House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers issued the following statement after H.R. 5055, the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill, failed to secure the majority vote required for passage:
“H.R. 5055 is an extremely good bill that reflects conservative priorities – funding our national security, investing in necessary infrastructure, and standing against the Obama Administration’s job-killing regulatory agenda.
“The bill contains targeted funding increases for critical national programs – over 70 percent of these increases are dedicated solely to our nuclear defense. Other increased investments are made to programs that improve public safety and economic development – like the Army Corps of Engineers.
“Further, the bill makes responsible cuts to wasteful and lower-priority programs, and restricts funding for a litany of onerous regulations that might prove harmful to our economy.
“I’m very disappointed that this bill could not clear the House today, but I remain dedicated to working this bill and all other Appropriations bills through regular order – through the Committee, through the Congress, and to the President's desk. Today's result will not stop our process, but is merely a temporary pause.”Read More
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers spoke in support of H.R. 5055, the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, on the House floor today.
His statement follows:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5055, the fiscal year 2017 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill.
This legislation invests $37.4 billion in bipartisan priorities – our national security, critical infrastructure, and American energy independence. In total, this is a $259 million increase above last year’s level for these programs.
This increase is directed almost entirely to our nuclear national security. With ever-changing threats that span the globe, it’s imperative that our nation stays at the very pinnacle of preparedness.
This funding will help ensure that our stockpile is modern, secure, and ready to face any nuclear threat that may arise.
Another priority in this bill is the infrastructure that helps our economy prosper. This includes robust funding for the Army Corps of Engineers – a total of $6.1 billion, which is $100 million above last year’s levels and $1.5 billion above the President’s budget request.
This funding will go to activities that have a direct impact on public safety, that improve commerce and the movement of American products, and that support economic growth and job creation.
Lastly, this bill advances an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will help the nation move ever closer to our goal of energy independence. By investing in fossil fuels, nuclear, and other energy resources – we can help keep consumer energy prices affordable and make greater use of our domestic resources. This includes congressional efforts to support the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository for future use.
In order to make these targeted investments, the bill cuts back in other lower-priority areas. Renewable energy programs – which have received significant investments in recent years – were cut by $248 million from fiscal year 2016 levels.
The bill also prohibits tax dollars from being used for a harmful regulatory agenda that hampers our economy. This includes prohibiting funds for the Army Corps of Engineers to make any changes to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act – protecting American farmers and ranchers and other job creators. The bill also protects coal and other mining operations from onerous efforts to change the definition of “fill material” and “discharge of fill material.”
In sum, this bill is an investment in the growth of our American economy – supporting functioning and safe water resources and continued strides toward energy independence.
I would like to thank the Subcommittee Chairman, Mr. Simpson, the Ranking Member, Ms. Kaptur, and the rest of the Subcommittee for their hard work on this bill. I would also like to acknowledge the dedicated staff who have helped bring this bill before the House today.
I urge my colleagues to help promote a more secure and prosperous future for our nation, and vote “aye” on this bill.
Thank you, and I yield back.
It’s my distinct honor to bring the Fiscal Year 2017 Energy and Water bill before you today.
Before I go into the details, I’d like to recognize the hard work of Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey on this bill and the appropriations process.
I would also like to thank my Ranking Member, Ms. Kaptur. I appreciate her help and it is a better bill because of her work on it.
The bill provides $37.4 billion for the activities of the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and other agencies under our jurisdiction. This is $259 million more than last year’s funding level and $168 million above the budget request.
This is a responsible bill that recognizes the importance of investing in this nation’s infrastructure and national defense. As we do each year, we worked hard to incorporate priorities and perspectives from both sides of the aisle.
The Administration’s proposal to cut the programs of the Army Corps of Engineers by $1.4 billion would have led to economic disruptions as our ports and waterways silted in and would have left our communities and businesses vulnerable to flooding. Instead, this bill recognizes the critical work of the Corps and provides $6.1 billion for those activities.
This includes $1.8 billion for flood and coastal storm damage reduction projects. These projects prevented damages of $14.8 billion in 2014 alone.
Harbor Maintenance activities are funded at $1.26 billion, the same as last year and $122 million more than the fiscal year 2017 target.
The bill makes use of all estimated annual revenues from the Inland Waterways Trust.
The Department of Energy nuclear weapons program is funded at $9.3 billion, which is $438 million more than last year. This increase will support full funding for stockpile life extension programs. It also includes an additional $106 million above the request to address the growing backlog of deferred maintenance and $30 million above the request to upgrade the security infrastructure where nuclear weapons material is stored. The recommendation for Naval Reactors is $1.4 billion, an increase of $45 million, and includes full funding for the Ohio-Class replacement submarine.
A national energy policy can only be successful if it maintains stability while investing in a secure, independent, and prosperous energy future. This bill makes balanced investments in a true “all of the above” energy strategy.
This bill also takes a strong stand against the regulatory overreach and extreme application of laws that have been the hallmark of this Administration.
The bill opposes the Administration’s actions with regards to the Clean Water Act and includes three provisions that prohibit changes to the definition of “fill material”, the definition of “waters of the U.S.” and the permit requirement for certain agricultural activities.
The bill also includes several provisions to ensure that the Bureau of Reclamation maximizes water deliveries in California to help alleviate the drought while sustaining senior water rights and maintaining environmental protections.
