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Commerce, Justice, Science, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


COMMERCE, JUSTICE, SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 25, 2007)

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am pleased to join my chairman, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. Mollohan), in beginning the consideration of H.R. 3093, making appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies. This bill provides funding for programs whose impact ranges from the safety of people in their homes and communities to the farthest reaches of space exploration.

The bill before the House today addresses a number of critical national needs and requirements. The chairman has done an outstanding job in balancing many competing interests and has put together a solid bill in a fair and even-handed manner. I appreciate his openness and responsiveness, as well as his thorough understanding of each and every program in this bill.

I would also like to thank all Members of the subcommittee for their help and assistance and their advocacy, and also the staff on both sides of the aisle who spent long, long hours in putting this bill and report together.

On the minority side Mike Ringler and Frank Cushing, who have been mentioned; and Nancy Fox and Katie Hazlett of my personal staff; and on the majority side, Michelle Burkett, Marjorie Duske, Tracey LaTurner, Meg Thompson, Dennis Dauphin, Jennifer Eskra; and, as the chairman has noted, his great personal staff, Sally Moorhead and Julia Aaronsen.

Mr. Chairman, the bill includes important increases to priority programs that all Members can support. Throughout our extensive hearing schedule, we heard about urgent funding requests, including the need to address a growing violent crime rate that has begun to rise again after many years of decline, and the need to boost our Nation's competitiveness through more investments in scientific research and science and math education.

However, I also believe we could have met the most pressing needs by prioritizing within a lower allocation, the allocation giving this subcommittee $53.5 billion, which is $3.2 billion, or 6.4 percent, over 2007; and $2.3 billion, or 4.5 percent, over the President's request. This very generous allocation allows everything to grow and is, I believe, more than sufficient to address the highest-priority needs in a satisfactory way.

By comparison, the House passed a CJS bill with an allocation that exceeded the President's request by less than a quarter of 1 percent last year. That bill addressed critical priorities and passed overwhelmingly on the House floor.

As others have stated about earlier bills, the size of the allocation this year may make it more difficult to produce a bill that will get signed into law, so I look forward to continuing to work together with the chairman towards that goal.

I would also like to briefly highlight some of the more important contents of the bill. For the Department of Commerce, the bill includes $7.1 billion, including the full requested level for the critical functions of the National Weather Service, and important investments in NOAA's ocean and climate research.

I appreciate the chairman has included funding in the bill to strongly support the trade agencies empowering the U.S. Trade Representative in the International Trade Administration to negotiate, verify and enforce trade agreements that are free and fair, and to ensure an even playing field for American businesses and workers.

Requested increases for NIST under the President's American Competitiveness Initiative are fully funded, as is the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at $108.8 million.

The bill also included $1.9 billion, or an 8 1/2 percent increase, for the Patent and Trademark Office, and fully funds the request to support the ramp-up to the 2010 decennial census.

On the Justice side for the Department of Justice, the bill includes $23.7 billion, $1.7 billion above the request. The bill restores $1.7 billion to the administration proposed to reduce from State and local law enforcement accounts, including programs addressing violence against women, violent gangs, the meth epidemic, child exploitation and the continuing need for interoperable law enforcement communications.

I am very pleased that the chairman agrees that we must insist on standards and best practices for the use of these types of grant funds. It is not acceptable simply to pass out money to local jurisdictions without stringent requirements to follow accepted standards and proven program models. I salute the chairman for including language specifically under the COPs law enforcement technologies to ensure that funds go towards equipment that meets all relevant Federal standards.

Despite the sizeable increase in State and local law enforcement programs, many Members are concerned about the funding for SCAAP, the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. An amendment to increase the funding to the current-year level was adopted at the committee level.

We may see further amendments to increase it even further. The costs incurred to incarcerate undocumented criminal aliens continue to be an enormous financial burden on our towns and cities. The SCAAP program provides important partial Federal reimbursement for costs relating to what is truly a national, not a local, problem, immigration enforcement.

The bill also includes important investments to fight the national epidemic methamphetamine abuse: $600 million for Justice Assistance Grants which support local drug task forces, the Byrne Grants; $85 million in grants to combat meth, that epidemic; $40 million for drug courts; and funding for the DEA to support State and local efforts and to fight international drug trafficking.

The FBI is funded above the President's request, which is necessary in order to continue current staffing and operations levels while also funding urgent increases in counterterrorism programs. The Appropriations Committee has been at the forefront of the FBI's transformation into our Nation's premier counterterrorism agency, and I am pleased we are able to continue that support this year.

Too often we fail to recognize the critical and often dangerous work that the FBI special agents and, may I say, also the DEA and AFT special agents do both at home and abroad in order to detect and prevent terrorist and other types of attacks. This is incredibly important work. This bill strongly supports those efforts while providing necessary funding for the FBI to fulfill its traditional roles and address emerging problems, such as child exploitation, the growth of violent gangs, and human trafficking.

One area where I believe we should have done more in light of the generous allocation is in Federal law enforcement. In the joint resolution for 2007, the Congress provided more than $1 billion above the freeze to support current operations and urgent increases for Federal law enforcement. In many cases, these increases were not assumed in the formulation of the President's budget for 2008. So while most Federal law enforcement accounts are funded at least at the President's request in this bill, there still will be some negative consequences in the form of personnel reductions and hiring freezes at some agencies, including the DEA, the AFT, and the new National Security Division. The chairman has been very cooperative thus far in helping to lessen the impacts on the DEA, and I hope we can work together to improve funding for Federal law enforcement generally as the bill moves forward to conference.

