BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. DICKS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
The appropriations bill we will consider today includes within it three bills: Agriculture; Commerce-Justice-Science; and Transportation-HUD, along with a clean continuing resolution covering the remaining nine bills. The CR prevents a government shutdown. It is a simple date change to December 16. No anomalies are added; everything but the date is carried forward from the last CR.
The agreement provides disaster relief of $2.3 billion, including the full amount needed to address the backlog of eligible disaster repairs for highways, roads, and bridges, and funds to address agricultural disasters.
The conference report also drops controversial riders on Dodd-Frank financial reform, women's health, and climate change.
The minibus restores funding that was cut in the initial House bill to nutrition and food safety programs.
The conference agreement provides $6.6 billion for the Women, Infants, and Children program, WIC, an increase of $570 million over the level in the House-passed bill and $36 million above the Senate level. At this level, WIC can provide for the estimated 700,000 women, children, and infants that would have been turned away under the previous bill. The impact of food prices will still need to be monitored to ensure the program has sufficient funding.
The conference report provides $177 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides food assistance to particularly vulnerable low-income elderly, as well as mothers and young children. At this level, the program will avoid dropping the 100,000 applicants, as would have been required in the House bill.
The conference agreement restores funding to FDA, $334 million over the House-passed bill, to allow implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and provides $1 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service, $32 million over the House level, to maintain the current workforce of meat inspectors.
The agreement restores funding for the COPS programs that were zeroed out in the House-reported bill. COPS grants enable State and local law enforcement agencies to hire and retain police officers, provide equipment to tribal law enforcement agencies, and provide training on community-oriented policing.
The agreement restores much-needed funding for science and innovation. The conference agreement provides $7 billion for the National Science Foundation, an increase of $173 million above the FY11 level and the House-reported bill. While we need to be investing much more in basic research at NSF, the additional funding in the conference agreement is an important step in the right direction.
The conference agreement provides $924 million for NOAA's Joint Polar Satellite System. While still below the request, the conference level will go farther than either the House or Senate levels in helping to minimize the anticipated satellite data gaps.
The agreement provides funding for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which the House had zeroed out. The new telescope will be 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope, allowing us to see images of the first glows after the Big Bang and greatly enhancing our scientific understanding of the universe.
Finally, the minibus restores funding for transportation and housing programs. The minibus includes $12 billion more than the House subcommittee bill for the Federal-aid highway program, consistent with the annual funding levels assumed in the Surface Transportation Extension Act. The bill includes $10.5 billion for transit programs, $2.5 billion more than the earlier bill.
The agreement also includes $1.4 billion for Amtrak capital and operating grants and deletes onerous language from the House subcommittee-passed bill that would have eliminated service on 26 short-distance routes, affecting 15 States and more than 9 million passengers.
The bill includes funding for the TIGER grant program, which will help advance national and regional transportation projects that will benefit both passenger and freight mobility as well as create jobs. This bill will create a lot of jobs.
The conference agreement provides $45 million in funding for housing counseling assistance. This program provides grant funds to local nonprofit agencies for reverse mortgage, rental, home pre-purchase and foreclosure prevention counseling. This program had been eliminated in 2011.
The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is funded at $120 million in the conference agreement. Choice is a grant program to revitalize public housing and blighted private housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. This program provides quality low-income housing, while the vast majority of these funds create needed construction jobs. The House subcommittee bill proposed eliminating the program.
The Interagency Council on Homelessness is funded at $3.3 million in the conference agreement. The agency was also eliminated in the House subcommittee bill. The Council enhances the Federal response to homelessness by coordination between agencies, addressing duplicative programs, and identifying best practices.
The conference agreement provides $75 million for the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, equal to the President's budget request. VASH provides long-term housing to homeless veterans. This is an increase of $25 million over the FY11 level.
I'm not happy with every single element of this, but I haven't seen a bill around here yet that is perfect. I also want to say that we did not get as good a compromise as we hoped on the Legal Services Corporation. I wish we could do more because there certainly is a justice gap in this country.
I want to commend the chairman and his staff, both the majority staff and the minority staff, who I think worked very well together with the other body in reaching resolutions in a very timely way on these three bills. And I want to commend the chairman for bringing six bills to the floor.
Now, I could make the case that we actually did 18 bills because we had 12 bills in the '11 omnibus, H.R. 1, that took us a whole week, if you remember, to go through 12 separate bills. So 12 and 6 is 18. That's a pretty good day for the Appropriations Committee.
Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. DICKS. I yield to the chairman.
Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. And in that H.R. 1, the fiscal year '11 omnibus bill, as you recollect, we had some 500 amendments.
Mr. DICKS. Everybody got a shot.
Mr. ROGERS of Kentucky. Everybody.
Mr. DICKS. I want to commend the chairman for his commitment to regular order and openness, and I hope that next year we can really do all 12 bills. If we can get them done this year in December, then we can focus on the 12 bills for next year and hopefully bring them all to the floor so that Members have a chance to vote. It's important, I think. And I think the fact that so many people wanted to offer an amendment indicates that the membership of the House wants to see an open process. And it's certainly important for the minority, too, to have an opportunity to offer amendments.
I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. DICKS. I yield myself as much time as I may use.
I just want to say that I think that this is a bill that we've worked hard on, we've worked with the other body; and I hope that the Members will support this bill. And I want to remind everybody, this has got the CR in it. We've got to keep the government open. It's clean, as clean as any one that I have seen. So I hope that we can pass this bill with a very strong bipartisan vote. I'm urging my colleagues on the Democratic side to support this bill.
I want to, again, congratulate the chairman and all of our staff for the work that they've done on this bill. It's a good bill. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better than the alternative. And we need to keep moving on these appropriations bills. I hope we can pass the other nine in December, and we have to do that.
I yield back the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT