WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers continues to use his rank and seniority on Capitol Hill to protect federal funding for Kentucky and programs that are vital to the American people and national security. As Dean of the House and Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS), he is working to safeguard taxpayer dollars in the 2024 federal budget by questioning different agency leaders each week about their priorities and program funding for the country.
Rural broadband expansion, investing in coal communities, veterans' gun rights, protecting U.S. research and remaining on the forefront of competition with China were among some the top issues that he raised during CJS hearings this week.
"America’s national debt is out of control, and we continue to pay the price for runaway federal spending," said Chairman Rogers, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. "We must examine all agencies and programs to find efficiencies and savings, and prioritize our resources. In light of our charge to eliminate wasteful government spending, each agency's budget would benefit from much greater transparency."
The Department of Commerce has 13 major bureaus with a budget of over $11 billion. The FY24 budget request is $12.3 billion, an increase of 11 percent over the current level.
"As Appropriators, we can and will agree on responsible spending initiatives to continue advancing manufacturing and innovation, rural broadband deployment, and trade enforcement and compliance," said Chairman Rogers. "In rural parts of my state, access to broadband remains a significant challenge, and this has been further highlighted during the pandemic as more people rely on internet connectivity for work, education, and healthcare."
Chairman Rogers asked about rural broadband expansion and continued investments in coal communities.
"About one-third of people who live in rural America don't have access to the internet. It is truly heartbreaking to talk to people without high-speed affordable internet. So, we are on a mission to make sure every single American, no matter where they live, has the internet at a price they can afford," said Secretary Raimondo. "In Kentucky, we have put more than $23 million through EDA into coal communities, since I've been Secretary, effectively to create jobs, to do job training. These communities won't be brought back to life unless we invest."
The FY2024 budget request for the ATF totals $1.875 million, a 7.4 percent increase.
"The FY24 budget reveals an effort to roll back Second Amendment protections. It proposes to eliminate several long-standing gun rights riders and repeal several Second Amendment protections from permanent law. This, along with the ATF’s aggressive regulatory agenda, reveals a multi-faceted effort to eliminate freedoms not even associated with the criminal misuse of firearms," said Chairman Rogers. "The fact is, there is a lot that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of felons that does not involve requiring a disabled vet to register his adapted pistol or removing a longstanding rider related to obscure firearms. Nevertheless, it’s clear where this administration has chosen to direct its efforts."
AFT Director Dettelbach said the agency plans to address inconsistencies.
The final hearings on Wednesday concluded with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"We want to ensure that the United States remains the world leader in space, particularly in light of the aggressive investments China has made in space exploration. We are also accountable to the taxpayer to ensure that NASA remains focused on its core mission," said Chairman Rogers. "Our investments in NASA not only impact the current generation of engineers and scientists, but they also empower the next generation, such as the students at Morehead State University in my home district."
In his testimony, NASA Adminstrator Nelson confirmed we are in a space race with China that looks much different from the one 50 years ago.
"This is not an Apollo generation, it is the Artemis generation," said NASA Administrator Nelson. "We just announced a crew of four that will go onto Artemis II. They will go into lunar orbit, and they will randevu with a SpaceX lander. Two of the four will go down for a six-day mission on the surface and that will be the first woman and the next man that will walk on the moon. That mission is indicative of a public-private partnership, which has thus-far been enormously successful. "This program going back to the moon and mars is not like the program 50 years ago. Then it was the U.S. government totally. This time we go with international partners who share the cost, as well as our commercial partners."
Moving to the budget hearing for the National Science Foundation, Chairman Rogers focused on promoting innovation in rural areas and how America can remain competitive with China.
"Innovation can be anywhere and opportunity should be everywhere. NSF has been a catalyst for countless scientific breakthroughs, major advancements in engineering and manufacturing," said Dr. Panchanatham. "Our competitors are investing heavily in creating the jobs of the future, the workforce of the future, and the industries of the future. This is the moment when we need to ensure we are energizing every bit of talent and ideas in our nation and not leave anything behind."
For more information about Chairman Rogers' work in Washington and at home in Kentucky, visit halrogers.house.gov and follow him on social media.
Watch the full CJS subcommittee hearings here: https://appropriations.house.gov/subcommittees/commerce-justice-science-and-related-agencies-118th-congress