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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Chairman, you heard it here first. My urban colleague says the Federal Government wants to control your water on private property in rural areas like Montana.

The life of a Montana farmer is hard, up before the sun rises, working all day just to make ends meet. Between the cycle of plowing, planting, and harvesting, there are tractors to fix, barns to repair, and products to bring to market. The last thing any Montana farmer needs is another Federal mandate to follow, more red tape to cut through, and more Federal paperwork to fill out.
This country was founded by farmers. They understood from personal experience that farming is a full-time job and you can't do it right if you only do it part of the time. So the Framers of the Constitution set up a representative government that lets farmers elect men and women to fight on their behalf so they can go about their business.

The House of Representatives was meant to be the closest to the people. It's not just our privilege to stand up for our Constitution; it's our constitutional duty.

The Constitution delegates legislative power to the Congress, but lately, President Obama has, in too many cases, tried to circumvent the constitutional separation of powers. Congress managed to prevent the disastrous cap-and-trade energy tax from becoming law, so President Obama expanded the definition of a harmful pollutant in the Clean Air Act to include carbon dioxide, the stuff that we exhale.

Congress blocked the massive legislation landgrabs like the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, so the Obama administration crafts secret plans to designate 13 million acres as national monuments using the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act, by the way, was passed to protect archaeological sites.

And now the Obama administration is looking to expand its reach, over the objections of both the Congress and the Supreme Court, to control water, all water everywhere.

You know, if there's one resource that's more important to dryland farmers than time, it's water. And in arid States like Montana, where we've got plenty of land, there's lots of dirt between light bulbs. The difference between feast and famine can be a little bit of water. And now some folks in the Federal Government want to get involved.

It's been a long fight. Let me show you how we got there.

Back in 2001 and 2003, the Supreme Court limited the authority of the Federal Government to regulate water. Unelected bureaucrats were trying to control water, all water, including melted snow, mud puddles and prairie potholes and irrigation ditches. But the Supreme Court said no.

This makes sense. There is a role for the Federal Government. We want clean water and a safe environment. But living in Montana means you live off the land. It means you grew up learning how to take care of your environment. In fact, Montanans were some of the first conservationists. But the role of government is not unlimited. We don't need the Federal Government thinking for us, and we don't need the Federal Government to tell us how to take care of our irrigation ditches.

The Clean Water Act gives the Federal Government authority to regulate navigable waters of the United States. President Obama and his allies in Congress are trying to eliminate the requirement that waterways be navigable. Simply eliminating that word gives the Federal Government nearly unlimited power. Fortunately, those legislative efforts have failed.

So in December 2010, the Corps of Engineers crafted a plan to identify water subject to jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The goal is to significantly expand Federal jurisdiction over water. The Obama administration and his allies are trying to solve a problem that does not exist.

Fortunately, the Constitution provides a check to the Obama administration's power grab. Montana farmers have a safety net--the House of Representatives. It's our job to fight this battle so that they don't have to. It's our job to act as a check and balance to over-reaching executive actions.

That's what this language does. It simply prevents the President from carrying out his plans. It ensures that when a farmer wakes up before the sun rises, they don't have to worry about onerous Federal regulation. They can just go to work on their farm. That's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted, and that's why I hope you'll join me in opposing this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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