Congress returns to work Tuesday after a month-long recess. The mounting cost of Hurricane Harvey will undoubtedly be on lawmakers’ minds as they set to work on the 2018 federal budget. WKAR's Kevin Lavery talks with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-5) of Flint to talk about the task of crafting a national funding strategy.
Rep. Dan Kildee:
You know, the president submitted his budget proposal and essentially was dead on arrival. So, Congress will write its own budget. Now, the problem of course is, in order to have a budget – unless there’s going to be massive, massive cuts – there will have to be an extension of the debt ceiling. And that’s going to be a controversial issue, especially for some who have opposed raising the federal debt limit in order to accommodate passing a budget that’s in balance, that’s consistent with the priorities of the American people. That’s going to be a tough one.
That note (comes) up against the backdrop of President Trump recently saying we’re going to get this (border) wall built between us and Mexico, if we have to shut down the federal government to do it.
Yeah, so he says that. I don’t think anyone in Washington that I’ve spoken to thinks that if Congress sent him a budget bill at the end of September -- meaning a shutdown would occur if there was not a bill signed by the president – nobody in Washington that I’ve talked to thinks that if that bill does not have funding for his border wall, that he would veto the legislation. Of course, he can do anything and he can be quite unpredictable. But the idea that would shut the federal government down because Congress has not appropriated money for a wall that for a year he promised Congress would not have to spend one dime to build...you know, it doesn’t pass the smell test.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated to lose about one-third of its budget (under the current budget proposal). You’ve been very outspoken about protecting that agency which works in many places in Michigan. It’s side by side with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Right, it is. I think there could be a legitimate argument about what regulation should look like; what sort of protections we ought to have when it comes to the environment. But what the president is proposing is, regardless of the protections that are in place, regardless of what the law says, he’s going to eliminate the people who are responsible for enforcing that law. And so, in the case of my hometown of Flint, which is continuing to suffer this terrible lead crisis, many Republicans – almost all of them -- and many Democrats including myself found some blame at the EPA. They didn’t act aggressively enough. They didn’t take action. They were not on the ground as fast as they should have been. Those same criticisms came from President Trump. The idea that another Flint could occur because one-third of the EPA workforce is taken away, one-third of the people who might catch one of these disasters before they get out of hand...that’s not consistent with American values, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Based on your past experience, about how long can we expect (it to take) before we see a final budget? Any projected timeline?
No, not anything that I can say specifically...other than, the history has been to take it right to the last day. The pressure to actually get something done, and in some cases, it’s really the pressure to accept something that’s hard to take, is much greater when the alternative is a government shutdown. So, it’s likely that we’ll go right to the brink.
And is the brink September 30?
It is. And of course, the brink is not just the budget, but also raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. government can’t default on its obligations. That’s what would happen if we failed to take that action. I’m hoping we’ll see that legislation sooner rather than later.