With all the current issues in the western states involving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service some people are demanding that congress cut or defund these land agencies. Seth Stinson of Utah asked three Utah Congressman to do just that during a congressional listening session in St George in January.
According to Congressman Bishop the three Utah”s congressman have key influential positions on different committees in Washington DC that have some control over the land agencies.
“Having Utah represented on key and influential committee positions is beneficial to our collective efforts to protect and promote the interests of the state,” Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said.
These three key committees positions are Chairman of House Natural Resources Committee (Congressman Bishop), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (Congressman Chaffetz), and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment (Congressman Stewart). With three Utah congressman in these positions one would hope to see some progress towards fixing the issues that Utah and other western states are having with the land agencies.
Unfortunately, what most people don’t realize is that if congress wanted to cut the land agencies budget it is almost impossible thanks to Harry Reid and Senate Democrats. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats blocked any bills that would fund the individual budgets of the land agencies and would only vote on a bill that would combine funding for land agencies with all the other federal budgets for things like defense, agriculture, energy and water into one giant bill called the omnibus bill. This makes it almost impossible to go after just one agency because you have to vote no on the entire federal governments budget under the current system.
Despite this Utah has one Senator that votes “NO” for the large budge bill every time in hopes of undoing the mess Harry Reid made. Senator Mike Lee explains how the omnibus came about through “secretive, undemocratic process”.
All the other federal elected officials representing Utah continue to vote for the bill and yet when folks like Seth Stinson come to them they aren’t transparent about their lack of control when it comes to the budgets of these agencies.
Here is what Congressman Chaffetz, Bishop, and Stewart said about the 2016 Omnibus bill.
Congressman Chaffetz comments on the bill;
“Like all appropriations bills, this year’s appropriations bill has several problems and budget gimmicks, but fortunately this bill has more good than bad. It’s an imperfect compromise, but it avoids a government shutdown while dramatically slowing the growth in discretionary spending.”
Congressman Rob Bishop released the following statement concerning the Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY2016:
“This bill signals the end of the era of defense cuts. For too long, the Obama administration has weakened the US military by withholding the necessary funding to properly defend the nation. This bill is good for troops, their families, and the civilian workers who support them. The agreement finally starts the process of rebuilding the military.
Rep. Bishop added:
“While this does contain much good, it also has shortcomings. House leadership has acknowledged these issues and they are particularly aware of the impacts on western priorities. I am confident that in the coming months, those shortcomings will be addressed and made right. The problem with the bill is what it could have been and what it should have been. Western issues that improve our lives should NOT be held hostage by Democrats in the House and Senate. These issues were eliminated with the threat of a government shutdown for political reasons.”
“In divided government, no one gets exactly what they want,” Stewart said. “But today, we funded the government with provisions that advance Republican priorities, including several of my own bills.”
“First, this bill strengthens our national security. As a former military officer and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I have been a leader in the fight to protect our country. There is no more important thing I can do in Congress. This bill does that by restoring much-needed funding for our military to ensure our troops are ready to defeat ISIS. It also strengthens some of our visa programs to keep terrorists from traveling to the United States.”
“Second, it dismantles Obamacare by eliminating government subsides for insurance companies. Since I came to Congress I have fought at every opportunity to defund Obamacare. This provision is reason alone to support this bill.”
“Third, this bill includes important provisions that are critical for Utah and my district. It fully funds the PILT program (Payments in Lieu of Taxes), which is absolutely vital to Utah’s rural communities. It also stops the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage-grouse on the Endangered Species List.”
Despite their press releases, comments, and list of the things they feel are good about the omnibus bill they fell to mention that the omnibus bill makes it almost impossible for the house or senate to cut the funding of one agency without shutting down the entire governments. Senator Mike Lee is the exception and the only one that is clearly being up front and transparent with the citizens of Utah.
During the St George Congressional Hearing and listening session in January 2016 Congressman Bishop, Chaffetz, and Stewart sat on the panel listening to many accounts of illegal activities and abuse by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service in Utah. After it was all done and said their commitment to control these agencies was lacking and unclear. Not once did they talk about the lack of control they have in congress because of the one funding bill that funds the entire government the OMNIBUS.
So how much funding was passed in the 2016 Omnibus? According to news sources the omnibus spending bill was $1.8 trillion dollar when it was passed by the house and the senate. One source told me that the bill was actually over $2 Trillion dollars with everything that was included. So here is how the votes went in the house and the senate.
The House passed the bill 316-113, with 150 Republicans supporting the measure and 95 opposed. Among Democrats, 166 voted for the legislation and 18 voted against it.
The senate passed the bill as well.
The 65-33 vote effectively wraps up the congressional session for the year, with the House and Senate adjourning for the holiday recess.
Every Congressman in Utah voted for this bill along with Senator Hatch. Senator Lee was the only one that voted against the bill.
Like I stated earlier this bill funds the entire federal government but lets see how much of it went to the Bureau of Land Management. The Bureau of Land Management falls under the Interior & Environment budget in the bill. The Omnibus bill increased the Interior & Environment budget by $1,989 billion dollars for 2016 – BLM increase $117 million:
“INTERIOR & ENVIRONMENT 2015 enacted: $30.416 billion 2016 House bill: $30.170 billion 2016 Omnibus: $32.159 billion
$8.139 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is equal to the 2015 enacted level and $717.73 million above the House bill.
$1.394 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which is $55 million less than the 2015 enacted level and $376 million more than the House bill.
$863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which is $44 million less than the 2015 enacted level and $106 million more than the House bill.
$1.237 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, which is $117 million more than the 2015 enacted level and $86 million more than the House bill.
$1.508 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is $69 million more than the 2015 enacted level and $77 million more than the House bill.
$2.851 billion for the National Park Service, which is $237 million than the 2015 enacted level and $184 million more than the House bill.
$2.796 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is $195 million more than the 2015 enacted level and $30 million more than the House bill.
$4.203 billion for Wildland Fire Management, which includes the 10-year average for fire costs. The bill does not include the Administration’s request to fund 30% of firefighting costs through the existing disaster relief budget cap.
$2.455 billion for the U.S. Forest Service (non-fire), which is $35 million more than the 2015 enacted level and $99 million more than the House bill.”
Not only did our elected officials in Utah vote for the omnibus bill they gave the Bureau of Land Management a $117 million dollar budget increase. It appears that having three of our congressman in key positions in Washington doesn’t really produce the desired change that rural Utahns are asking for. Once again special interests groups, power, and money win the day in Washington DC.
“Proverbs 29:2 King James Version (KJV) 2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”