The House of Representatives Friday approved a final appropriations bill that reduced overall federal spending for the second year, while providing full support for national defense and veterans programs, Congressman Jerry Lewis said.
"Over the past two budget cycles, we have reduced discretionary spending by $95 billion -- showing that Congress is beginning to get the federal budget on the right track after four years of runaway spending," Lewis said. "I am proud to say that this appropriations bill also keeps our priorities straight -- ensuring we provide vital support to those defending our nation, and to the veterans who deserve our respect and appreciation."
The bill passed Friday provides spending through the rest of the fiscal year to all of the departments that were not funded in an earlier multi-agency spending bill. Once the bill is approved by the Senate and signed into law, all federal agencies will be funded through Sept. 30, 2012.
The House also passed an $8.1 billion package for disaster relief and other emergency spending items. Unlike most previous disaster relief bills, this spending will be offset by a further 1.8 percent reduction in overall federal spending (except for defense and veteran's programs) that was also approved by the House Friday, said Lewis, who is chairman emeritus of the Appropriations Committee.
"We are committed to finding every possible way to reducing our dangerously high national debt, and these bills are a strong indication of that commitment," Lewis said. "We must be responsible in all of our spending actions, and do what we can to limit the debt we leave to our children and grandchildren."
The bill contains funding for many programs important to Californians, including:
· $32.5 billion for Defense health programs to provide care for our troops and military families -- $1.1 billion above last year's level and $283 million above the president's request. This includes critical medical research on combat-related illnesses and injuries, including in areas such as brain trauma, cancer, psychological health, hemorrhage control, and prosthetic research.
· Although overall spending on military construction programs was reduced, the bill provides vital funds for many important projects requested by the Marine Corps for the Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, including $23.7 million for a child-development center, $18.8 for a multi-use fitness center, $15.8 million for a Tracked Vehicle Maintenance Center, and an allocation of $8.6 million for land expansion at the base.
· Funding for energy programs that help create U.S. jobs and promote the nation's energy independence, including $1.8 billion -- the same as last year's level -- for programs to help lower the cost of renewable energy technologies and to develop new technology. The bill also includes $769 million -- $43 million above last year's level -- for nuclear energy research and development for the next generation of safe, economically beneficial nuclear power options, including a new program to advance small modular reactors. In addition, the legislation provides $534 million -- $81 million above the request -- for research and development to advance coal, natural gas, and other fossil energy power generation technologies that produce more than 70% of the nation's current electricity.
· $919 million for the Small Business Administration -- $189 million more than last year's level. Small business loans -- which have seen a marked increase in demand and higher subsidy costs due to the current economic situation -- receive an increase of $123 million. The disaster loan program also receives an increase of $72 million to maintain operations, given the depleted supply of emergency funding that has been used for this program in previous years.
· $11.7 billion for Customs and Border Protection -- an increase of $362 million over last year's level. This funding provides for a total of 21,370 Border Patrol agents and 21,186 CBP officers (the highest staffing levels in CBP's history), additional training and canine units at ports of entry, inspection and detection technology, and Air and Marine operations and procurement. The bill increases funding for CBP's targeting systems and operations to $93 million to enhance the identification of known and suspected terrorists and criminals, and makes a total of $775 million available in FY 2012 for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology.
· $4.6 billion for the Forest Service, a reduction of $91 million below last year's level. The bill fully funds Forest Service Wildland Fire Management at $1.7 billion, and includes an additional $316 million for the FLAME fire suppression fund. Hazardous fuels reduction programs, which have been vital to reducing fire danger in the San Bernardino National Forest, are funded at $317 billion.
· The Pell grant program for college students is continued at $5,550 per year per student. The bill makes common-sense reforms to the Pell grant program to ensure its financial stability in future years, which will save more than $11 billion over the next 10 years.