Simpson Remarks at FY24 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Bill Markup
The Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will come to order.
We are here today to markup the Fiscal Year 2024 Interior bill. I would like to welcome Full Committee Ranking Member DeLauro, Subcommittee Ranking Member Pingree, and the other Members of the Subcommittee.
The Fiscal Year 2024 Interior bill provides $35 billion in spending, which is 10 percent below the Fiscal Year 2023 level, and it includes $9.4 billion of rescissions from the Inflation Reduction Act. This brings the Subcommittee’s discretionary allocation to $25.4 billion, which is $13.4 billion or 35 percent below the Fiscal Year 2023 level.
I will be honest – if you're looking for a pretty bill, this is not it. This is a hard bill, but frankly, it is a necessary bill.
Cutting funding is never easy and can often be an ugly process. But with the national debt in excess of $32 trillion and inflation at an unacceptable level, we must do our jobs to rein in unnecessary federal spending.
We must make tough choices to rein in discretionary spending and this bill does that.
Within the allocation provided, the bill fully funds Payments in Lieu of Taxes for Fiscal Year 2024 estimated at $515 million. The bill fulfills our commitments to Tribes by funding the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Indian Health Service accounts at Fiscal Year 2023 levels or above. In addition, the bill provides a Fiscal Year 2025 advance for the Indian Health Service.
For the wildfire accounts, the last Congress funded fire suppression activities as an emergency. We cannot continue this fiscally irresponsible budgetary gimmick. So, the bill includes a $1.6 billion discretionary increase to fund wildfire activities more appropriately. The bill also includes a $2.65 billion cap adjustment for Wildfire Suppression, as authorized.
In order to fund these increases, while adhering to our Committee-approved allocation, the bill reduces funding for nearly every other appropriation in the bill.
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.
These reductions are necessary to right-size these agencies and take into account the excessive level of funding that the agencies received outside of the regular appropriations process during the previous Congress.
The bill also includes Community Project Funding for clean and drinking water 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.
In addition to right-sizing agency funding levels, the bill includes important policies limiting the activities of the Administration and promoting domestic energy production including:
- Halting 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 at a time when we should be doing everything we can to lessen our dependence on foreign entities;
- Limiting abuse of the Endangered Species Act regarding species such as the sage-grouse, the gray wolf, bison, and the lesser prairie-chicken;
- 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 because Republican Hispanic Members have expressed serious concerns that these Smithsonian exhibits depict Hispanic Americans as victims and promote socialism.
I hope that the Smithsonian works with my Hispanic Republican colleagues to address their concerns making this language unnecessary in the final bill, so far they have not done that.
While I know that Ranking Member Pingree does not support all the funding recommendations or policies included in the bill, I appreciate her input into the bill and her cooperative approach to working with me.
I look forward to our continued collaboration and working with all the Members of the Subcommittee as the Appropriations process continues.
Now, I’d like to recognize Ranking Member Pingree for her opening remarks.