Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the bill and yield myself such time as I may utilize.

Mr. Chairman, I'm pleased we're considering the fiscal year 2013 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill in a timely fashion and under an open rule. Chairman Aderholt has been collaborative and collegial in the drafting of this bill, and I appreciate his willingness to include input from our side all along the way.

I'm generally supportive of the funding levels provided in the bill. The fact remains, however, that our subcommittee was forced to accept a reduced allocation for the Department of Homeland Security when Republicans unilaterally cast aside the spending agreement we reached last August, forcing the Appropriations Committee to absorb $19 billion in reductions below the Budget Control Act levels.

Largely because the majority broke that agreement, DHS is funded at 1 percent below the requested level, continuing a downward funding trend for this agency over the past few years. The bill does retain the disaster cap adjustment included in the Budget Control Act agreement.

Mr. Chairman, fortunately, despite these circumstances, the bill before us provides adequate funding for DHS front-line employees so that they can continue to conduct critical operations along our borders, to protect our Nation's airports and seaports, to disrupt the latest plots against the United States and our citizens, and to respond to the spate of natural disasters our country has experienced.

I'm also pleased that the bill significantly increases funding for critical grant programs, in marked contrast to the current year's inadequate levels. The bill also rejects the administration's poorly articulated changes to the grant structure, changes that have not been authorized.

Specifically, funding for FEMA's State and local grants is $413 million above the fiscal year 2012 level, and both fire grants and emergency management performance grants are funded at the levels requested by the administration.

Equally important, the bill provides improved funding for research and developments efforts. The bill contains sufficient resources for the Science and Technology Directorate to fund all high-priority research efforts and some new projects as well.

Unfortunately, while the bill appears to fully fund the administration's request for science and technology, in reality it includes $75 million for construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, NBAF, which the administration did not request, in effect reducing funds for research and development efforts.

Now, I support the eventual construction of this facility, but I must question the inclusion of $75 million in limited resources for a project that the President did not request, that remains under review by two National Academy of Science panels, and that already has unobligated prior-year appropriations that it can draw upon.

The bill also increases funding for critical Coast Guard, as well as Air and Marine, acquisitions, to recapitalize aging assets while also bringing the latest aviation and vessel technologies online to ensure our personnel can operate more effectively.

And, finally, the bill includes a substantial increase for cybersecurity protective efforts to continuously monitor and detect intrusions to our Federal networks from foreign espionage and cyberattacks.

Mr. Chairman, the bill does contain some ill-advised immigration provisions. Unnecessary and wasteful statutory floors are set for a variety of programs, such as an arbitrary minimum of 34,000 detention beds, a required level of spending for the seriously flawed 287(g) program, and an inflexible amount for work-site enforcement. Including these types of spending floors and mandates in bill language limits the Department's flexibility to respond decisively to immigration challenges and is likely to waste taxpayer dollars for no good reason.

I also object to the three abortion general provisions that were added in full committee. Now, we all know, Mr. Chairman, abortion is a politically charged subject. Numerous restrictions in law have already conditioned and qualified reproductive freedom in practice. Among those are prohibitions on the use of Federal funds for abortion procedures, which are specifically applied to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security by the President's Executive Order 13535, issued on March 24, 2010.

Until now, our bill has never touched on the topic of abortion because it's not relevant to the Department of Homeland Security, and it falls far outside the lines of jurisdiction of this subcommittee. So these provisions are redundant. They will accomplish nothing. They make no change whatsoever in current law or procedures.

They seem designed mainly for political effect; but I tell you, political effect cuts both ways. These abortion riders, while unnecessary, are inflammatory. They're divisive. They should not be included in the final bill.

Finally, I also strongly disagree with provisions that withhold the following: 60 percent of all funding provided to the Secretary, Under Secretary, Chief Financial Officer; 10 percent of all funding for salaries and expenses at Customs and Border Protection personnel; about 37 percent for Coast Guard Headquarters Directorate until they submit numerous reports required by statute.

Even more egregiously, these withholdings are coupled with a provision that prevents the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary, the commandant of our Coast Guard, and the vice commandant from using their aircraft until certain key reports are received by the committee. These constraints are excessive. They will prevent Department and Coast Guard leadership from effectively doing their jobs.

I support efforts to hold the Department accountable; and, in fact, we included carefully calibrated and targeted withholdings in this bill when I was chairman. But excessive and unrealistic limitations, frankly, detract from this subcommittee's credibility, and they're likely to be counterproductive.

Mr. Chairman, I will close by thanking the hardworking professional staff which has helped craft this bill and has assisted the subcommittee in a bipartisan manner over the course of the year. I want to thank, as the chairman did, Ben Nicholson, Kathy Kraninger, Jeff Ashford, Kris Mallard, Joe Croce, Miles Taylor, and Cornell Teague on the majority side and, of course, Stephanie Gupta on our side of the aisle and Justin Wein from my office.

Again, I want to reiterate my appreciation to the chairman for his efforts to work with us on so many issues and to sustain our front-line Federal homeland security operations.

With that, Mr. Chairman I reserve the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. PRICE of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I will conclude by again commending the chairman and our whole subcommittee. We have a good active group of members, and virtually all had positive input into this legislation. I appreciate the spirit in which the chairman has made an honest effort to accommodate constructive input from all sources.

There's much to commend about this bill, starting with the support of frontline operations, but also some improvements from the funding situation we're dealing with this year with respect to State and local FEMA grants, for example, and with respect to science and technology investments. There are funding shortfalls in this bill with respect to the headquarters' needs at St. Elizabeth's, with respect to certain administrative needs of the Department, and others that we could name. But under the constraints of the budget allocation there is a good balance in this bill, I think, and one that has required a great deal of accommodation and a great deal of hard work.

I have already said that I think there are some extraneous elements of this bill that are not so constructive: the immigration provisions, the abortion provisions, and some excessive withholding provisions. I sincerely hope that in the debate to come we will not compound that problem.

We know we're going to be dealing with dozens of amendments. We're going to be dealing with additional proposed riders, ill-advised for the most part. We're going to be dealing with some tempting spending provisions that will cannibalize those front office expenses or the science and technology expenses or other accounts in this bill for the sake of amendments that may sound good but really could upset some of the delicate balances that this bill has struck.

So we're going to have, I hope and believe, a probably lengthy and also constructive process of discussion and amendment under the open rule, and I very much hope that the end result of that process will be a bill that can claim broad support. We're going to have a few hours until that process begins, but I look forward to getting on with this and at the end of the week producing a Homeland Security appropriations bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


Source:
Skip to top
Back to top