March madness 

183

Congressman Morgan Griffith
Report from Washington

Each spring, Americans across the country fill out brackets, select winners, and root for their favorite teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

In Washington this time of year brings a different type of March Madness, the federal budget and appropriation process.Although there aren’t catchy names for the steps in the process, like the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four, the budget must go through several rounds before it is finalized.The process generally starts with the President submitting a budget proposal to Congress. During the past administration, the budget proposal deadline was not met several times so Congress had to start without the President’s suggested budget.The President’s proposal provides an outline of his priorities and provides Congress with an idea of what he wants. The President proposes but Congress disposes.

This year, President Trump has made it clear that he wants to cut down on wasteful spending, allow the economy to grow, and strengthen our military. Although Congress will review the proposal, the “power of the purse” does not belong to the President; under Article I that power belongs to Congress.Congress completes the federal budget and determines spending for 12 categories, called appropriations. The House of Representatives and the Senate hold hearings for appropriations where members of Congress lay out their arguments for which items should be cut and which items should get funded. There are many areas which can be slimmed down, cut, or reformed. There are also successful programs that are important to keep, particularly programs that assist in bringing economic growth to areas in need. This year, I provided testimony to slim down and restructure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Interior and Environment Appropriation bill. I am concerned excessive and misguided EPA regulations threaten the livelihoods of hardworking American families and jeopardize thousands of jobs. I believe the EPA should focus on missions like assisting states and local governments on clean water and wastewater infrastructure.

Because we have more than enough existing regulations preventing our factories from creating new pollution sources in our air and water, I believe the EPA should shift its focus and its workforce out of Washington, D.C. and into the field. This will allow them to assist communities like Flint, Mich., to assure the delivery system of our drinking water is safe and to assist communities that need help with wastewater treatment.Furthermore, I provided testimony to defend the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). ARC was the first commission of its kind, created to address the economic need of Appalachia. Since that time, ARC funding has been used for a variety of projects that assists economic development in the Appalachian region through grants and contracts.

This money has gone towards important initiatives in Appalachian communities, including expansion of broadband services and community planning. It is important to fund projects such as these to help the economy of Southwest Virginia. I believe ARC funding will be included in one of the appropriation bills and I will continue to speak up for the interests of Southwest Virginia in the appropriation process.There are other items funded that don’t serve American taxpayers well. I had the opportunity to testify at the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations hearing and recommended they block funding to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund. As you may know, the Green Climate Fund was announced in 2009 in a non-legally binding, political document, the Copenhagen Accord. It stated that the fund would have “a goal of mobilizing jointly USD 100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries.” Congress has never appropriated funding for the Green Climate Fund, yet President Obama pledged an initial $3 billion and ultimately gave $1 billion in funding, appropriated for other programs, to the Green Climate Fund. We cannot continue to fund yet another foreign climate finance program. Congress must instead address the most pressing priorities for the American people amidst fiscal constraints. For this reason, I pushed for specific language preventing any funding from being re-directed to the Green Climate Fund.There is not space in this column to detail all the different projects I am providing input on in relation to the budget appropriation process, but hopefully this gives you an idea of the how the process works.If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.