Simpson Remarks at FY24 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill Full Committee Markup
I am pleased to be here with my colleagues to present the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior bill.
I’d like to thank the Chairwoman for her strong support and leadership of the Committee. I appreciate the commitment and dedication it has taken to get us to this important step in the appropriations process.
I also want to recognize Ranking Member DeLauro and Ranking Member Pingree for their work on this bill. While we may not agree on some items in this bill, and there might be a little difference of opinion, I appreciate her commitment to the Subcommittee’s issues, and I look forward to continuing to work with her over the coming months as we move the bill forward.
Lastly, I want to thank the Members of the Subcommittee and the staff on both sides of the aisle for their hard work and contributions to the bill. None of this would be possible without the staff and the incredible work that they do, on both the majority and minority.
The Fiscal Year 2024 Interior bill provides $35 billion in spending – a 10 percent reduction below the Fiscal Year 2023 enacted level – and includes $9.4 billion of rescissions from the Inflation Reduction Act.
In drafting this bill, we worked very hard to rein in federal spending while prioritizing critical needs within our Subcommittee’s allocation.
The bill fully funds Payments in Lieu of Taxes and provides a $1.6 billion discretionary increase to fund wildfire activities without using irresponsible budgetary gimmicks, which was done last year.
A lot of the wildfire funding went into emergency spending instead of in the bill where it should be. We haven't done those gimmicks, which means we had to bring those costs back into the bill.
The bill also includes a $2.65 billion cap adjustment for Wildfire Suppression, as authorized by law.
The bill advances the Committee’s longstanding, bipartisan effort to increase the federal commitment to Tribes by providing funding for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service at or above the Fiscal Year 2023 levels. I am also pleased that the bill provides a Fiscal Year 2025 advance for the Indian Health Service.
I made a commitment from the start of this that we were not going to balance this budget on the backs of our Indian brothers and sisters. And we kept that commitment in this bill. And it's a bipartisan commitment, and has been under both Republican and Democratic leadership, that we have a moral and a trust responsibility to the Indians of this country and we need to we need to make sure that we are trying to address that we still have a long ways to go. But we're moving in the right direction.
To prioritize these programs while adhering to our committee approved allocation, the bill reduces funding for nearly every other appropriation in this bill. I have to tell you, we had to cut funding for some of my favorite programs in this bill, but it was necessary.
Cutting funding is never easy and it can often be an ugly, arduous process. But with the national debt in excess of $32 trillion and inflation at an unacceptable level, we must make tough choices to ensure we do not saddle our children and grandchildren with overwhelming debt.
Some may say that discretionary spending, and I already went through that, is only a small portion of it, but it is a portion of it, and we also have to address that.
We must rein in unnecessary federal spending and put our economy on the track to recover. This bill does that.
Agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Interior Office of the Secretary, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Council on Environmental Quality all receive double digit percentage reductions. The EPA is reduced by $4 billion or 39 percent below the Fiscal Year 2023 level with reductions aimed at research and regulatory activities.
The bill also includes Community Project Funding for clean and drinking water improvement projects within the EPA. We did our best to fund the projects requested but would note that the total funding requested greatly exceeded the funding available for projects.
The bill also includes important policies limiting the activities of the Administration and promoting domestic energy production including:
- Halting heavy-handed, job killing regulations by the EPA, such as repealing the recent Waters of the United States regulation and rules that target reliable energy sources and domestic manufacturing;
- Limiting abuse of the Endangered Species Act;
- Expanding access to critical minerals; and
- Requiring oil and gas lease sales.
I also included language prohibiting funds for certain Hispanic programs at the Smithsonian Institution, and I've seen the press releases on this from my colleagues, we did this because Republican Hispanic Members have expressed serious concerns that these Smithsonian exhibits depict Hispanic Americans as victims and promote socialism.
I sincerely hope that the Smithsonian will work with my Hispanic Republican colleagues to address their concerns making this language unnecessary in the final bill.
This markup is the beginning of a long process, and I look forward to continuing to work with Ranking Member Pingree and the Members of the Committee to find common ground as this process continues.
Before I close, I also wanted to take a moment to thank Congressman Stewart for his service, dedication, and commitment to Congress. This is his last Interior markup. He has been a great friend and trusted leader on many important issues. We will miss him greatly.
Thank you. With that, I yield back.