June 22, 2023

Ranking Members Larsen, Napolitano Statements from Hearing on Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for Army Corps

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) during today’s hearing titled, “Review of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request: Agency Perspectives (Part I).”

Videos of opening statements from Larsen and Napolitano can be found here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Larsen:

Thank you, Chairman Rouzer and Ranking Member Napolitano for holding this hearing on the Administration’s FY 2024 budget request. 

Budget hearings offer an important opportunity for authorizers to have a broader discussion about how to support the federal agencies we oversee and ensure that the resources we provide line up with our priorities and expectations.

House Democrats consistently support the work of the Army Corps of Engineers and have a long history of providing the Corps with the funding they need to complete the work we ask of them.

We know that the Corps carries out projects of high importance across the U.S. They support our economy and supply chains by keeping our ports, harbors and inland waterways operating smoothly and efficiently.

They also construct projects that prepare our communities for hurricanes, droughts and floods, and protect them from the impacts. This work has only increased in importance as extreme weather events have grown in frequency and intensity due to climate change.

It is far cheaper to invest in preventative measures than to recover after the fact.

That is why House Democrats strive to proactively provide the Corps with the funding it needs to put more WRDA projects into action.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) is a prime example of this. We provided a massive downpayment—a total of about $17 billion—for the ongoing construction of critical WRDA projects. To its credit, the Corps has shown exactly how and where they can spend that money—nearly all of it has already been allocated. These BIL dollars at work are making a positive impact on our water resources infrastructure.

In contrast, the across-the-board cuts of 23%, proposed by Republican Leadership to non-defense spending during the debt limit negotiations, would have brought many WRDA projects to a grinding halt.

For the Corps specifically, 23% means a $2 billion dollar cut based on FY23 appropriations, including a $40 million cut to the Investigations account, which could otherwise be used to generate more than 10 feasibility studies, and a more than $1 billion cut to Corps Operation and Maintenance work, which literally keeps our economy afloat.

Fortunately, these chaotic outcomes were avoided when we passed the Bipartisan Budget Agreement. The more modest and responsible 1% cuts agreed to within that bill are surely a relief to agencies across the government.

Congress can, and should, provide the Corps with more dollars to implement projects authorized in WRDA bills, and I certainly hope the appropriators hear me on that.

With all that we continuously require and expect of this agency, we need to support them with funding that allows them to do their jobs and execute the work that benefits communities across the country. 

I thank the witnesses for joining us today and I look forward to your testimony.

Ranking Member Napolitano:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today’s hearing on President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget and agency priorities.

I first want to thank the agency representatives for attending today’s hearing, especially Assistant Secretary Connor and General Graham from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps continues to be a leader in addressing the water resources challenges facing every corner of this nation, including the apparently-not-so-unique drought challenges in my region, and I thank you for your service to my constituents.

Mr. Chairman, annual budget proposals of the administration and Congressional leaders provide valuable insight into the goals and priorities of their authors.

Annual budgets provide an objective way to compare and contrast competing visions for the future of our country and for what we stand for in representing our constituents.

This year, the contrasts are stark and telling.

The Biden administration’s proposal lays out a bold vision to grow the economy from the bottom up, to invest in cleaner, greener, and more accessible infrastructure, to create jobs and opportunities for all people, and to restore and protect our environment.

That is the same vision shared by House Democrats, who, last Congress, passed the largest infrastructure investments in over a generation through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as other transformational infrastructure investment bills, such as the fifth bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) in a row.

With each dollar invested and each new WRDA project implemented, everyday Americans will continue to reap the benefits of these transformational laws through reduced transportation congestion, cleaner air and cleaner water, and a safer, more resilient and more livable environment. 

Now, contrast that with dystopian vision of America advanced by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. 

In just their few months of control of the House, the new majority has advanced a debt limit proposal that sought to hold hostage the “full faith and credit” of our economy while blindly slashing critical investments in our economy, our infrastructure, and our quality of life.

For example, the House Republican debt limit proposal would have slashed funding for the Corps of Engineers by almost 25%, which would have significantly slowed project delivery and delayed the realization of critical transportation, flood control, and environmental benefits authorized through annual WRDAs. 

The House Republican proposal would have worsened supply chain delivery challenges, would have left rural and coastal communities more vulnerable to extreme weather events and flooding, and would have threatened critical environmental restoration projects, such as those in the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida Everglades.

But that is only part of the story. 

In their few months of control, the new majority has used this committee to advance a radical, anti-environmental agenda to put polluters over people and eliminate Clean Water Act protections on over half of the nation’s wetlands and up to 70% of the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes.

Do my colleagues really believe that private property rights always trump the public good of protecting our rivers, streams, and other waterbodies for future generations?

Where is the evidence that the same state-by-state, go-it-alone approach that resulted in rivers catching on fire before enactment of the Clean Water Act will somehow magically work this time?

And, clearly, my Republican colleagues do not actually want to empower states because they also continue to push to strip state authority protecting important waters within a state’s own borders.

Again, Mr. Chairman, our priorities and our actions show the American people a lot about who we are and what is our respective vision for the future of our country.

I am proud to support President Biden and his efforts to block House Republicans from holding our economy hostage while blindly slashing important investments in our nation.

I was proud to vote against the majority’s proposals to gut federal and state protection of our nation’s rivers, streams, and wetlands, and will continue to work to undue the misguided Supreme Court decision on clean water.

And I will remain a stalwart defender of rational, bipartisan efforts to reinvest and modernize our nation’s infrastructure—including my hope for a sixth, bipartisan WRDA early next year.

Again, I welcome our agency witnesses here today, thank you for your continued service, and yield back the balance of my time.