Simpson's I&E Report:
Interior Appropriations Bill Passes Subcommittee
On releasing the budget, Simpson noted that the difficult budget environment required making difficult decisions. “During our oversight hearings this year, we’ve stressed the need to separate the critical ‘must-do’ priorities from those that are nice or even very important,” said Simpson. “This means we’ve reduced and even terminated some programs that are popular with both Members of Congress and the American people in order to provide critical funding to fight and prevent wildfires, make sure our national parks stay open, and address human health, public safety, and treaty obligations and responsibilities.”
The FY14 Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee mark funds programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction at $24.3 billion, which is a cut of $5.5 billion from the current fiscal year. This means that the bill has seen a 25% reduction since FY10 under Simpson’s chairmanship.
Simpson’s bill focuses its limited resources on critical priorities like wildfire funding. The bill fully funds wildfire suppression accounts at the 10-year average and provides additional funding to prevent fire borrowing this year. It also provides funding for the Forest Service to acquire two next generation aircraft to fight fires, since the current fleet is nearing the end of its useful life. Recognizing the value and cost effectiveness of preventing wildfires versus fighting them, the bill also increases funding for hazardous fuels removal.
The bill includes a number of other provisions, including:
The bill also includes $2.9 billion in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. This amounts to a 35% cut from current levels and brings the agency’s budget below FY 1978 levels. The bill also includes language preventing EPA from implementing the cornerstone of President Obama’s recently-announced climate change initiative.
“This Administration's appetite for new regulations and disregard for the will of Congress has left us with little choice but to block his climate change agenda in this bill,” said Simpson. “The actions we've taken to address the EPA’s overreach and reduce its budget not only help us meet the tight spending constraints under which we're operating, they help our struggling economy and encourage job creators to invest and expand.”
During the markup, Simpson responded to criticisms of the bill by reminding subcommittee members about the very real fiscal challenges our nation faces. “One thing I didn’t hear in all of the comments that were made [from the other side of the aisle] is the fact that we are $17 trillion in debt. $17 trillion. Now, if you want to talk about leaving a legacy for future generations, let that continue to grow and grow and grow and without having the courage to do anything about it,” Simpson said. “We are not doing anything different [in this bill] than state legislatures have been doing for about the last four or five years in trying to address their budget problems. They’ve made tough and ugly decisions all across the board, but we act here like because we’ve got a printing press we are exempt from making those tough decisions. We’re not exempt; we’re $17 trillion in debt.”
To watch Congressman Simpson’s statement from the subcommittee markup, visit his YouTube website. The full Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill next week.
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