Washington, D.C. April 19, 2023 – Today, at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on the President Biden’s FY 2024 budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) delivered the following opening statement blasting Republicans for proposing devasting cuts across the federal agencies, including DOI.
WATCH Ranking Member Grijalva’s full statement. The transcript is available below.
Amidst the chaos and confusion House Republicans are causing with reckless, unnecessary debt ceiling threats, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week laid out a suite of detrimental cuts and demands, even though the GOP has yet to release an actual budget plan. DOI Secretary Deb Haaland, who provided testimony at today’s hearing, previously detailed the significant harm that these proposed cuts would have on our public lands, our efforts to fight wildfires and address drought, support for tribal nations, American energy development, public health and safety in letter to the House Appropriations Committee last month.
Transcript of Ranking Member Grijalva’s Opening Statement
Before I go any further into a statement, I want to acknowledge you and your colleagues on the other side of the aisle in particular, and their concerns about the Chinese government potentially benefitting from the policy decisions we make here in the United States.
One of these decisions I’m especially concerned about is the impending land transfer of the sacred Oak Flat area from Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to the Resolution Copper mine owned by foreign mining conglomerates Rio Tinto and BHP.
Not only does Rio Tinto have a nasty record of human rights violations, which many of my Republican colleagues in this very room have repeatedly decried—but we also know that Rio Tinto’s majority shareholder is the Chinese government.
Given the many concerns shared by both sides of the aisle on this issue, I want to reiterate my April 4th request for a markup on Save Oak Flat from Foreign Mining Act, and I ask unanimous consent to enter that request into the record.
With that, I’d like to turn my attention and offer my heartfelt welcome back to you, Secretary Haaland.
No matter the context, your presence in this room has always brought a sense of assurance and purpose, and we thank you for that.
I can’t help but think back to when you were on this side of the dais. Your historic election, which made you one of the first two Native American women to ever serve in the United States Congress. That was a beacon of hope in one of our democracy’s darkest times.
And your calm, principled leadership as the Committee’s Vice Chair proved invaluable as we fought back against one of the most corrupt, regressive, and extremist administrations in U.S. history.
So, it’s no surprise that, when the time came for President Biden to nominate someone who could steer the Interior Department back on course, he chose you.
But to say the least, cleaning up the previous administration’s mess has been an unenviable task.
The Interior Department you inherited had been purposely and systematically gutted, demoralized, and diminished.
After all, hollowing out federal agencies is a critical component of the MAGA Republicans’ signature playbook.
To alleviate any doubt in that assertion, look no further than the GOP’s recent budget proposal—assuming you can tease it out from the chaos and confusion Republicans are creating with their own needless debt ceiling hostage crisis.
As Speaker McCarthy announced earlier this week, my Republican colleagues stand ready to pass a budget that would make devastatingly deep cuts to federal agencies and programs that Americans rely on every single day.
These cuts will deliver irreparable blows across the government, damaging our economic potential, national security, and quality of life.
At Interior specifically, these reckless cuts put Americans directly in harm’s way.
As Secretary Haaland detailed in her letter to the Appropriations Committee, the Republicans’ extreme budget proposal would undermine the agency’s ability to fight wildfires, disrupt our efforts to address drought and secure water resources in the West, reduce support for tribal nations, create visitor safety issues at our national parks, and—in an especially interesting turn of events—curtail American energy development by gutting the very federal permitting offices that my colleagues consistently complain about as being too slow.
In doing so, the MAGA agenda can achieve its ultimate goal: Hobbling the Interior Department to the point of dysfunction and then scapegoating that dysfunction as an excuse to give Big Oil and other polluting industries more loopholes, more handouts, and less accountability, putting the fox squarely in the hen house.
As we go forward with today’s hearing and listen to what I’m sure will be plentiful and, at times, perhaps theatrical, critiques of President Biden’s proposed budget, it’s important that we keep this in mind.
Needless to say, the budget and the policies Secretary Haaland is presenting today are a direct affront to the backward, pro-polluter agenda Republicans are trying to ram through.
Much to GOP chagrin, the President’s budget request is instead a comprehensive, forward-thinking proposal. It’s a plan that empowers Interior with the resources it needs to operate at full capacity. And it builds on the momentum Secretary Haaland has already gained in tackling climate change, elevating tribal consultation, and building the clean energy future we all need and must have.
Madam Secretary, I want to thank you for being here today. But even more than that, I want to thank you for your tireless commitment to public service, for having the courage to take the helm at Interior when you did, and for having the vision to rebuild the Department in a way that reckons with the troubles of our past, meets the needs of our present, and prepares us for the challenges of our future.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.