Last week the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5972, the Fiscal Year 2013 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill which provided $51.6 billion for discretionary budget authority for FY13. It also approved the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, which reauthorized federal surface transportation programs and extended the authority to appropriate funds from the Highway Trust Fund for two years. That bill also included extensions of student loan programs and the National Flood Insurance Program. The House also passed a contempt of Congress resolution for Attorney General Eric Holder relating to Operation Fast and Furious.
Interior FY2013 Appropriations Bill Approved by Committee
The House Appropriations Committee last week marked up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, put forth a bill that responds to our nation's fiscal crisis by cutting $1.2 billion from the current fiscal year's level. The bill shifts the focus away from efforts to grow government and puts it back on proven, core programs.
"The Subcommittee has made very difficult choices in preparing this budget proposal, but at the end of the day, what this Committee is attempting to do is reduce spending, create more certainty in the marketplace, and promote an economic environment conducive to job growth," said Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson. "The bill reins in funding and overzealous regulation at the EPA and reduces overall spending for the third year in a row. We've made some difficult decisions in this bill - decisions that will help reduce our budget deficit while funding many important agencies and programs at sustainable and appropriate levels."
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013 funds agencies under the bill at $28 billion, a $1.7 billion cut from the President's budget request. The EPA will see an additional $1.4 billion in cuts from the current level, which constitutes a cut of 17%. The bill includes $3.2 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention programs, a $6 million increase over the current year. Among its many provisions:
* The bill fully funds wildfire suppression at the 10-year average;
* The bill also funds the FLAME Wildfire Suppression Reserve Account as requested;
* The bill includes a one-year authorization extension for the mandatory Payment-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program. This program provides funds for rural local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their areas. The authorization for PILT is set to expire on September 30, 2012. Without Congressional action, many rural communities will be left with huge budget shortfalls that could impact public safety, education, and other local government responsibilities;
* The bill provides $2.2 billion in funding for the Operation of the National Park System, which is $20.6 million below the budget request, but will ensure that every NPS unit will remain operational next year;
* National Park Construction is funded at the requested level of $131 million and includes no new construction starts;
* The bill includes $967 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a $101 million cut below last year's level. The majority of the reductions are in climate change, ecosystems, and administrative accounts, while programs dealing with energy and minerals, mapping, and water are prioritized;
* Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is funded at $150 million in the bill, the same as last year's level. The bill will maintain state grants at $69 million, and discourages the Administration from imposing new fees on the industry. The legislation also prohibits funding from being used to administer or implement the overly burdensome and potentially damaging "stream buffer rule;"
* The bill also ensures that land management agencies like the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Park Service have adequate funding for achieving land management goals, including ensuring that our national parks remain operational and fully staffed.
The bill also shifts funding away from unproven programs and government growth and focuses it on agencies' core missions and programs that have demonstrated value to taxpayers. The legislation also includes provisions to rein in various problematic, costly, and potentially job-killing regulatory actions by the Administration, including provisions related to the "stream buffer rule," changes to the definition of "navigable waters" under the Clean Air Act, and "silviculture" regulations.
During the Full Committee's consideration of the bill, Simpson offered an amendment which removed language related to the National Forest Service's management of conflicts between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep. Simpson said he instead plans to convene meetings of the interested parties and work toward a less controversial and more collaborative solution that does not pose a threat to bighorn sheep or put ranching families out of business.
"I got involved in this issue because I care deeply for our ranchers and for the tribes and sportsmen who work so hard on bighorn sheep conservation. I got involved to find a reasonable solution and tried to work with ranchers, hunters, and land management agencies to solve this problem. Fighting over this problem serves no purpose and does not benefit hunting or ranching. As a result, I am pulling this provision. However, I am only doing this to have all interested parties come to the table and work with me on a solution. Too often, one side or the other is satisfied with the status quo. In this case it is not acceptable--and losing part of our heritage, whether it be bighorn sheep in Idaho or ranchers in Idaho--is not an option. I intend to hold a round table soon to discuss this problem and potential solutions," said Simpson.
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013 passed committee and it may be considered on the House floor in the coming weeks.
To view Congressman Mike Simpson's opening statement for the hearing visit his web site.
For the text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-112hr-fc-ap-fy13-interior.pdf
For the Committee Report, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-112-ap-fy13-interior.pdf
Simpson Cuts EPA Budget, Reins in Regulatory Agenda
Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee focuses on jobs, economic growth in FY2013 funding bill
The House Appropriations Committee last week marked up the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, put forth a bill that responds to our nation's fiscal crisis by cutting $1.2 billion from the current fiscal year's level. The bill included $1.4 billion in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.
"The biggest complaint I hear about the federal government is how the EPA is creating economic uncertainty and killing jobs," said Simpson. "The EPA's overly aggressive regulatory agenda and large budgets are signs of an agency that has lost its bearings. Throughout the Obama Administration the EPA has seen the largest funding increases in this bill, so it should come as no surprise that they are experiencing the largest cuts."
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013 includes a 17% cut from current levels. The bill continues a cap on EPA's personnel at the lowest number since 1992, cuts the office of the EPA Administrator by more than 30%, cuts the EPA Congressional Affairs office by 50%, rescinds certain unobligated grant and contract funding, and makes other cuts and reductions to programs within the agency.
