House Committee Approves 2-Year Coast Guard Authorization Bill

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on April 26 approved a bipartisan, two-year Coast Guard and maritime policy reauthorization bill (H.R. 2741) by a vote of 58 to 3. (The three “no” votes were Scott Perry (R-PA), Mike Collins (R-GA), and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA).)

“The men and women of the Coast Guard risk their lives every day to protect our Nation and the lives of those at sea.  From assuring the safety of maritime trade through the supply chain crisis, to helping counter undue Chinese influence in the Pacific, to promoting the United States’ redefined role in the rapidly changing Arctic, to stemming the human trafficking and influx of illicit drugs into the country, the Coast Guard is challenged with an ever-growing mission set and no growth in their physical infrastructure assets.  Our bill ensures the Coast Guard will have the resources and assets necessary to carry out these and its other critical missions” said T&I Committee chairman Sam Graves (R-MO).

His Democratic counterpart, Rick Larsen (D-WA), added, “The Coast Guard continues to suffer from insufficient funding.  In recent years, this has resulted in a $3 billion shoreside infrastructure backlog, a lack of icebreaking capacity in the Arctic and the Great Lakes, as well as reduced capacity across several essential missions such as marine safety and oil spill response.  H.R. 2741 works to fix these problems.  This legislation provides $14.24 billion for the Coast Guard for fiscal year 2024 and $14.78 billion for fiscal year 2025.  These increases over current funding levels should ensure the Service has the resources needed to take care of its servicemembers and enhance their ability to operate new assets that are expected to come online in the coming years.”

But both Graves and Larsen exaggerate the real-world effects of their bill. It would not “ensure” that the Coast Guard will have resources, as Graves said. Nor does it “provide” any funding, as Larsen said. Fiscally speaking, all the bill does is recommend funding targets to the House and to the Appropriations Committees, which then have to find the money.

The bill recommends that the Appropriations Committees increase funding for controllable parts of the Coast Guard budget by 25 percent this cycle over what was appropriated for fiscal year 2023, as follows:

(Million $$) FY 2023 FY 2024 FY 2025
Enacted House Bill House Bill
Operations 9,700.5 10,750.0 11,287.5
Capital (PC&I) 1,669.7 3,477.6 3,477.6
R & D 7.5 14.7 15.4
Subtotal, Discretionary 11,377.6 14,242.3 14,780.5
+2,864.7 +538.2
+25.2% +3.8%

(Over $250 million per year is billed to the Coast Guard for Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund Contribution, and counted towards the discretionary budget, but (a) this isn’t really “controllable” and (b) the appropriation is automatic and does not have to be enacted into law each year, so we don’t show it here.)

The amount recommended for 2024 in the House bill is also 22 percent more than President Biden requested in his 2024 budget for the Coast Guard, as follows:

FY 2023 FY 2024 FY 2024 House vs.
Enacted Request House Bill Request
Operations 9,700.5 10,223.5 10,750.0 +526.5
Capital (PC&I) 1,669.7 1,550.0 3,477.6 +1,927.6
R & D 7.5 7.5 14.7 +7.2
Subtotal, Discretionary 11,377.6 11,781.0 14,242.3 +2,461.3

This is not shaping up to be the year for asking the appropriators for any substantial increases in non-defense spending. The Republican debt limit bill passed this week would cut total discretionary appropriations in 2024 by $131 billion (8.2 percent) from the 2023 level and, if they protect the defense number ($858 million in 2023) from significant cuts, that would mean aggregate cuts of around 20 percent in the non-defense budget, where Coast Guard funding lies.

The 46-page Coast Guard bill (H.R. 2741) was introduced on April 20 by the bipartisan T&I leaders. But the committee actually marked up a 51-page amendment in the nature of a substitute that had a few changes from the base bill. Members then offered amendments to the “ANS” at the April 26 markup.

When it came to amendments, this markup worked like traditional bipartisan public works and transportation markups. Members filed amendments in advance, and then the “Big Four” (Graves, Larsen, and the chairman and ranking minority member of the Coast Guard subcommittee in this instance) reviewed the amendments and jointly decided which they would accept and which they would oppose.

All of the amendments found acceptable to the Big Four get swept up into one big manager’s amendment, along with any necessary technical corrections discovered by markup time. This manager’s amendment was 15 pages long and incorporated eight amendments from rank-and-file members.

In the face of opposition from party leadership on both sides of the aisle, the remaining amendments were either offered and withdrawn or else voted down.

The two most active members were Perry (who also chairs the ultra-right House Freedom Caucus that is constantly pushing Speaker McCarthy) and Auchincloss. Perry had two amendments fail by roll call (4 yeas, 53 nays and 2 yeas, 58 nays) and two more fail by voice vote. Auchincloss offered and withdrew two amendments and then had one fail by voice (6 yeas, 54 nays, and 1 present).

(The Auchincloss amendment that went to roll call was interesting, in that Larsen actually voted “yes,” but subcommittee ranking member Salud Carbajal (D-CA) voted no, as did 20 other Democrats and all the Republicans who were present.)

For a full list of amendments offered, with links to the text of each and to roll call votes, click here.

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