The Senate Interior, Environment Appropriations Subcommittee meet for two hours on March 4 to review the FY 2016 budget request for the Department of the Interior. A number of topics were discussed with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; however there were no questions about the Administration’s request for the U.S. Geological Survey.
The subcommittee is now chaired by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is the Ranking Member. Murkowski is unhappy with several high-profile decisions that Interior has made concerning Alaska, as she made clear during the course of the hearing.
The Department requested $13.2 billion in discretionary funding for FY 2016, an increase of approximately 8 percent over this year. The U.S. Geological Survey request is $1,194.8 million, an increase of $149.8 million or 14.3 percent over the FY 2015 appropriation of $1,045.0 million.
In her opening remarks Murkowski made the same point that other appropriations subcommittee chairs have made about the Administration’s overall FY 2016 request: that it ignores the statutory spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act. The request, she said, assumes that these caps will be lifted, adding “I do think that demonstrates wishful thinking.” Murkowski reiterated this point, commenting “In all likelihood, we will have roughly the same amount to spend this year as we did last year under the budget cap . . . . So this committee is forced to make some very difficult choices in how to prioritize among the many programs within the bill and, unfortunately, the budget doesn't help by giving us guidance as to the programs that the administration sees as its priorities.”
It has been five years since the subcommittee was able to mark up an appropriations bill because many of the programs in its jurisdiction are hotly contested. Promising a return to standard Senate procedure or “regular order,” Murkowski declared “we’re going to do it.”
Note: selections are from a transcript prepared by and used with the permission of CQ Roll Call.