The bill includes a number of provisions intended to address EPA actions that have created uncertainty in our economy and threaten future economic growth, including:
* A provision prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of "navigable waterways" under the Clean Water Act;
* A provision requiring agencies to make information regarding payments for legal fees to litigants who sue the federal government available to the public;
* A provision providing exemptions from greenhouse gas reporting for certain agricultural activities;
* A provision putting an effective hiring freeze on EPA employees, rejecting the President's proposal to hire additional regulators;
* A provision preventing EPA from expanding federal stormwater discharge program to existing commercial or residential properties without meeting congressional requirements;
* A provision maintaining EPA's current regulations exempting forest practices--including forest roads--from point source permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act.
During the Committee markup, additional amendments were adopted that would:
* Prohibit EPA from regulating the use of the word "green" on lawn product labels;
* Prohibit EPA from usurping state authority over financial assurance regulations for hardrock mining.
* Prohibit EPA from imposing new standards for greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks in model year 2017.
* Prohibit EPA from enforcing greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards which threaten to prevent new coal-fired power plants from being built in the future.
* Direct EPA to update its cost manual and solicit comments on updating its regional haze modeling tool. Differences in the modeling and cost estimates between Western States and the EPA continue to be a point of frustration.
"If we really want to do something about the national deficit, we need to get our economy going again. Unfortunately, the EPA is the wet blanket that is preventing small businesses, farmers, and ranchers from investing in their businesses and creating jobs," said Simpson. "The provisions in this bill are about jobs. They are about creating certainty in the marketplace and assuring businesses that it is safe to start hiring people again without the threat of the EPA--under the guise of protecting the environment--imposing millions of dollars of penalties through regulations that are unreasonable or simply defy common sense."
The Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013 passed the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. It may be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives in the coming weeks.
During the Committee markup, spoke in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). You can view this on his youtube site or watch the entire mark-up at: http://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=300597
Chairman Mike Simpson's Grazing Provisions Pass Appropriations Committee
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, Chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, moved the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013 through committee last week. The bill contains several provisions essential for preserving responsible access to public grazing and may be considered by the full House within the next month.
"This bill strikes an appropriate balance between resource management, resource protection, and resource enjoyment," said Simpson. "The bill provides the resources necessary to manage federal lands for a multitude of uses while at the same time providing the funding required to protect our most treasured parks, forests, and refuges. It ensures that agencies have the resources they need to meet their obligations but does so within a reduced budget that reflects the fiscal challenges facing our nation. It is not a perfect bill - it is a compromise bill that focuses on the biggest issues facing public land managers and the very real challenges facing the Treasury and taxpayers."
The bill also addresses the growing, and unaccountable, costs to taxpayers of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). Simpson is concerned that while EAJA was intended to provide a mechanism for lower and middle income individuals to challenge the actions of an onerous federal government, it has become a slush fund for wealthy extremists in search of taxpayer funding of their unending, and oftentimes frivolous, lawsuits.
"The Equal Access to Justice Act is the perfect example of a well-intended federal program that has become far too expensive and morphed into something far removed from its intended purpose," said Simpson. "Today, EAJA is funding frivolous and legitimate lawsuits alike and doing so at great cost to the taxpayer. The Interior bill shines a light on EAJA's excesses by requiring detailed reports on who is receiving taxpayer money and how much they're getting. This is information the public has a right to see but has been difficult, or impossible, to get for far too many years."
Highlights of the bill and report:
* Makes permanent a provision enabling the BLM and Forest Service to renew expired grazing permits while focusing environmental review on the most environmentally sensitive areas;
* Includes a provision allowing the trailing of livestock to grazing allotments on public lands without unnecessary environmental review;
* Includes a provision allowing 20 year grazing permits for the Forest Service and BLM;
* The bill makes permanent language requiring litigants to exhaust the administrative appeals process before litigating in federal court on grazing issues.
* The report also includes language directing the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and the Forest Service to provide the Appropriations Committee with detailed information regarding EAJA payments and to make that information publicly available. The information required includes: detailed reports on the amount of program funds used; the names of the fee recipients; the names of the federal judges; the disposition of the applications (including any appeals of action taken on the applications); and the hourly rates of attorneys and expert witnesses stated in the applications that was awarded, for all EAJA fee payments awarded as a result of litigation against any of the Department of Interior bureaus, the EPA, or the Forest Service, or their respective employees. The report shall also include the amounts, outside of EAJA awards, paid in settlement of such litigation. Such information will also be included with each agency's annual budget submission in the future.
Simpson Says ACA Fight Isn't Over
Idaho Congressman accepts decision of the Court, calls on Congress to continue efforts to repeal or reform ACA
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson last week expressed disappointment with the United State Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
"While I accept the Supreme Court's decision, I am disappointed that the government now has the ability to tax American citizens if they don't purchase a private product and I remain concerned with the precedent that sets for the future," said Simpson. "If Americans can be taxed for not purchasing health insurance, the government's ability to tax, or punish, American citizens as a means of driving their behavior seems unlimited. It is difficult not to see this as an approval of the significant expansion of the power of the federal government into the everyday lives of citizens."
Despite the Court's ruling, Simpson is calling on his colleagues in Congress to repeal the entire law and work to enact market-oriented health care reforms that hold the real promise of lowering costs and increasing access.
"While the Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is Constitutional, they have not said that it is a good idea or that it will bring down costs," said Simpson. "Congress should re-double its effort to repeal Obamacare and begin the process of enacting market-based reforms that will truly lower costs and increase access."
Simpson has long supported reforms that include, but are not limited to, medical liability reform, expanded health care savings accounts, association health plans, the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, deductibility of health insurance costs for individuals as well as corporations, and the re-importation of prescription drugs.