President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: Agency Policies and Perspectives (Part I)
2167 Rayburn House Office Building and online via videoconferencing
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Ranking Member David Rouzer (R-NC):
Thank you, Chair Napolitano. I appreciate you holding this hearing, and I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here today. I might add that I hope we can get back to a day when we are all here in the Committee, including our panelists. In fact, I think it’s past time to get back to that.
As noted, today’s hearing will focus on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the U.S. Sector of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) within the Department of State.
Let’s start with the Army Corps of Engineers.
I am appreciative that we have representation from both the Corps itself and its political leadership at the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. You both know how important the Corps’ projects are around the country, and my district is no different.
The beaches in my district rely on Army Corps maintenance to protect life, property, and our critical tourism economy in the event of a natural disaster. Our beaches in New Hanover County specifically have benefitted from regular Army Corps maintenance. These projects require continued and consistent funding.
However, I’m concerned with the Administration’s proposed budget in part because of its lack of dedication to undertaking and completing projects like this. Overall, President Biden’s budget proposes cutting Corps funding by more than 10 percent—a reduction of almost $800 million.
Now, I am certainly of the mind that the federal government needs to undergo some fiscal belt-tightening. But the Corps’ Civil Works budget is not what needs to be cut.
Evidently, this current administration doesn’t feel the need for fiscal restraint elsewhere in fact. Particularly in light of some of its other enormous spending proposals. President Biden’s $6 trillion budget plan, proposing a level of relative spending not seen since World War II, is not exactly a picture of fiscal restraint. So, the fact that this administration has proposed increasing spending in nearly every aspect of the federal government, but then would cut the Corps budget by 10% defies logic, common sense, and everything else. Especially when considering the tremendous backlog of projects.
An administration proposes a budget to show Congress and the American people what its priorities are. Based on this budget, it would appear that President Biden is talking out of both sides of his mouth – on the one hand talking about spending lavishly supposedly for “infrastructure,” but on the other hand putting the extremely important infrastructure projects that the Corps is responsible for as a very low priority.
While on the subject of the Army Corps, I need to take a moment to discuss the announcement from two weeks ago that the Administration is, yet again, going to reconsider the definition of “Waters of the United States” (or “WOTUS”) for purposes of the Clean Water Act.
While not a surprise to hear that this administration is proposing to take this action, it is no less a disappointment. I understand that no new regulation has been issued yet – not even an official proposal. However, the system we have in place now works – it is fair to our nation’s farmers, ranchers, businesses, city planners, and anyone else.
A return to anything close to the 2015 WOTUS rule would be a failure, and the regulatory burden placed on average Americans and the effect on the economy would be highly detrimental. As I said two weeks ago, no bureaucrat in Washington should be able to dictate what our farm families, small businesses, local governments, and citizens do on their property after a significant rainfall.
Now, aside from representatives of the Corps, we also have folks here from two other important entities: the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the International Boundary and Waters Commission (IBWC).
TVA has not taken any federal funds since 1999, which is certainly a rarity among entities created by Congress. However, that does not mean that TVA doesn’t face challenges in performing its mission. In fact, I look forward to hearing about what TVA needs to be able to most effectively and cost-efficiently achieve its missions, including that of delivering crucial electricity to its customers.
Finally, I look forward to hearing from the IBWC and the challenges it faces as it implements the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico and resolves differences that may arise.