In addition, I am concerned that the Justice Department rescissions included in this bill may turn out to be based on unrealistic assumptions. The balances available could likely fall far short of the rescinded amounts, and I hope to continue to work with the chairman to avoid any harmful cuts.

In the area of science, this bill also funds important initiatives in science and competitiveness. The capacity to innovate is the primary engine of our economy and our way of life. In order to sustain it, we must increase our investment in basic scientific research and strengthen science education.

This bill fully funds the President's competitive initiative, which includes a commitment to double the funding for basic scientific research over 10 years, and also to strengthen and encourage education and entrepreneurship.

For the National Science Foundation, the bill provides $6.5 billion, or 10 percent, above the current year for research that will set the groundwork of the development of new technologies and science education programs that will continue to ensure that we have a well-educated and skilled workforce to improve our competitiveness.

For NASA, the bill provides $17.6 billion. This level supports the President's vision for space exploration with the full request for the continuing development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Crew Launch Vehicle, keeping to a minimum the gap in flight capability after the retirement of the shuttle.

The bill also includes funding for the request for aeronautics research, space science programs, and NASA education programs.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, despite concerns about the overall level of spending, this bill represents the chairman's best efforts to distribute the allocation he was given to the various competing requirements under our subcommittee's jurisdiction. I highly commend him for an outstanding job and will be urging all Members to support this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. MOLLOHAN. I yield to the distinguished ranking member.

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, quite reluctantly, I oppose the gentleman's amendment, but certainly your views are held by quite a lot of people. I think it would be a mistake to cut the census, which is obviously a constitutional obligation. As I remember looking at that account, the Member's suggesting that we double the account, actually I think ITA got $10 million more than the President requested. So they actually have more money to deal with, maybe not the specific Office of China Compliance, but I think it would be a mistake to cut the Census, which is a pretty important thing we are trying to ramp up.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, if the gentlewoman will yield, we obviously respect our colleague's attempt to improve the financial situation for these border prosecutors, but the general feeling is that Census accounts are not the ones we want to use for that purpose. But we certainly respect what you would like to do to enhance their resources.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, like the chairman, we want to salute Representative Eshoo and Mr. Shimkus. This is sort of a promise that has not been delivered on, and we are mindful of it. But I would agree with the chairman, to take a whack out of the Department of Justice general administration accounts would affect people that are working there presently.

There is the expectation, which, of course, it might irritate you for me to mention this, that somewhere along the line, goodness knows when it will happen, there will be a spectrum auction. I don't know, there is $40 or $50 million. I know you are looking for $250 million. It is not exactly inexpensive. When the auction should occur, this is the type of necessary project that needs to be funded.

But I would concur with the chairman, I know you tried to choose wisely, I am not sure these are the accounts that I would recommend taking money from. So I would concur with the chairman.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I reluctantly oppose the amendment as well. And obviously we have a strong appreciation and affection for the power and the reasonableness of the delegations from California and Texas. The nexus between Texas and California is a pretty strong nexus here.

And I am supportive of SCAAP. I think Mr. Dreier kindly has acknowledged that the committee did put money in there through a Honda amendment, and obviously we would like to plus it up. The costs have somewhat escalated from what we originally anticipated from the floor debate here.

But I would agree with the chairman. The cuts that are proposed from these accounts actually affect real people.

And in the Commerce Department management account, and I know Mr. Dreier is an advocate of trade, it's a 40 percent cut in the management account for the Department of Commerce, which leaves them with 60 percent for operating costs. And for the Justice Department general account, which is $104 million, $104.8 million, this account is reduced by $25 million. They're down to $79 million. That means people out the door who are doing prosecutions that are important to all of us, perhaps even related to the issues that we're focused on today, which is criminal aliens.

So I reluctantly oppose the amendment, but certainly am sympathetic and have been because I've been well educated by not only the Member of Congress from California.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, let me join with you in congratulating Mr. Price for pushing something which the committee has pushed, which is promoting math and science, especially encouraging young women to get into those pursuits and academics.

Mr. Price has indicated to me that he would be willing to withdraw his amendment if he had a commitment from us that we would work hard as we progress in putting our bill together matching it with the Senate to see what we could do to increase these accounts.

I should point out that we are doing more, as you have noted, for the National Science Foundation.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed by the introduction and consideration of this amendment.

I can attest to what the chairman of the full committee said about my colleague and friend recusing himself from any consideration. He has been absolutely scrupulous in terms of that regard.

I'm not a lawyer, but there are quite a number of lawyers here. Everyone under the law is entitled to due process. And I can't talk about how long this process has taken, but I have every confidence that justice will be served, and hopefully in an expeditious manner.

But I'm, indeed, sorry that this amendment has been brought to the floor. I think it is totally inappropriate. Obviously Members have a right to make motions of this kind.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, first of all, let me thank Mr. Rogers not only for his congressional service, but for his other life before he came to Congress. As I sort of said in my opening remarks, all of us on this floor salute the men and women who are special agents. They do dangerous work. The gentleman has been unstinting in terms of educating me as the new ranking member, you didn't have to do it to the other side, as to the sort of things that were discussed by Representatives WOLF, HOBSON and ROGERS.

We tried in our bill to give some direction and impetus to having these issues of retention up and out and housing allowance raised to a higher level of interest by the FBI Director. We are not going to stop that push.

The gentleman may or may not be successful with his amendments, but I am still committed, and I am sure the majority is, if there is something going on here that is unfair, promises haven't been kept, we are going to do our level best without authorizing on this bill to see that it is done.

I support the Chairman's point of order.

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