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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recognition and rise to express, first of all, to my colleague and friend from Louisiana my appreciation for his argument today, and particularly the football analogy that he used. I say that as a Notre Dame graduate, and I would congratulate him on his victory the last time our two teams played on the field.

Having said that, however, both he and my colleague on the Democratic side, I join with the chairman in reluctant opposition to the amendment. The chairman has opted for a policy of no new starts, a policy that I strongly support and have opted for during these times of budgetary constraints.

I would point out that while there is only $10 million in the amendment before the House today, the fact is this project will cost several billion dollars by the time we are done, and starting it now is a cost that we cannot afford to adequately fund because we do not have the resources in the bill.

Over the last several years, we have, in fact, terminated hundreds of ongoing projects, to our great dismay and to the weakening of the infrastructure of our economy in this country. But until we as an institution, the Congress, have the intestinal fortitude to adequately fund our infrastructure in these types of very necessary investment--that is not the argument before us--I cannot support adding to the inventory of projects that we must start but cannot.

If the allocation for the bill were different, I might be able to support the gentleman's amendment. Again, as it now stands, we are short of cash. The fact is the amount in the bill today--and the chairman and I and every member of the subcommittee fought to add $82 million to the President's request. We are $631 million today, in this bill, below what we were spending as a Nation on these projects 2 years ago. We don't have the money, unfortunately, to fund the gentleman's amendment, and therefore, again, I express my sincere appreciation for what he wants to do but my reluctant opposition to his amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I move to express my strong opposition to the amendment. Some would suggest outrage; I will simply say opposition.

The fact is, across-the-board cuts to administrative accounts when we have significant problems as far as the administration of some of these programs in the Department of Energy is a profound mistake.

What I really want to emphasize at this point to all of our colleagues in the House is that members of this subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee--which approved this bill, the people of this committee approved this bill--have made value judgments account by account.

The fact is, for renewable energy--and we will have amendments on this issue--there is a $428,345,000 reduction in this bill. In the Office of Science, there is a $72,203,000 reduction. For environmental clean-up for defense sites, for example, there is an $88,872,000 cut. These were all discrete decisions made and value judgments.

So I would emphasize to my colleagues that there are significant cuts and savings in this bill. I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of Mr. Moran's amendment and would point out that I think the gentleman from Michigan in his earlier remarks hit the nail on the head. This is an issue of clarity versus confusion.

The fact is we have become the ``Congress of Confusion.'' We are charged with running a Nation of 300 million people with domestic and international responsibilities. We have now confused the physician community of the United States more than 17 times--sometimes at a 2-week interval--as to what the reimbursements are going to be under the Medicare program. We have people who have suffered loss of life, significant property damage, and dislocation through floods in our Nation. We are unable as an institution to resolve our differences on flood insurance and have continued it--if I am correct--at least 11 times. The fact is we have an infrastructure, as far as our highways and bridges, that is crumbling. We have now eight or nine times continued that because we cannot make a decision, and we continue to confuse the States, contractors, and our communities as to what the policy of the United States Government is going to be. And depending on what year you died, the last four years--including 2012--this Nation has had three different estate-tax laws, and the current one expires at the end of this year, leading to confusion and the hiring of numerous accountants, insurance agents, and attorneys, all of whom I love.

Why confuse this Nation more by not adopting the clarity of the Moran amendment? There is no question that the two Supreme Court decisions have significantly confused this issue and created uncertainty as to the scope of the Clean Water Act. During multiple hearings before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, witness after witness spoke of how these cases have blurred the lines on what the waters subject to Federal protection are.

The reason in short is because in neither case could the majority of Supreme Court justices agree on what was the appropriate test for determining the scope of Federal protections based on their reading of the term ``navigable.'' No majority or the court could agree what navigable means. In fact, in one of the cases the level of confusion on the court is reflected in that there are five separate opinions filed in the case with no opinion having more than four supporters on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The resulting confusion in interpreting the Clean Water Act is apparent to both the regulated community and regulators. The fact is, the industry has asked for clarification of this confusion through agency rulemaking. The gentlewoman mentioned that we need a rule in this. We do need a clarified rule. However, this legislative rider that is in the bill proposes the status quo of confusion and that that is acceptable. It will only result in increased implementation costs to the Federal Government, to the States, and to the regulated community. It will increase delays in the implementation of important public works projects and protracted litigation on the disparity of this language.

