Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016by Representative Terri A. Sewell
Posted on 2015-12-17
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in support of the
Omnibus Appropriations bill. After a thoughtful and thorough review, I
have decided to vote in favor of the Omnibus Appropriations bill. I
have reservations about several provisions in the bill, but ultimately
I believe that the good contained in this bill outweighs the bad. My
vote was cast in favor of keeping the government operating and to
continue to make critical investments agency programs that benefit all
Americans. I also firmly believe that we cannot afford another shutdown
and this bill provides the Federal Government with funding through
September 30, 2016.
The omnibus provides much needed increases for a broad range of education programs including Head Start, Title I grants, aid to HBCUs, the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, [[Page E1826]] and rural education. Providing the resources low-income families need to increase their academic success is one of my highest priorities, and this legislation is a first step in the right direction.
Furthermore, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions are set to receive an additional $40 million in funding. HBCUs have created and fostered a generation of African-American professionals, and still play a vital role in educating our youth. My district is home to some of the most prominent HBCUs in the Country, and as a Vice Chair of the Bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus, securing adequate funding for these institutions is critically important to me.
I am also pleased that this bill provides funding through the Department of the Interior that will be used to preserve historic civil sites. The struggle for civil and voting rights is an integral part of American history. Our district is known as the civil rights district, and we have the potential to benefit from this competitive grant process. I fought to secure two amendments that made this funding possible in order to preserve important civil rights sites for future generations.
The bill includes many increases in programs that are critical to improving access to quality health care and innovative medical research. I am particularly pleased to see a much needed increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These investments in research are essential to providing long-term stability for our research communities in Birmingham and across the state. The package recognizes that HIV and Hepatitis should be a priority by reinvesting in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the mental health crisis becomes more urgent, the deal's increased funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) is a welcome sign of progress for the mental health community.
There is an urgent need to address racial health disparities in Alabama's 7th Congressional District, and I am pleased this bill recognizes that need. By funding Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), Congress has made an investment to help eliminate health disparities across a range of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
This is not a perfect bill, but I am proud that both sides of the aisle were able to work out a compromise that benefits our nation, and helps us continue to grow.