or receive cuts.

The most significant cut is again to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which would receive $718 million less that the FY 2015 enacted level, a 9% cut. This on top of the nearly 20% cut the agency has received over the past four years.

It appears that any increases in this bill have come at the expense of the programs and responsibilities of the EPA and the public health of the American people.

And while the bill includes $3.5 billion, which is 12% of the subcommittee’s allocation, for wildland fire, the majority has failed to do anything to contain the growing burden these costs have put on the agencies and programs funded in this bill.

We know the answer to this crisis. Many of us are cosponsors of Mr. Simpson’s bill – H.R. 167 – to treat a portion of fire costs as the disaster they are.

I am pleased with the bipartisan commitment we have had to the funding of Native American programs and appreciate the funding increases that were provided.

But even here my enthusiasm is tempered. Even though the recommended level for Native American programs is $330 million above the FY 2015 enacted level, it is $474 million less than the Administration requested. A request that certainly was not extravagant and was well documented by the testimony we received.

Finally, I must express my concern and disappointment with the two dozen legislative riders and funding limitations included in the bill. Many of these have been attempted year after year, but six riders are new this year.

These provisions do not belong in our bill. They undermine important environmental laws,endanger public health and safety, and deny that climate change is having an impact on our planet.

Mr. Chairman, Congress needs to get serious about fixing the Budget Control Act’s irresponsible caps. I hope appropriators – Democrats and Republicans – can stand united in leading the effort to end sequestration.

We need a real budget agreement. The sooner that happens the sooner this subcommittee can develop a bill that will earn bipartisan support and be signed by the President. But as it stands now, the numbers and the riders in this Interior and Environment bill are not workable or sustainable. 

We’ve got more work to do to get this right.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 

###

Congresswoman McCollum is the ranking Democratic member on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the Democratic co-chair of the Native American Caucus.