Lawmakers take aim at Trump’s Interior budget

Lawmakers take aim at Trump’s Interior budget
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke defended the Trump administration’s budget request for the department as “what a balanced budget looks like” in the face of bipartisan criticism on Thursday. 

Members of a House Appropriations Committee subcommittee raised a handful of complaints about the $10.6 billion budget request for the Interior Department. 

The budget proposal is $1.6 billion, or 13 percent, lower than current levels, and it slashes funding from programs members said Thursday they support. 

“The budget is unacceptable, and I expect colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reject it,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee. 

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She slammed the budget for its “appalling” funding cuts for climate change research and mitigation and said it “puts profits of oil companies above the public good.”

Democrats also took aim at Trump’s proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and to explore for oil in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the administration’s effort to reform the federal monument designation program. 

Republicans had concerns of their own. 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) the chairman of the subcommittee, said he was upset about cuts to earthquake early notification systems, while Appropriations Chairman Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter FrelinghuysenConservative lawmakers met to discuss GOP chairman’s ouster Overnight Finance: GOP delays work on funding bill amid conservative demands | Senate panel approves Fed nominee Powell | Dodd-Frank rollback advances | WH disputes report Mueller subpoenaed Trump bank records Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him MORE (R-N.J.) raised objections to National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife spending measures. 

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he was “flabbergasted” by a Trump administration proposal to end funding for a workforce redevelopment pilot program for coal country. 

Zinke, though, said the budget is a “starting point,” and that he hoped to increase energy development revenues that could pay for other agency priorities.  

“This is what a balanced budget looks like,” he said, noting President Trump’s full budget aims to be balanced by 2027, though it makes aggressive economic growth assumptions. 

“Not all of these decisions we will agree on, but this is what a balanced budget looks like.” 

Lawmakers of both parties have dismissed Trump’s budget proposal, which aims to cut domestic discretionary spending by $54 billion next year while boosting defense spending by an equal amount. 

Budget hawks worry it relies too much on discretionary spending cuts and doesn’t consider reforming entitlement programs. 

“I’m going to disagree with you that this is a budget that balances,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said. 

“I don’t say this critically of the president, but we’ll see a serious balanced budget when we see serious entitlement reform.”