The United States Senate is famously referred to as the "world's greatest deliberative body." For the first time in four years, this great institution will live up to its reputation, as it moves to debate a federal budget. The budget is the one bill every year to which any Senator can offer an amendment on almost any topic. "I am glad we all have this opportunity to introduce amendments that reflect the concerns and priorities of our constituents," said Lee. "I look forward to staying as long as necessary to ensure that each senator can participate in this process, and I hope the Senate can become a body where this kind of debate happens more frequently."
Senator Lee has prepared several amendments that he plans to introduce as part of this budget resolution. Here is a sampling of amendments that Lee plans to introduce:
Amendment #522: An amendment to determine the sense of the Senate on whether we should adopt a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to send to the states for ratification. The first budget that we have debated in four years should primarily focus on improving of the nation's fiscal imbalance. This amendment would measure support in the Senate for enacting the structural spending reform that is necessary to restore our country to a sustainable fiscal path.
"Although the Democrats call their budget a balanced approach, American families and business owners recognize that there is nothing balanced about a budget that spends more money than is available," said Lee. "Two years ago several of my Democratic colleagues recognized the need for a balanced budget amendment. Our financial situation has only worsened since this time, so it is time for the Senate to recognize the need for permanent structural spending reform"
Amendment #443: An amendment to establish reasonable deadlines for processes under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Lee's amendment would prevent the NEPA delays that are costing us jobs and economic growth. A recent study of 20 projects on federal land in the West indicated that unreasonable and interminable NEPA delays are costing the United States more than $380 billion dollars.
"States like Utah have demonstrated that it is possible to complete a thorough analysis of environmental risks in a reasonable amount of time," said Lee. "Our struggling economy can't afford the uncertainty and excessive costs associated with a sluggish and unresponsive federal government. We can still protect the environment with a NEPA process that sets clear and reasonable deadlines."
Amendment #444: An amendment to eliminate funding to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the listing, management, and enforcement of regulations relating to the Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse. Lee's Amendment would eliminate funding for listing two sage grouse species under the Endangered Species Act. Individual states in the West have already offered mitigation plans to responsibly protect the Greater Sage Grouse, and the same could be done with the Gunnison Sage Grouse. As the need for prioritizing the federal budget increases, the federal government shouldn't be spending money to manage species that the states are already able and willing to protect.
"Any time a species is listed under the Endangered Species Act, economic activity is threatened," said Lee. "It is common for these listings to result in restrictions of private property use, job losses, and the prevention of responsible development of natural resources. Cattle ranchers and farmers are also burdened, which threatens rural economies and increases the price of food. As states increase their ability to manage and protect species like the Greater and Gunnison Sage Grouse, we should rely on them to do so."
Amendment #445: An amendment to eliminate funding to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the management and enforcement of regulations related to the Utah Prairie Dog. Listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, the Utah Prairie Dog thrives in certain places in Utah -- causing property damage to cemeteries, airports, and golf courses. Lee's Amendment would prevent the federal government from interfering with state and local efforts to effectively manage this species.
"The Utah Prairie Dog is a great example of the failure of the Endangered Species Act to appropriately balance human welfare and the protection of the species," said Lee. "Americans agree that protecting wildlife is an important effort, but a federal regulation has gone too far when it doesn't allow for the relocation of an animal that is burrowing through the remains of someone's dead ancestors. My amendment will enable state, county, and city officials in Utah to effectively manage this species."
Amendment #521: An Amendment to ensure funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program is at least roughly equivalent to the actual lost property tax revenues due to the presence of federal land.
"Counties that have substantial amounts of federal land suffer financially from having a reduced property tax base," said Lee. "The federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes program was established to compensate local entities for the tax revenue lost due to the presence of federal land. Unfortunately, PILT payments tend to be a small fraction of what the local entities could generate through property taxes, which results in underfunded schools, infrastructure, and other community services. We can correct the damage caused by this unfair system by requiring PILT payments to be roughly equivalent to the actual lost property tax revenue."
Amendment #252: The DC Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection amendment expresses that it is the sense of the senate that there is substantial medical evidence that unborn children experience pain by at least 20 weeks after fertilization. It also establishes that Congress should enact legislation that would make it unlawful within the District of Columbia to perform an abortion of unborn children after that point in time that they will feel pain and suffer from that procedure.
"There is substantial medical evidence that unborn children experience pain by at least 20 weeks of development," said Lee. "Congress has the responsibility to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us. My amendment would protect unborn children from painful abortion procedures, while creating exceptions when the life of the mother is jeopardized."
Amendment 253: An Amendment to remove the per-country caps for employment-based green cards, allowing companies to recruit, hire, and retain the best and brightest the world has to offer. Congress should take whatever actions it can to ensure that our legal immigration system can meet the needs of our nation. This reform would also increase the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent. Without adding new green cards such a bill would create a "first-come, first-served" system that would alleviate the backlogs and allow green cards to be awarded more efficiently.
"Our immigration system presents dozens of challenges. But there is bipartisan agreement on many of these areas, so we should not delay progress in these areas just because we have differences in other areas. This amendment will allow business owners to recruit employees based on their abilities rather than their country of origin. America has always been -- and must remain -- a magnet for the world's best and brightest. This amendment would open the door to these individuals, which would result in an increase in both economic growth, opportunity, and competitiveness."