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Posts Tagged ‘continuing resolution

Florida’s Senator Rubio proposes to prohibit all funding to make governing oceans and coasts more efficient

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Senator Marco Rubio image

Senator Marco Rubio is the Ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Ocean, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard – an important role for ensuring the efficient and effective management of our oceans and coasts. It is a disturbing early step by Senator Rubio in the 113th Congress to defund all programs addressed by E.O. 13547 which implement the National Ocean Policy, including those efforts to make ocean governance more efficient and cost effective.Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), has introduced an amendment to the 2013 continuing resolution – the bill which would fund the federal government for the remainder of FY2013 – which would trip away all funding used to implement items within President Obama’s Executive Order E.O. 13547.

For those only paying the minimal amount of attention to DC politics, cutting funding to implement an Obama Administration policy might seem like an effort to cut back on programs that Republicans see as wasteful and outside the intended reach of the federal government. However, this ham-handed approach not only would frustrate interests of the Obama Administration, it would greatly hamper efforts which Republicans regularly support – improved coordination to reduce waste and duplication in government programs.

Rubio’s amendment (#102 to bill H.R. 933) is a blunt legislative tool that could eliminate such things as multiagency coordination for marine debris cleanups (remember the 3-11 tsunami disaster?  We’re far from done addressing the aftermath of that event on our coasts and the mariners who operate on the open seas.), protection of our ever diminishing coral reef habitats, or any number of themes which fall across agency boundaries and require improved planning and coordination if the Executive side of government hopes to have any chance to unwind the overlapping policy responsibilities and corresponding budgets created by a patchwork of laws passed by Congress over the last 40 years.

There have been similar sloppy legislative efforts by Rep. Bil Flores (R-TX) to block all funding relating to the “national ocean policy” promoted by the Obama Administration, but this is the first time I’ve seen that the short sighted efforts  mirrored on the Senate side.

One can only hope that with time the junior Senator from Florida’s drafting of legislation will improve and address substantive issues, rather than blunt language replete with unintended consequences. As Senator Rubio holds a new position as ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, he is in great position to use the Committee’s professional staff to better understand the implications of language he introduces.

Florida is an important coastal state – important to the people of Florida and important to the nation. I hope that as the 113th Congress continues Senator Rubio takes the time to review the broad reaching impacts of legislation, even legislation as short as amendment #102 in the FY2013 continuing resolution.

Florida enjoys both the beauty and bounty of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Along with those resources comes a collection of issues that need addressing if Florida residents and the millions of visitors who enjoy her shores are going to be able to continue to seek pleasure and economic prosperity from the state’s coasts. A number of the challenges facing Florida today cross multiple federal agencies statutory areas of responsibility (not to mention significant overlap with state of county agencies) and are challenging to coordinate.

Eliminating funding for programs the Presidential Executive Order would use as tools to address some of those inefficiencies is short sighted and poorly crafted legislation.

The language of the Rubio amendment as introduced:

SA 102. Mr. RUBIO submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 933, making appropriations for the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other departments and agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

     At the appropriate place, insert the following:

    Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to carry out Executive Order No. 13547, relating to Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes.


The author of this blog is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy, government relations and strategic communications firm in Washington, DC.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

You can follow Will Nuckols on Twitter at @enviroxpert and on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/willnuckols/

Republicans hope to cut 100 billion from the FY11 budget in only 7 months

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H.R. 1, the House Republican’s first bill of the 112th Congress, was released on Friday February 11th. The 359 page bill outlines the cuts to the discretionary federal budget for FY2011 which the Republicans hope would result in a savings of approximately $100 billion compared to the President’s FY2011 budget request which was released in February of 2010. The proposed $100 billion in cuts emerged after House Appropriations Chairman Rodgers received flack after his mid-week proposal of more than $73 billion was released, a number which some in the party stated wasn’t going nearly far enough.

cover of H.R.1 the Republican Bill that proposed dramtic spending cuts for FY2011

The Republican's first bill of the 112th Congress, H.R. 1, proposed $100 billion in cuts from the dicretionary portion of the federal budget for FY2011.

Cuts to the discretionary budget, which account for only a small portion of the overall federal budget, are dramatic in the Republican plan, and if passed the cuts in delivery of services to the American people will be at least, if not more, dramatic. While overhead will remain largely unchanged by a budget which will need to be executed mere days after its passage, funds that are used to execute programs will be cut at an even higher, and at this stage wholly unknown, level.

But while the dollar figures for the proposed cuts and the percent reductions compared to the FY10 budget or President’s FY11 request have been the focus of the early reporting on the bill, the fact that these proposed cuts in the budget will need to occur over a 7 month period rather than a full fiscal year has been largely ignored. We are already five months onto the federal fiscal year which started on October 1, 2010. 

Through a series of continuing resolution spending bills for FY2011 the government has limped along on dribs and drabs of funds which have been released at FY2010 levels. And accordingly agencies have largely spent at the 2010 rate as well. This means that if the proposed Republican spending plan for the remainder of FY2011 is enacted then federal agencies will have effectively already been overspending for the last 5 months, and they will need to account for the full cuts in FY2011 in a little over half of a year. For instance, if in the Republican House bill an agency is to receive a 16% cut in funding for all of FY2011 the agency will need to cuts its spending by more than 27% for the remainder of the fiscal year, making large cuts effectively translating into cuts of such a large-scale that agencies are likely to be essentially wholly ineffective.

In the coming days I’ll be highlighting several of the cuts which will dramatically impact environmental issues and a range of issues surrounding our oceans and coasts.  Until then you may wish to skim through the funding bill yourself. It might serve to steel you against the shock that will occur on monday when the President releases his FY2012 budget request and the Republicans in the House release their proposed FY2012 budget counter proposition.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com

Written by Will Nuckols

February 12, 2011 at 12:36 am

Senate Omnibus spending bill was dropped on Tuesday

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 With 3/4 of FY2011 still before us, the question of how much funding the federal agencies will have to address ocean issues is still in doubt.  With the House already passing a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR), the decision on the FY2011 federal budget has been passed to the hands of the Senate.  Senator Inouye, Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has indicated his strong support for an Omnibus spending bill rather than a CR, noting that rubber stamping last year’s budget isn’t the best policy.

Senator Daniel Inouye, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman

Senator Daniel Inouye, Appropriations Committee Chairman, dropped his 1924 page spending bill on Tuesday in the Senate. Vote to suspend further debate may occur as early as this weekend.

“While I appreciate the work that the House has done in producing a full year Continuing Resolution, I do not believe that putting the government on autopilot for a full year is in the best interest of the American people,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).

For too many years Congress has, in my opinion, shirked one of their most important duties – to provide a federal budget the reflects the policy priorities of the nation.  While a jumbo-sized bill that conbines 12 individual spending bills, each themselves a huge chunk of the federal budget, is far from ideal policy, as it is indeed hard to get your head around a 1,924 page piece of legislation, but it beats the alternative of saying….uh, lets just do what we did last year (as if FY2010’s budget was optimized for that year’s needs, much less the policy realities of FY2011).

 “The substitute amendment I introduce today represents the bipartisan work of the Committee.  The twelve bills included in this package fulfill the Congress’ most basic responsibility, to exercise the power of the purse.  As an example, who among us believes we should base our spending recommendations for defense, homeland security and veterans on whatever level was needed last year.” Senator Daniel Inouye.

The larger public policy question of whether it is better to pass a new budget with the input of Congress each year or whether the best we can do is “ditto” to prior year’s efforts aside, Is the Omnibus bill better at providing more funding, or more appropriately targeted funding, for FY2011 than the House’s CR?  Further analysis remains to be done on the Omnibus bill to answer that question, but one thing is clear: if there is a reason to push for, or against, the Senate’s Omnibus process, the environmental community had better act fast if they hope to have any relevancy in that discussion.  With a vote for cloture on the bill believed to be targeting Sunday for a vote, there is but a scant few days to get organized and make a difference.  Inouye will need 60 votes to move his bill to a vote. It’s time for the ocean community to dig through the Omnibus language and determine if and how they will support the Appropriation Chairman’s efforts.

The author is a scientist by training and the owner of W.H. Nuckols Consulting, an environmental policy firm.  
A bio for Mr. Nuckols is located at www.WilliamHNuckols.com