Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2638, The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act. This bill makes critical investments in America to provide we have the necessary resources to secure our nation, to prepare and respond to natural disasters, and to maintain the uninterrupted flow of important government services and functions.
This continuing resolution includes three annual appropriations bills to operate important security programs in the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Administration. With the nation engaged in military conflict both in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is important that Congress provide the necessary investments in the Defense Department for the American men and women engaged in both battles. As a step-mother of a uniformed soldier and a wife to a former Marine, I am particularly pleased with the increased investment of $28.4 million over current funding; among other important items for our troops this will address equipment shortfalls, supply quality training, and provide top of the line medical care to our troops.
The bill increases our investment in Homeland Security by $2.3 billion over 2008 levels. Most of this increase is in the area of grants to states and localities for much needed security programs such as those for urban areas, states, transit systems, fire, interoperable communications and emergency management performance. Key programs in customs and border protection and the Transportation Security Administration which monitor and safeguard our borders, trade and transport systems will also receive increases.
The bill also makes investments in veterans' programs and in military construction, providing a $9 billion increase in funding. We all appreciate and honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans, and these investments will fund increases for medical care and will improve access to medical services for all veterans. It also continues a critically needed quality of life initiative to improve living conditions for training soldiers and marines and to upgrade substandard medical treatment facilities.
In addition to these three regular appropriations bills, our legislation addresses important emergency needs. With hurricanes in the gulf coast, floods in the Midwest, and wildfires in the west, America has experienced another year of dramatic weather-related disasters. Our bill makes a $22.9 billion investment to not only respond to these specific events but also to ensure our preparation and readiness for future emergencies. These funds will help rebuild damaged highways, levees and other public infrastructure; help communities revitalize their damaged economies; and provide important social services to affected residents.
Of course, it is equally important that we take the opportunity of this continuing resolution to address certain important domestic needs. Accordingly, this bill makes several important investments to directly benefit hardworking families, as well as strengthen the American economy. These investments include the following increases over current funding:
$1 billion for Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to provide mothers and their children with proper nutrition to cover increased costs as more families struggle with the economic downturn and rising food costs;
$23.5 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program to prevent nearly 70,000 low-income women, infants, children, and elderly citizens, from losing access to food;
$2.5 billion for the Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) to help families pay rising home energy bills, assisting an additional 2 million households and raising the average grant from $355 to $550;
$2.5 billion for Pell Grants to prevent cuts to student aid midway through the school year;
$2.9 billion to help the Census Bureau to ramp up operations for the 2010 Census; and
$7.5 billion to support $25 billion in loans to help American automakers retool their factories to build more fuel-efficient vehicles.
While I am pleased the continuing resolution addresses these important issues, I am disappointed that it does not include another important matter--an extension of the drilling ban on the outer continental shelf. Although an extension of the ban had become routine in the annual appropriations bills, the current energy crisis has made that impossible this year. I trust congressional leaders in the next Congress will reach an agreement that addresses our energy needs while still providing continued environmental safeguards for our coastlines and coastal communities.
Mr. Speaker, my constituents are not happy that once again Congress has had to resort to a continuing resolution to fund the operations of the government. Unfortunately, the Congress was left with no choice but to proceed in this fashion when the President threatened to veto domestic spending bills that exceed his inadequate requests. Re-investing in America and in American families is the new Majority's priority; however, it clearly is not the priority of the Administration as evidenced by the President's budget request. Rather than engage president renown for his inflexibility, the new Majority has opted to work with the next administration to fund these important programs.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill to secure our nation, invest in America, and respond and prepare for disasters.