We need to adopt Mr. Moran's amendment to ensure that we have clarity. We should be taking actions to address the legitimate concerns that have been expressed. But the fact is this is an issue that Congress and the administration needs to address in the authorizing process to clarify it. This is not an issue that should be continued in confusion and perpetuity through the appropriations process.

Again, I strongly support the gentleman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the gentlewoman's amendment. There is $10 million contained in her amendment. That is a significant sum of money. When compared, however, to current year level spending for the renewable accounts of $1.825 billion, and as the chairman rightfully pointed out, a reduction of $428 million from that account, the gentlewoman's amendment is as much a statement of Congress as it is a monetary initiative. That is, we need to make an investment in our energy future as well as our economic future.

Renewable energy must be a part of that future, and the vast majority of industries in our country throughout our history have received substantial support from the government to become established and to be part of this great Nation.

This amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Ohio takes a very small, but very positive, step towards making that investment, and I do urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the amendment; and I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, I also would rise in reluctant opposition to the gentleman's amendment. As a resident of the neighboring State, I realize all of the great scientific research that is done in the State of Illinois alone at some of our wonderful Federal facilities. There is no question that we need to invest in the science account, as evidenced by the fact it is in this bill. Again, we had a very difficult allocation. Science is cut by $72,203,000.

But, unfortunately, I do think the gentleman's amendment is counterproductive in that he, because of the budget rules, needs a $30 million cut from renewable research to gain a $15 million add for scientific research. Given the constraints we face, I think that's a bad bargain and we ought to leave the $30 million right where it is and have that aptly applied.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I appreciate the recommendation and also rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment, and will simply state that my objection is based on national security concerns.

The fact is, as the senior Senator from Indiana, Senator Lugar has characterized our energy crisis for years, and I absolutely agree with him. The fact is the importation of petroleum products in our use of carbon, because of where we buy them, has created a significant national security issue for the United States of America.

One of the accounts in the renewable accounts that will be eliminated under the gentleman's amendment is vehicle technology. There is no question American citizens are suffering today because of high gas prices. I myself--and I only speak for myself--can't do anything about that particular price at the pump today. But if through the vehicle technology program and the wise investment of the Federal taxpayers dollars we can get every American another mile per gallon, we have removed some of their economic discomfort and burden. We have also helped to begin to ensure our national security by reducing our dependency on foreign oil. Therefore, I do strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment and yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. I would join the chair in opposition to the amendment.

I would point out one of the fallacies of the gentleman's argument that he
used on the floor in his language of the committee's report, that being our very serious concern that in the past we have applied moneys to research that has essentially been siphoned off overseas.

During general debate yesterday on this floor, in my opening remarks, I commended the members of the subcommittee and particularly Chairman Frelinghuysen for making sure we don't do that in this bill this year, and that there is throughout this bill and that report language directives to the Department of Energy to be focused on using this money wisely so that we maintain and begin to grow our industrial base and our manufacturing base and keep these jobs here.


Mr. VISCLOSKY. Madam Chairwoman, I rise in reluctant opposition to the gentlewoman's amendment for the very reasons that I mentioned earlier in debate when the gentleman from Illinois had an amendment to cut EERE--the renewable accounts--to add $15 million to science. Again, in this case, I don't think it is wise for us to make a choice of cutting fossil energy research by $100 million to increase the energy efficiency account by one-half that amount, $50 million.

The fact is I understand that some people have a significant concern about the use of fossil fuels. I certainly do myself. But the fact remains that 83 percent of all energy consumption in the United States today is generated by fossil fuel, and we need to apply ourselves to the wise and efficient use of that fuel as well.

Again, I would reluctantly be opposed to the gentlewoman's amendment, and I yield back the balance of my time.
This would be a mistake, and I am opposed to the gentleman's amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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