A picture of Representative Nita M. Lowey
Nita L.
Democrat NY 17

About Rep. Nita
  • Insular Areas and Freely Associated States Energy Development

    by Representative Nita M. Lowey

    Posted on 2014-12-11

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    LOWEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    At the outset, I want to thank the gentleman from Kentucky, Chairman Rogers, for the cooperative way he has guided this committee. It has truly been a pleasure for me to work with him and his staff.

    As we all know, Mr. Speaker, funding to keep the government operating expires at midnight tonight. It is my sincere hope that we can avoid the antics of last year, when a vocal minority in this body was able to hold the entire government hostage for reasons they [[Page H9275]] couldn't articulate. It wasn't fair to the American people, and I hope we never have to go through it again.

    Throughout this process, my goal has been to avoid another costly shutdown and make adequate investments to grow the economy, enhance our security, and protect the most vulnerable among us.

    I remain disappointed, Mr. Speaker, that the House majority decided to leave out the agreement reached on the Department of Homeland Security. The decision reflects their political calculation on immigration policy.

    I believe my chairman was right when he rebuffed efforts to restrict the President's executive orders on immigration on a must-pass appropriations bill. But forcing these important agencies--Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration--into a 2-month continuing resolution was unnecessary and unfortunate. The short-term CR creates uncertainty and will limit the Department's ability to make important decisions on procurements, hiring, and on new initiatives we all support.

    I will now enter into the Record a letter from Homeland Security Secretary Johnson outlining the problems with funding the Department through a CR.

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, DC, December 5, 2014.

    Hon. Nita Lowey, Ranking Member, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.

    Dear Representative Lowey: As the United States Congress addresses the FY 2015 appropriations for the Federal Government, I ask for your support for a full annual appropriation for the Department.

    As you know, a Continuing Resolution is not the most effective way to fund the government. Short-term funding measures are disruptive, create uncertainty, and impede efficient resource planning and execution. They inherently slow down day-to-day operations, force leadership to make short-sighted versus long-term decisions, and adversely impact operations in a manner that is hard to overcome if full funding is provided later in the year. Additionally, the disruption to acquisitions, the slow-down of our business processes, such as contracting and hiring, and the effect of many other elements driven by short-term funding have a direct impact on effectiveness of the Department.

    While a short-term Continuing Resolution has impacts across the Department, I wanted to highlight some specific areas that are most concerning.

    Securing our Borders--Investments to strengthen border security with new border surveillance technology for the Rio Grande Valley would not be available.

    Grants Funding--State and local municipalities would not receive key preparedness grant funding, such as the State Homeland Security Program and Urban Areas Security Initiative grants.

    National Security Cutter--the U.S. Coast Guard will not have funding to award the contract for NSC #8, the centerpiece of the Coast Guard's Fleet, supporting the maritime homeland security and defense missions. This could result in the expiration of the agreed upon offer by the prime and sub-contractors, subsequently leading to a delay of delivery of NSC #8 and most likely resulting in increased costs.

    National Rio and Agro Defense Facility--Awarding the final segment of the construction contract for the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility could be problematic. Uncertainties in the appropriations process have introduced risks to Kansas providing the gift funds to support the May 2015 award date. Appropriation of the final $300 million is necessary for Kansas to provide the $202 million in gift funds.

    In closing, I would like to thank the Congress for the continued support provided to the Department. However, I must also stress the need for an annual appropriation based on the FY 2015 President's Budget and the Committee markups accomplished earlier this summer.

    Identical letters have been sent to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and to the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me or the Department's Chief Financial Officer, Chip Fulghum.

    Sincerely, Jeh Charles Johnson.

    Mrs. LOWEY. My colleague from North Carolina, David Price, the ranking member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, was unsuccessful in his attempt at the Rules Committee to restore full- year funding for this bill. I authored an amendment to strike two very controversial provisions--one to strike a rider related to swaps under the Dodd-Frank law, the other to strike a provision raising contribution limits to political parties. These provisions are divisive and unnecessary. They should be removed.

    The 11 other spending bills included in this package are a mix of wins and losses. I was very pleased that most of the worst riders were dropped, including those on the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Air Act, and those preventing full implementation of new reforms to the Federal school lunch program.

    Statutory budget caps essentially kept all discretionary programs at a hard freeze, but I am pleased we were able to prioritize a few key items, such as the National Institutes of Health and food safety at the Food and Drug Administration. Another very modest but very important increase is provided for afterschool programs, many of which suffered steep cuts under sequestration and have still not made up those shortfalls.

    I am also pleased the final agreement provides $500 million for the Department of Transportation's TIGER program to fund major surface transportation projects, including bridges, transit, and passenger rail.

    To keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn't possess them, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System will receive an increase of $14.5 million. This important investment was achieved because Members on both sides of the aisle recognize how crucial this money is for States to improve their submission of records into the background check system.

    The appropriations package includes much of the administration's request to respond to the deadly Ebola crisis, $5.4 billion. We must ensure that all of those tasked with being on the front lines fighting this disease, from local hospitals to Federal agencies, have what they need. We all recognize how the ease of international travel has changed the way we must respond to contagious diseases. I have confidence in our health care system, the Centers for Disease Control, and the fantastic hospitals that stepped up to take and treat the patients with Ebola. But we should do whatever we can to stop the disease where it is the most deadly. The funding provided will allow research to ramp up to treat and hopefully develop a vaccine for Ebola.

    Before I close, I would like to thank the committee staff for their tireless work, particularly David Pomerantz and Lesley Turner, who worked closely with Will and the entire Appropriations staff.

    I am very pleased the Appropriations Committee was able to come together on a package to fund 11 of the 12 spending bills. But, again, I wish it had been on all 12 bills and only dealt with issues related to appropriations.

    I will reiterate that the funding contains many things I wish had had a different outcome. I fought throughout the conference, for example, to get rid of the swaps language. It does not belong on an appropriations bill. The Reid-Boehner provision to increase by tenfold the limits on contributions to political parties is excessive and also does not belong on this bill.

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

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