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H.R. 2217, Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chair, before us is H.R. 2217, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act for FY 2014. Although this legislation is far from perfect, I rise in reluctant support of the bill because ensuring that our first responders and those who work on the frontline protecting our borders have adequate resources to protect our homeland and keep our citizens safe.

I strongly disapprove of the method employed by the House Republican to discharge the House's fundamental responsibility to reach a budget agreement with the Senate establishing the framework governing the appropriations process. The Republican majority brought to the floor and passed a rule that ``deems'' adopted the draconian spending limits imposed by the Ryan Budget resolution rather than a resolution that realistic and responsible limits that is to be negotiated and agreed to by House and Senate budget conferees.

Indeed, the Republican House leadership has refused for months to appoint conferees empowered to reach a budget agreement that is fair, balanced and would end sequestration.

I agree with President Obama that prior to consideration of appropriations bills the House and Senate should first reach agreement on an appropriate framework for all appropriations bills and one does not harm our economy or require draconian cuts to middle-class priorities.

Without such an agreement, House Republican appropriation bills will result in: hundreds of thousands of low-income children losing access to Head Start programs, tens of thousands of children with disabilities losing federal funding for their special education teachers and aides, thousands of federal agents who will not be able to secure the border, enforce drug laws, combat violent crime or apprehend fugitives; and thousands of scientists without medical grants to conduct research to find new treatments and cures for diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer's.

The Ryan Budget that the House majority deemed adopted and incorporated in the rule governing consideration of this legislation assumes that the draconian funding levels established under sequestration will remain in place for the next several years.

Sequestration has been an unmitigated disaster for the American people, especially for Texas and the people I represent in Houston. Let me identify just a few of the ways my constituents are being adversely affected by sequestration:

Teachers and Schools: Texas will lose approximately $67.8 million for primary and secondary education, putting around 930 teacher and aide jobs at risk. In addition about 172,000 fewer students would be served and approximately 280 fewer schools would receive funding.

Education for Children with Disabilities: Texas will lose approximately $51 million for about 620 teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities.

Head Start: Head Start and Early Head Start services would be eliminated for approximately 4,800 children in Texas, reducing access to critical early education.

Military Readiness: In Texas, approximately 52,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $274.8 million in total.

Law Enforcement and Public Safety Funds: Texas will lose about $1,103,000 in Justice Assistance Grants that support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

Job Search Assistance: Around 83,750 fewer Texans will get the help and skills they need to find employment as Texas will lose about $2,263,000 for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning.

Child Care: Up to 2,300 disadvantaged and vulnerable children could lose access to child care, which is also essential for working parents to hold down a job.

Vaccines for Children: In Texas around 9,730 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations.

Violence Against Women Grants: Texas could lose up to $543,000 to provide services to victims of domestic violence, resulting in up to 2,100 fewer victims being served.

Public Health: Texas will lose approximately $2,402,000 to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, Texas will lose about $6,750,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 2,800 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the Texas State Department of Public Health will lose about $1,146,000 resulting in around 28,600 fewer HIV tests.

Regarding the merits of the legislation before us, let me say that there is much in the bill that should command bipartisan support. For example, the bill includes $1.5 billion for FEMA State and Local Grants, which is $35.4 million above the FY 2013 enacted level. These grants fund critical programs such as the Homeland Security Grant Program, which primarily fund first responders, and the Urban Area Security Initiative.

The bill also provides $10.6 billion for Customs and Border Protection and includes funding for the additional 1,600 Customs and Border Protection Officers requested by the President.

The bill also makes needed investments in cybersecurity, providing $786 million to help protect federal networks from foreign espionage and cyber attacks. The bill also provides a total of $6.2 billion for disaster relief, as requested by the President.

A major improvement to the bill was the adoption by the House of the Jackson Lee-Markey-Grimm-Reed Amendment which prohibits the Transportation Security Agency from changing its Prohibited Items List (PIL) to permit knives on planes. Adoption of my amendment enhances the security of air travel and protects TSA workers, flight attendants, pilots, and federal air marshals.

I am also pleased that H.R. 2217 incorporates several program funding recommendations I made to the Committee, especially the funding provided for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and the Staffing for Adequate Emergency Response Grant (SAFER) programs. The tragic loss of four firefighters last week in Houston reminds us again of the dangers faced daily by first responders and the necessity of providing them the resources and support required to keep them safe. Specifically, the bill funds in full or substantial part the following programmatic requests I submitted to the Appropriations Committee:

1. $337,500,000, which is 100% of the amount requested, for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. This program is critical to ensuring that our nation's first responders are adequately trained and equipped to
safely and effectively respond to emergencies in their communities.
2. $337,000,000 for the SAFER Program, which is 100% of the amount requested. The SAFER Grant Program provides much-needed funding for career and volunteer fire departments to hire new firefighters and recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. This program is critical to the thousands of fire stations across the country that are currently operating short of staff and to those seeking to retain current first responders in the face of the economic downturn and recovery.

3. $11,002,000, 91 percent of my request, for the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, which awards funding to organizations that help legal immigrants prepare for citizenship. Since the current immigration system does not always meet the comprehensive needs of immigrants, integration grants provide culturally sensitive and intentional services to uplift AAPI immigrants. Integration grants are critical as they prevent integration barriers, such as precluding applicants from registering to vote or to secure jobs that require U.S. citizenship.

4. $111,590,000, 86.4 percent of my request, for Alternatives to Detention. These programs provide alternate detention options for low-priority AAPIs where detention is neither mandated nor appropriate. While some immigrants need to be detained because they pose a public safety or flight risk, many immigrants do not need to be jailed and should be placed in less costly supervision programs. A recent report reveals that 40% of individuals held in detention in October 2011 had no criminal history.

It is critical that this legislation continue to undergo further improvement and refinement before it is presented to the President for signature. As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I will continue working with my colleagues across the aisle and in the Senate to ensure that our firefighters and other first responders have the resources needed to keep the American people safe.


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