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Chris V.
Democrat MD 8

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  • Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act

    by Representative Chris Van Hollen

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    VAN HOLLEN of maryland in the house of representatives Wednesday, January 15, 2014 Mr. VAN HOLLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations bill. This is not perfect legislation. It falls far short of the funding levels necessary to make vital investments in education, scientific research, and infrastructure that we need to ensure our nation will remain at the cutting edge of the global economic competition. However, it is a significant improvement over the immediate and deep cuts we would have faced under sequestration and allows us to make important choices about our budget priorities.

    Today's bill makes vital investments in children and families. While it does not include the President's full early childhood education proposal, it gives a major boost to Head Start and Early Head Start and continues funding for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. It includes enough funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children to meet the need in the coming year. However, while it brings funding for K-12 and special education grant programs almost up to pre-sequestration levels, we need a far greater investment in these programs to keep our promise to America's children.

    The bill also increases funding for scientific research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. However, while it provides a significant increase for the National Institutes for Health, it does not completely repair the damage done by sequestration and continues to underfund vital research for lifesaving cures. Funding also falls short at the National Science Foundation. These are investments that we must make in the future to remain competitive in the global economy.

    The bill also includes full funding for important safety and reliability improvements at WMATA, an essential investment for my constituents and for the federal government, which relies on the system to bring thousands of employees to work every day. It includes $70 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program to restore the health of a resource that is critical to the environment and economy in my home state of Maryland.

    However, I am disappointed that the bill continues to fund Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at a level above the Pentagon's request. My colleague Representative Mick Mulvaney and I worked on a bipartisan basis to remove this excess funding during consideration of the defense budget in the House and in the final FY14 Defense Authorization bill. At a time when we are stretching every dollar to meet our nation's needs, we should not create a slush fund for unrequested defense spending.

    I also continue to oppose the inclusion of many unnecessary policy riders, such as those related to the District of Columbia and Guantanamo, that are regularly added to appropriations bills.

    Today's legislation includes security assistance for Egypt. While Egypt and the United States maintain a longstanding partnership, the Egyptian government must work towards a peaceful democratic transition. I encourage the President to condition the release of aid on progress toward an inclusive, democratic government that strengthens human rights and the rule of law.

    Finally, today's bill includes a much-needed and much-deserved one percent cost-of-living increase for the 230,000 wage grade federal employees--an issue I've raised as necessary to ensure fairness among public servants. It also includes a provision contained in legislation I introduced with my colleague Representative Mike Thompson, H.R. 3808, that exempts medically retired personnel and survivor benefit plan annuitants from the temporarily reduced cost-of-living-adjustment provisions of the recently-passed budget agreement.

    Mr. Speaker, no legislation is perfect, particularly one of this magnitude. However, this bill represents an important compromise that will move us forward, provide more certainty, and prevent another costly, unnecessary government shutdown. I urge my colleagues to support it.

    [[Page E97]] ____________________

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