OP-VIDEO: Udall Speaks as Senate Passes Interior, Environment Funding Bill 92-6

Bill authored by Udall’s subcommittee includes critical funding for Indian Country, public health & environment and more

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, spoke on the Senate floor just before the full Senate passed the FY2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, a funding bill authored by Udall’s committee. The bill, authored in the Senate Appropriations subcommittee led by Udall and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), rejects the Trump administration’s devastating proposed cuts to critical programs and includes strong investments in New Mexico and U.S. public lands, infrastructure, environmental protection and stewardship, arts and humanities programs, and programs for Indian Country. In addition, Udall successfully fought to keep the bill free of any new anti-environmental poison pill riders.

“I am particularly proud that we have moved this bill without the addition of contentious authorizing matters or poison pill riders—quite an accomplishment,” Udall said. “Unfortunately, there are still scores of riders in the House bill. But by voting to send the Senate Interior bill to conference without adding controversial items, we are, as a body, telling the House that we will reject these poison pills once again.”

“That message is important because the funding in this bill is critical to meet wildland firefighting needs, support national parks and public lands, and continue the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Udall continued. “We need to pass a final bill to fund the Environmental Protection Agency, support arts and cultural institutions, and meet our nation’s trust and treaty responsibilities.”

Highlights of the bill for Indian Country can be foundHERE. New Mexico highlights of the bill can be foundHERE.

In his remarks, Udall also raised a number of questions regarding a proposed reorganization of the Department of the Interior. Udall said that he wanted to ensure that any future changes would be made with bipartisan agreement from Congress, tribes, states and stakeholders.

Full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared are below.

Mr. President, as ranking member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I want to thank my colleagues for being part of a remarkable process on the floor this past week. And I want to again thank my Chairman, Senator Murkowski, and commend her for managing this bill.

I am particularly proud that we have moved this bill without the addition of contentious authorizing matters or poison pill riders—quite an accomplishment.

Unfortunately, there are still scores of riders in the House bill. But by voting to send the Senate Interior bill to conference without adding controversial items, we are, as a body, telling the House that we will reject these poison pills once again.

That message is important because the funding in this bill is critical to meet wildland firefighting needs, support national parks and public lands, and continue the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

We need to pass a final bill to fund the Environmental Protection Agency, support arts and cultural institutions, and meet our nation’s trust and treaty responsibilities.

And there are other important issues to work through, including a proposal by the Department of the Interior to begin a major reorganization of the agency.

Last week, the department notified the Subcommittee that it plans to move forward during this fiscal year with efforts to change its regional boundaries, with more changes expected in fiscal year 2019.

While this request is only the first step, I want to note that I have been asking Secretary Zinke for months for information about the department’s plans, and I have yet to get answers to my questions. And I hope Chairman Murkowski will work with me to ensure that no changes are made without bipartisan agreement from Congress, tribes, States and stakeholders.

This is one of the many issues that this subcommittee has on our very full plate as we move to reconcile the House and Senate Interior bills. I hope to be back here on the floor of the Senate very soon with a conference report we can pass with broad support.

As I conclude, I would like to thank Chairman Shelby and Vice Chairman Leahy for providing outstanding leadership for this process. And we wouldn’t be here without the excellent work of the Appropriations Full Committee staff —including Shannon Hines, Chuck Kieffer and Chanda Betourney— as well as my own subcommittee staff, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Hunt and Melissa Zimmerman and the excellent majority staff as well.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

VIDEO LINK:

Highlights of the bill for Indian Country can be foundHERE. New Mexico highlights of the bill can be foundHERE.

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