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Public Statements

Use of Grant Funds for Projects Conducted in Conjunction with a National Laboratory or Research Facility

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I'm perplexed that the House is considering H.R. 5843 today. I cannot understand why this bill is on the schedule. It was introduced just over a month ago and has not been vetted by the committee. Why are we giving expedited attention to a bill that has just two cosponsors, both of whom are Republican? Whatever the problem it purports to solve has not been the subject of so much as a Member-level briefing, let alone a hearing or a markup.

Section 208(a)(13) of the Homeland Security Act already allows the Department to approve the spending of grant funds on training by national labs. Without so much as a hearing where the committee can take testimony on this matter, it is hard to justify taking up precious House floor time on this bill, especially in a week where we must take urgent action on Pell Grants and highway funding. So instead, I choose to use this time to discuss the dwindling Federal support for homeland security activities, a far more timely concern for State, local, and tribal authorities than H.R. 5843.

In the wake of the September 11 attack, as a government, we committed to safeguarding our homeland by building and preserving preparedness capabilities. Yet since the beginning of the 112th Congress, that commitment seems to have dangerously wavered.

In just 2 short years, vital Homeland Security Grant Programs have been significantly cut, and, as a result, the level of preparedness fostered by the programs, such as the Urban Areas Security Initiative, Port Security Grant Program, Transit Security Grant Program, and the Metropolitan Medical Response System, have been undermined. Given that the authorizations for many of these targeted programs are expiring, a far better use of our time would be to reauthorize the Transit Security Grant Program or the Metropolitan Medical Response program.

Mr. Speaker, before I reserve my time, I would note for the record that there are two other much more plausible candidates for consideration by the full House that were introduced by the gentleman from California. One addressed the cybersecurity threat and was ordered reported in April. The other authorizes DHS's chemical facility security program and is pending on the Union Calendar.

Mr. Speaker, speaking of the Union Calendar, I would also note that this bill is receiving expedited consideration while four measures ordered reported by the Committee on Homeland Security remain on the Union Calendar without action.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, we owe it to our Nation's first responders to ensure that they have the resources needed to perform their jobs and to get it right when we alter the allowable uses for those funds. Getting it right in this body requires deliberation and debate in the committee of jurisdiction.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the bill we are considering today failed to receive such deliberation or debate. Therefore, it is hard to say whether it is responsive to the needs of first responders. What I can say for a fact is reauthorizing key Homeland Security grant programs would bolster preparedness and be responsive to the needs of our first responders.

And with that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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