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Chris V.
Democrat MD 8

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  • Insular Areas and Freely Associated States Energy Development

    by Representative Chris Van Hollen

    Posted on 2014-12-11

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    VAN HOLLEN of maryland in the house of representatives Thursday, December 11, 2014 Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose this omnibus. It is critical to avoid another unnecessary and wasteful government shutdown, and I strongly believe that we must do that without extraneous and harmful policy riders.

    The bill before us holds government operations hostage to a number of highly partisan, noxious policy riders. By proposing to repeal the so- called ``swaps push out rule'' enacted under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform law, it caters to the demands of big banks and puts taxpayers on the hook for their risky decisions. It allows special interests to funnel more money into Congressional political party committees, dramatically increasing the limit from $129,600 to $777,600 per year, or over $1.5 million per election cycle. Putting these provisions together will simply breed additional public cynicism about Congress granting special favors to powerful special interests in exchange for increased political contributions.

    I also continue to oppose riders related to Guantanamo and those that meddle in the local business of the District of Columbia.

    The fact that this bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security through February [[Page E1857]] is nothing more than a political stunt by my colleagues across the aisle. Instead of working to fix our broken immigration system, House Republicans have signaled that they are willing to shut down the Department of Homeland Security even though this will do nothing to prevent President Obama from expanding the deferred action program.

    This bill also provides $5 billion in funding for the deployment of an additional 1,500 American troops to Iraq and up to $500 million to train and equip the so-called ``moderate'' Syrian rebels. As I outlined in my statement on the NDAA, Congress should have had the opportunity to amend those provision. I do not want us to be dragged into Iraq War 2.0 or more deeply into the Syrian civil war.

    Without the inclusion of these measures, I would have been pleased to support a number of provisions in this bill. As a representative of many federal employees, I appreciate the one percent COLA for our dedicated federal workforce and pay adjustments for wage grade employees.

    I support the additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, although we must do much more to support medical research. The bill also increases funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provides emergency funding to address the ongoing Ebola crisis. It includes important funding for scientific research at NIST and the National Science Foundation, and rejects the House-passed rider that would have defunded climate change research. I support the investments in education, including Title I and IDEA, although more funding for these programs is necessary to support our nation's students.

    The bill also includes critical funding for infrastructure, including $2.1 billion to build new transit lines, $500 million for TIGER grants for projects of national significance, and $150 million to allow the Washington area Metro system to make recommended safety and performance improvements.

    This legislation also builds on efforts made in last year's MilCon-VA bill to end the claims backlog that continues to plague our VA regional offices, including the VA's Baltimore Regional Office. It includes $2.5 billion for the costs of processing disability claims--an increase of $40 million over the President's request and $69 million over last year's level.

    I am pleased that this bill provides $73 million in funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This will help provide Maryland with the necessary resources to implement the technology to automate criminal history and mental health records in our background check system. This legislation also fully funds many other important Department of Justice Programs, including $376 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants and $430 million for Violence Against Women programs.

    Mr. Speaker, I recognize that no bill of this magnitude is perfect. However, I cannot in good conscience vote to roll back critical taxpayer protections and allow monied special interests to buy more influence in Congress. We should strip these damaging provisions from the bill and pass an omnibus that works on behalf of taxpayers and strengthens the middle class.

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