06.08.17

Leahy Statement On Hearing To Review The President's FY 18 Funding Request For The U.S. Department Of Commerce

Secretary Ross, thank you for being here today.  We have many issues to discuss, not the least of which is the topic of today’s hearing – the President’s budget proposal for the Department of Commerce. 

The request for the Department cuts nearly $1.5 billion, or 16 percent, from the FY 2017 enacted appropriations level, eviscerating popular grant, research, and state-based programs; cutting next-generation weather satellites; and failing to sufficiently invest in the 2020 Census. The administration’s proposal eliminates the Economic Development Administration, eliminates most of NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) grant funding, recommends severe cuts to our weather and storm warning models, and fails to sufficiently invest in the 2020 Census.

The list of Trump administration budget “lowlights” goes on and on.  Secretary Ross, as I have said to other members of the Cabinet who have testified before our Committee, this budget is abysmal.

Every American has a stake in the strength of our economy.  Vermont’s small businesses have a global footprint and rely on our trading policies to keep them competitive. We rely on the Department of Commerce to facilitate trade, and protect our workforce from unfair practices, promote innovation and keep American companies competitive in the global economy.  

As America’s place in the global market expands, our closest trade partner remains to our Northern border.  Each year, we export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services to Canada, our Nation’s largest export market in the world.  Vermont is an active contributor to this flow of commerce.  Supporting initiatives that strengthen this partnership will benefit local businesses in Vermont and across the country. 

Yes, we must promote and protect our interests at home, but we cannot fail to recognize that our economy relies on our partners around the world.  

Secretary Ross, thus far, I can find no daylight between you and President Trump regarding your intent to renegotiate trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The President has said he will renegotiate to make NAFTA “better” for the American people.  If this budget proposal reflects his definition – and yours – of “better,” then I am greatly concerned.  I expect you to be an independent and thoughtful counselor to the President on these complicated matters, matters in which he has little to no experience.

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