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James L.
Democrat RI 2

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  • Space Launch Liability Indemnification Extension Act

    by Representative James R. Langevin

    Posted on 2014-01-15

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    LANGEVIN. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of this omnibus appropriations bill, which will restore some of the economic certainty we need to boost growth and job creation. While neither side got everything they wanted, this bipartisan agreement on government funding for 2014 shows what can be accomplished when Democrats and Republicans sit down and negotiate in good faith. This agreement will eliminate the economic instability of stop-gap governing, and it will provide critical relief from some of the most devastating impacts of sequestration on American families and our economy.

    This legislation includes essential investments in our infrastructure, while providing certainty to our state and local governments, our schools, and our civil servants who keep our water clean, our food safe and our commerce flowing. I am particularly pleased to note that it contains $75 million in fisheries disaster assistance, which will provide urgently needed relief to our local fishermen that comprise an important part of Rhode Island's economy.

    The budget deal we reached last December was a breakthrough in a difficult fiscal and political environment. As with any compromise, there are elements I opposed, but I am heartened to now see that agreement translated into positive developments like a $52 million increase in funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE), delivering a much-needed boost to skills training programs nationwide. It also restores full funding to Head Start, and expands Early Head Start by $500 million. Early childhood is arguably the most impressionable and important time in a child's mental development, and these investments will pay dividends many times over as these children grow and thrive.

    Although I'm encouraged that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) received a $1 billion increase, this funding alone will neither reverse the damage incurred by sequestration, nor will it provide our biomedical research enterprises the investments they need to properly advance lifesaving treatments and technologies. If we want to continue leading in scientific and economic innovation, we must invest in the research and development that drives it. Today's bill is a partial victory, but there is still much work to be done.

    Despite some notable shortcomings, this legislation removes a significant portion of the cloud of uncertainty that has hovered over the Department of Defense and the national security community. In an important first step, it reverses a cut to the cost-of-living adjustment for disabled military retiree pensions originally included in last year's budget agreement. It is my hope that we can continue working together to restore the benefits for all of our military retirees who have served with honor and distinction.

    The bill also contains robust support for cybersecurity programs and for crucial submarine programs, including the procurement of two of the peerless Virginia-class attack submarines in FY14; the development of the Virginia Payload Module, key to maintaining our undersea strike capability after the retirement of our SSGN fleet; and the Ohio Replacement Program, the linchpin of our future national deterrent.

    However, I am very concerned that the measure significantly reduces funding for defense research and development. The R&D work of today results in the game-changing technologies that enable us to meet the challenges of the future, and diminishing such efforts is troublingly short-sighted. We must protect these critical investments in future legislation.

    Today, we will vote to take an important step towards restoring fiscal order; however, it is not the only step to securing economic stability for all Americans. In particular, it is unconscionable that we have yet to extend long-term unemployment benefits for those forced out of work in a struggling economy. Despite the progress made since the depths of the recession, there are still 1.3 million fewer jobs today than six years ago. In fact, thousands of Rhode Islanders have been looking for work for more than six months, and they deserve our continued support and a safety net as they continue their search.

    Keeping sequestration in place through fiscal year 2014 could have cost up to an estimated 1.6 million jobs, and I am pleased that we have been able to avoid some of its most destructive impacts. Moreover, I applaud this move back to a reliable, consistent budget process, and I hope today's vote will serve as a fresh opportunity to refocus on priorities like job creation, medical research, national security, infrastructure investment, and education.

    Mr. DINGELL. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 3547, the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2014.

    I wish to commend my colleagues in the House, Chairman Hal Rogers and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, and my colleagues in the Senate, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, for [[Page H451]] their hard work in constructing an omnibus appropriations bill that sticks to the Murray-Ryan budget agreement. For the last three years, Congress has struggled to pass appropriations bills and careened from one manufactured crisis to the next. It is my sincere hope that the funding bill we consider today is a first step away from that madness and a return to the regular order of the traditional budget and appropriations process.

    With that said, I am generally content with the funding levels included in H.R. 3547. Not all Democrats and Republicans got precisely what they wanted in this bill, but that's the nature of compromise. Still, the bill lifts most of the sequester for the next year and ensures that important agencies and programs like the Food and Drug Administration, the National Park Service, the Department of Energy, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, to name a few, can do their jobs and serve the interests of the American people.

    It is high time to end the incessant and needless partisan bickering that has poisoned this place. Our founding fathers intended that Congress--which means ``a coming together''--should compromise in governing. I know a good compromise when I see it, and this bill is one. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and vote for this bill. With this behind us, let's roll up our sleeves and get back to doing the people's work, which should first and foremost include an immediate extension of unemployment benefits.

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