House GOP Supports Disastrous Trump Budget That Never Balances - Zinke Says Office of Govt. Ethics, not Dems, Delays Nominations

Washington, D.C. – The House Republican majority on the Natural Resources Committee openly embraced the Trump administration’s extremist budget proposal for the Department of the Interior (DOI) at this morning’s just-concluded hearing – a proposal Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly assured the Committee is “balanced” despite the overall Trump budget having been dismissed by outside observers as a “hilarious accounting fraud” (Slate) and “a $2 trillion mystery” (CNBC).

Despite reports that Republicans might resist some of the budget’s most irresponsible cuts, today’s hearing passed without any substantive Republican objections to the proposal. The open Republican support for such a radical document was a noticeable contrast to the Senate hearings Zinke attended earlier in the week, where at one point Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the budget has little chance of becoming law.

As the Washington Post and others have reported, Trump’s budget proposal cuts approximately $400 million from national parks funding, approximately $370 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and $163 million from the U.S. Geological Survey, among other dramatic cuts. For a clear analysis of how the budget reduces public access to public lands, visit http://bit.ly/2suLGoz.

The budget guts land management agency funding and staff levels, reduces funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and related land acquisition programs, cuts funding for federal grants and technical assistance to states and Tribes, and slashes fire management programs that protect millions of acres for public use. The dramatic cuts contradict Zinke’s vow following his Senate confirmation to fight the proposal and ensure that the Department’s “values” were incorporated in the budget.

Under Democratic questioning, Zinke blamed chronic delays in filling politically confirmed DOI positions on the federal Office of Government Ethics, contradicting months of Republican talking points disingenuously blaming the delay on Senate Democrats. Zinke did not address President Trump’s widely reported comment in late April on not caring about filling empty federal positions: “A lot of those jobs, I don’t want to appoint, because they’re unnecessary to have. [. . .] I look at some of the jobs and it’s people over people over people. I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

Despite multiple rounds of questioning on the issue, Zinke would not commit at the hearing to responding to written requests for information from Congressional sources other than Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah). When reminded that he had written nine letters to the Obama administration, each of which received a response, when he was a member of the House of Representatives, Zinke said that he preferred to give members of Congress his phone number and speak with them directly. Committee Democrats pointed out that open communication on the record was more important.

Regardless of his often-stated support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Zinke said during the hearing that he does not support federal acquisition of new lands, citing federal agency maintenance backlogs. Zinke did not address the fact that those backlogs are the result of years of inadequate agency funding – including for the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management – from the Republican majority, a problem this budget badly exacerbates.

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