Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016by Representative Chris Van Hollen
Posted on 2015-12-17
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Omnibus
Appropriations bill. While this is far from a perfect bill, I believe
it represents the best way forward to keep the government open and
advance many important priorities that help Maryland get ahead. I thank
Ranking Members Mikulski and Lowey and the Democratic negotiators for
their work to protect critical priorities.
I was pleased to help lead efforts to lift sequester caps, which has allowed us to make needed investment to support jobs and the economy. The Purple Line, WMATA, and efforts to ensure a clean Chesapeake Bay are all supported. The National Institutes of Health will see its most significant funding boost in many years. Education programs like Head Start, Title I, and special education get added resources, and the maximum Pell grant will be increased. And I am pleased that funding for full consolidation of the FBI headquarters was included in the bill-- Team Maryland will keep fighting for it to be relocated to Prince George's County.
Important tax provisions were included in the Omnibus. I strongly support extension of the renewable energy tax incentives that will create jobs and aid our transition to a clean energy economy. I am also pleased with the delay in the so-called Cadillac tax, which would otherwise erode health benefits for workers. The Omnibus also reauthorizes the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, finally fulfilling our promise to first responders.
Democrats were also able to reject countless corrosive policy riders, including those that would defund Planned Parenthood, block refugees from Syria, pollute our air and water, and erode worker protections.
However, some damaging riders remain. I strongly oppose lifting the oil export ban, a Christmas gift to Big Oil. If we are to reduce global carbon emissions, as world leaders pledged to do just last weekend, we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and keep more of them in the ground. Lifting the export ban would do the opposite. Moreover, there is no evidence that American consumers would see any benefit from this policy.
The Omnibus also contains a rider to delay action at the IRS to clarify rules surrounding political activities by nonprofits. It delays efforts at the SEC to require corporate disclosure of political spending, a critical step to address the dark money that is influencing our elections.
The bill continues the prohibition on gun violence research--known as the Dickey Amendment--that our nation's public health experts strongly oppose. We should be acting with urgency to confront this plague of violence in our nation, and that includes research into preventing injuries and death. Even former Congressman Jay Dickey, who authored the amendment, now opposes it, writing in the Washington Post that ``The same evidence-based approach that is saving millions of lives from motor-vehicle crashes, as well as from smoking, cancer and HIV/ AIDS, can help reduce the toll of deaths and injuries from gun violence.'' I am troubled by provisions of a cybersecurity authorization that were packaged into this bill and believe they deserve a fuller hearing than the few days we have had to review this measure. While cyber attacks are a clear threat that must be confronted, we must be vigilant to ensure the protection of civil liberties.
While I support the short-term extension of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, I am disappointed that a permanent extension was blocked. LWCF funds are a critical tool for local conservation and the program should not be allowed to lapse, as it did in October for the first time in 51 years.
I remain concerned that we are underfunding important investments in the middle class and those working to join the middle class, particularly in light of the enormous, unpaid-for tax package that was just passed by this House. If we can afford tax giveaways to special interests, we can afford a stronger investment in middle class families and those seeking to join the middle class. More must be done to bring families out of poverty, rebuild our infrastructure, and provide opportunity to all.
Ultimately, no bill of this size is perfect, and all sides have made concessions to move our country forward. I will continue to fight for the investments we need to make our nation safer, stronger, and more prosperous for all.