The House natural resources committee moved forward Thursday toward approving a $ 30 billion bill to fund climate, tribal and environmental programs.
Thursday’s meeting marked the first time a congressional committee has examined an element of the Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion spending plan intended to fundamentally change U.S. health, climate, education and tax policy. . Democrats plan to introduce this bill in tandem with the narrower $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that the Senate passed last month.
“Today we have a once in a lifetime opportunity, once in a generation, to advance a bold and ambitious investment in the people of the United States,” said Natural Resources President Raúl Grijalva (D- Ariz.).
After debating and voting on dozens of amendments, mostly from Republicans, for nearly 11 hours, the committee adjourned Thursday without making a decision on the bill itself. Grijalva said the panel will meet on September 9 to vote on the remaining amendments and the bill itself.
The Natural Resources portion of the spending plan includes $ 2.7 billion for “overdue Indian water rights settlements,” $ 2 billion for health infrastructure serving tribal members and $ 500 million for tribal members. tribal housing.
It would also provide $ 1 billion for tribal climate resilience, $ 900 million for national forest fire management, $ 225 million for climate resilience and restoration, and $ 100 million for weather mitigation. climate-induced violence.
Grijalva, a member of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, said he would work with colleagues in the House and Senate to add funds to other programs under the committee’s purview, including the Indian Health Service.
Moderate Democrats Ed Case of Hawaii and Jim Costa of California said they would support sections of the natural resources bill, but were concerned about the $ 3.5 trillion global spending plan and process for it. adoption, foreshadowing the difficult road to the passage of the bill.
The biggest chunk of the bill would spend $ 3.5 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps, a long-standing priority of U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) Intended to empower thousands of people, mostly young people, to work on tasks that respond to climate crises. Funding would be split between the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Native American lands.
Additional funding for the body will likely be included in parts of the bill drafted by the House Agriculture Committee, which oversees the US Forest Service, and the House Education and Labor Committee, Neguse spokeswoman Sally Tucker said. in an email.
Several Republicans on the panel opposed the language creating the climate body, saying it would create more federal bureaucracy but not necessarily make a difference in meeting climate goals, and that an employment program was not needed when many companies are looking for workers. US Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) Proposed an amendment to remove the provisions from the body of the bill.
Neguse opposed the amendment, calling the program a necessary response to the climate crisis that will train the country’s future stewards of public lands.
Oil, gas and mining reforms
To pay for expenses on these and other items, the bill makes changes to mining, oil and gas development. The bill would increase royalty rates, end non-competitive leasing for energy and mining development, and establish royalties for hard rock mining.
Democrats on the committee pitched the changes as ways to increase revenue for other parts of the bill.
Republicans said the changes will not increase federal revenues because the industry will slow down as its costs rise.
U.S. Representative Yvette Herrell (RN.M.) said the oil and gas provisions were not intended to increase revenues but rather to end the development of fossil fuels on federal lands, which, according to it would harm its oil-rich district.
“The real motive behind these fee increases is to make power generation on federal lands so inaccessible that the federal rental program would virtually no longer exist,” she said.
Environmental activists and some elected Democrats have called for an end to oil and gas development on federal lands in order to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions.
A position paper released by Grijalvas said the bill aims to remove “unnecessary subsidies and giveaways from the industry.”
Democrats expect to pass the broader reconciliation bill without any Republican votes, which was the purpose of using the reconciliation process in the first place.
Whether it is because of this reality or not, Thursday’s hearing was sharply divided across parties, with Republicans raising objections not only on the substance of the bill, but also on its process and timing.
U.S. Representative Garret Graves, a Republican from Louisiana who joined the remote markup with downed trees and heavy trucks in the background of his video feed during apparent Hurricane Ida relief efforts, said the meeting should not take place while the immediate response to the disaster was underway. .
“If anyone thinks that creating a Civilian Climate Corps is more important than search and rescue, more important than refrigerating insulin, more important than getting oxygen for this lady who doesn’t have one right now, that’s good, “he said. “I would like you to say this explicitly so that we can show the American people your true colors.”
A pair of Democrats responded that the devastating storm gave even more reason to act on climate action. Climate change is making severe weather events more frequent.
U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) Said those affected by floods and other disasters should always report to work, so Congress should keep working and do something to resolve the issue.
“I have to do something to help my residents,” she said.
US Representative Darren Soto (D-Fla.) Rejected the idea that “doing nothing about climate change or delaying solutions … would deliver justice or help hurricane victims.”
RECEIVE MORNING TICKETS IN YOUR RECEPTION BOX