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Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 2112, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DICKS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

The motion instructs conferees to provide funds needed for the Federal Highway Administration to eliminate the backlog of repairs to highways, roads and bridges damaged in natural disasters. The motion also instructs the conferees to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs.

It is not unusual for Congress to appropriate funds to address the backlog of disaster repairs for highways, bridges and roads. Since 1989, Congress appropriated additional funds to eliminate the emergency relief backlog on 20 separate occasions.

This motion will put nearly 60,000 construction workers to work repairing roads and bridges in 37 States. The Federal Highway Administration needs about $1.76 billion for emergency relief repairs in States that received a Presidential disaster declaration.

I would remind my colleagues that the Budget Control Act reformed the process for determining the total amount available for disaster relief funding. Funding is based on objective criteria. Disasters must be declared, and the total amount cannot exceed the rolling 10-year historical average. If conferees provide the highest level of disaster relief funding within the scope of conference, it will be within that range. The motion instructs conferees to remain consistent with the Budget Control Act. And the act makes clear that if disaster relief funding is within the average, it does not need to be offset.

The motion simply asks the House to honor the agreement on disaster relief reached in the Budget Control Act.

The motion also instructs the conferees to support the highest level of funding for COPS within the scope of conference. The House bill, as reported by the Appropriations Committee back in July, included no funding for the COPS programs. However, the Budget Control Act provides a higher discretionary funding total for FY 2012 than the allocation the committee was working with during the summer. This permits the House to fund some items that were difficult to provide for in July. And the COPS programs should be at the top of the list of things to fix in the CJS bill with a higher allocation.

The House has supported COPS on a bipartisan basis, and it is needed now more than ever. The economic downturn of the last few years is straining the resources of State, local and tribal governments across the country. Public safety agencies have been affected along with nearly everyone else.

According to the COPS office, nearly 12,000 police officers and sheriff's deputies will have been laid off by the end of 2011. Approximately 30,000 law enforcement jobs are unfilled. And an estimated 28,000 officers and deputies faced week-long furloughs in 2010.

We can't fix all the financial pressures facing local law enforcement, but we can do something to help stem the tide. This motion would support the hiring or rehiring of approximately 1,500 police officers in FY 2012.

Mr. Speaker, I urge the House to vote ``yes'' on the motion to instruct, and I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. DICKS. I want to commend the chairman for his commitment this year to return to regular order. I wish we could have finished all 12 bills, but we at least got six of them done. I just want to thank him and his staff and the staff of the minority for working together in a collegial way.

I think it's important for the American people to know that the Appropriations Committee here is working together on a bipartisan basis. Now, we may have differences on economic theory and everything else, but we are committed to getting these bills passed and bringing as many as we can to the floor. I hope that, next year, we can start a little earlier and get the budget resolution and move these bills. I would love to see us in the second session of this Congress get all 12 bills to the floor where the Members can offer their amendments. I think that still should be our goal and objective.

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