Omnibus Legislationby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2015-12-17
BOXER. Mr. President, I support this bipartisan budget package
that is an important step forward for our country.
With this deal, we have avoided the devastating sequester cuts--which is incredibly important for our economy, for our workers, and for our businesses.
We did not allow the government to shut down over divisive issues-- like taking away access to reproductive health care for millions of women.
We fought to protect investments that are vital to our families, children, seniors, veterans, women, college students, communities, and our environment.
By definition, no deal is ever perfect. No one will get everything they want--especially in a divided government, but this agreement is good for our country in many ways.
I will start with the extension of the clean energy investments included in this package.
Look at my State. We know what is at stake. Clean energy has proven to be a huge engine of economic growth in California.
So extending the wind and solar energy tax incentives will help create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs across the country that will benefit American families and the environment, increase our energy independence, and protect our children and grandchildren from dangerous pollution.
Extending the wind and solar tax incentives will eliminate over 10 times more carbon emissions than lifting the oil export ban will create. Combined, these incentives are expected to reduce annual carbon emissions equal to the emissions from 66 coal-fired power plants or 50 million passenger cars.
Extending the Investment Tax Credit, ITC, for solar would create an estimated 61,000 jobs in 2017 alone and avoid losing 80,000 solar jobs.
And extending the Production Tax Credit, PTC, would allow the wind industry to grow to over 100,000 jobs in 4 years and continue toward supporting 500,000 jobs by 2030.
These provisions are a game changer--and I am thrilled they were included.
I also strongly support the 9/11 First Responders provision. In this country, we take care of the people who put their lives on the line for us. These men and women answered the call of duty when our Nation was under attack.
I never understood why it took so long to do this, and it is a moral outrage that this program was allowed to expire in the first place. We should never have left them in limbo for health care.
We would never ever leave our wounded soldiers on the battlefield, and we should have never ever have given these brave first responders even a moment of doubt that we would be there for them.
I want to praise Senator Gillibrand, Senator Schumer, and Jon Stewart for putting this issue on the map--and getting these 9/11 heroes the health care they need--and deserve. And I want to say this: it was then-Senator Hillary Clinton who, as a member of EPW, called attention to the dangerous, dangerous toxic air pollutants at Ground Zero, and I praise her for that work. She secured millions for a health screening program for Ground Zero workers and first responders.
I am also thrilled this deal renews the Land and Water Conservation Fund, LWCF, for 3 years. The fund--our country's most successful conservation and recreation program--ensures that all Americans have access to our beautiful outdoor spaces.
Since 1964, the fund has created recreation opportunities in every single State and protected national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other Federal areas--and doing so has benefitted our economy. Outdoor recreation, conservation, and preservation pumps more than $1 trillion into the U.S. economy every year and supports 1 out of every 15 jobs in the U.S.
There are a number of other critical provisions in this package.
Veterans--this bill demonstrates our dedication to our veterans by providing $163 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. A majority of this funding will go directly to medical care and medical research for our veterans.
Education--this legislation will also provide billions of dollars in funding to ensure more access to quality education for our students-- including $22.5 billion for the Pell Grant Program--which when combined with mandatory funding will increase the maximum grant to $5,915 and ensure that more than 8 million low-income students can attend college in the next school year.
The bill also invests significant funding in title I grants and Head Start--which gives our youngest children more opportunities for educational success.
Afterschool--the bill boosts funding for afterschool programs by $15 million, expanding access to the critical programs for approximately 15,000 students.
Fighting the opioid epidemic--the bill also includes robust funding to fight the growing use of drugs in this country and increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse by providing $3.8 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services.
Preserving our national parks--the bill provides $2.8 billion to preserve and protect our beautiful national parks.
Drought--I want to thank Senator Feinstein for including $271 million to help alleviate hazards caused by drought, floods, fires, windstorms, and other natural disasters. It also helps farmers and ranchers repair damage to farmlands caused by these natural disasters.
Included in this package are also important tax provisions that will help our families, our communities and our environment.
The tax extenders package made permanent the child tax credit, CTC, earned-income tax credit, EITC, and American opportunity tax credit for college expenses.
This will increase the tax refunds of working families by several hundred dollars per year, depending on the size of the family.
Other important tax extenders made permanent are the deduction for State and local sales taxes, the deduction for donations of property for conservation purposes, tax-free retirement plan distributions for charitable donations, and the deduction for teachers' out-of-pocket expenses, as well as parity for parking and transit subsidies. The bill also extends the favorable tax treatment of forgiven mortgages through 2016.
I am pleased that we were able to stop more than 100 poison pill riders.
We stopped Republicans from defunding Planned Parenthood and depriving nearly 3 million Americans of health care.
We stopped them from undermining the Food and Drug Administration's ability to protect Americans from the dangers of e-cigarettes.
We stopped them from restricting the authority of Health and Human Services, HHS, to administer and enforce the Affordable Care Act.
We stopped them from weakening the Department of Homeland Security's DACA program, which helps DREAMers succeed.
We stopped them from barring FEMA State and grant funds to sanctuary cities.
We stopped them from gutting the President's landmark Clean Power Plan and weakening the Endangered Species Act and destroying the Clean Water Act.
And we stopped them from eliminating the housing trust fund, which provides affordable housing for families across the country.
I am proud that Democrats stood together and fought against these dangerous provisions that would seriously hurt the American people.
Now, there were several provisions that ended up in the legislation that I do not support--measures that Republicans insisted on, such as lifting the oil export ban permanently, which I oppose.
I also do not support Republicans' decision to flat-fund the EPA-- even though the EPA is incredibly popular with Americans.
And it doesn't provide the IRS with any new funds--which hurts our ability to administer the Affordable Care Act, as well as crack down on tax cheats and frauds.
The package also provides inadequate support for family planning-- especially abroad.
At a time when we should be doing everything we can to prevent gun violence, this legislation does not overturn a prohibition on government-funded studies of gun violence.
[[Page S8791]] I am also disappointed that the House's visa waiver language was accepted--rather than Senator Feinstein's language that I supported.
But in the end, that is what a compromise is--and that is what it means to negotiate and to govern.
I want to praise Senator Reid, Leader Pelosi, Senator Mikulski, and all of my fellow Democrats who fought so hard to make this the best agreement we could reach. I also praise their Republican counterparts.
I believe this is a good deal for the American people. It is good for our families, our children, our economy, and our environment, and I urge my colleagues to support it.