This is a strong bill that will advance our national security interests and our economy. I urge everyone to support it.Read More
The House Appropriations Committee today approved the fiscal year 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill. The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.
The legislation contains $56 billion in total discretionary funding, an increase of $279 million over fiscal year 2016 and $1.4 billion above the President’s request for these programs. The bill targets these increases to programs of national importance, such as federal law enforcement, national security (including cybercrime and counterterror activities), economic development, illegal drug efforts, trade enforcement, and space exploration programs. The bill also includes legislative provisions to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to limit bureaucratic overreach.
“Keeping our people safe from both international threats and domestic crime, promoting critical research, and helping to improve our economy are the top funding priorities in this legislation. By investing precious tax dollars wisely, this bill will adequately fund these critical activities, while maintaining strong accountability, efficiency, and oversight. And, by limiting the overreach of the federal government, the bill will also protect and promote the fundamental rights of all Americans,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said.
“It is a tough budget year, but this bill ensures our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to protect our lives and property. It also makes scientific research and space exploration a top priority. Breakthroughs in these areas are vital to America’s future economic growth,” said CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson.
The following amendments to the bill were adopted by the full committee today:
Rep. Culberson – The manager’s amendment makes technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill and report. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
Rep. Culberson – The amendment adds bill language to reaffirm states rights to preserve their autonomy through the use of the legal system. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 28-19.
Rep. Honda – The amendment designates 5% of the Crime Victims Fund to be dedicated to Native Americans. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.Rep. Harris –The amendment prohibits funding in the bill from being used to implement a new EEOC regulation that requires businesses to report on certain demographic information of the employees. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
The bill was approved by the committee on a voice vote.
For a bill summary, please visit:
For the text of the bill, please visit:
For the bill report, please visit:
The House Appropriations Committee today approved the fiscal year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill. The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies.
In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $58.2 billion in discretionary spending – an increase of $889 million above fiscal year 2016. When accounting for various program shifts within the President’s budget request for these funds, the legislation represents a reduction of $4.9 billion below the request. Critical land, sea, and air transportation infrastructure investments are prioritized to improve commerce, efficiency, safety, reliability, and quality of life for the traveling public. The legislation also provides needed resources to continue housing for low-income and vulnerable individuals and families.
“This bill invests in critical national infrastructure to help move our people and products as safely and efficiently as possible. It prioritizes important programs and projects, making the best use of every transportation dollar,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “In addition, it funds housing programs at a responsible level, keeping a roof over the heads of individuals and families who need help the most.”
“This bill provides for our nation's transportation and housing needs, while making tough choices to protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars. It recognizes the need to house the most vulnerable and get critical infrastructure back on track. Most importantly, it will ensure the safety of our infrastructure and improve the quality of our public housing programs,” Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart said.
The following amendment to the bill were adopted by the full committee today:
Rep. Diaz-Balart – The manager’s amendment makes technical and noncontroversial changes to the bill and report. The amendment was adopted on a voice vote.
The bill was approved by the Committee on a voice vote.
For a summary of the bill, please visit:
For the text of the bill, please visit:
For the text of the report, please visit:
The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.
In total, the bill provides $32.095 billion, $64 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $1 billion below the President’s budget request. Included is $480 million to fully fund “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) – which provides funds to local communities with federal land to help offset losses in property taxes – and $3.9 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat devastating wildfires. The bill also includes funding to help address the problem of lead in drinking water across the United States.
In addition, the legislation contains policy provisions to stop bureaucratic regulatory overreach that harms U.S. industries and hinders economic and job growth.
“This is an important bill that will help promote the responsible use of our natural resources, protect against and fight devastating wildfires, and invest in federal programs and infrastructure that will improve the quality of life for families across the country,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “In addition, this bill will stop many harmful and unnecessary regulations – by the Environmental Protection Agency and others – that hurt recovering communities and kill jobs.”
“Job creation and wage growth continue to be stifled because American job creators wake up every day worrying about what new regulation the Obama administration will issue next. The EPA’s overreach continues to cause economic harm, and this bill denies funding for more job-killing regulators while providing necessary resources to effective programs that actually improve the environment and protect our natural resources,” Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert said. “In addition, I am pleased that the bill will once again provides increases for our incredible National Parks as they celebrate their Centennial this year, and continues progress on a functional Earthquake Early Warning System.”
Wildland Firefighting and Prevention – In total, the bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for wildland fire suppression costs for both the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. When accounting for a previous, one-time payment within last year’s funding bill, the legislation provides $243 million above the fiscal year 2016 level. The legislation also includes $575 million for hazardous fuels management, which is $30 million above the fiscal year 2016 level.
Federal Payments to Local Communities – The bill provides $480 million for the “Payments In Lieu of Taxes” (PILT) program. PILT provides funds for local governments in 49 states to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their counties. Without congressional action, many rural communities would face huge budget shortfalls impacting public safety, education, and other local government responsibilities.
Lead in Drinking Water – To help address the ongoing problem of lead in drinking water across the U.S., which can cause dangerous health risks, the bill provides additional legal authority allowing states to provide debt relief in areas with elevated levels of lead in drinking water. The bill also provides targeted increases for water infrastructure programs such as:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill funds the EPA at $7.98 billion, a reduction of $164 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $291 million below the President’s budget request. Within this total, the EPA’s regulatory programs are reduced by $43 million (6 percent) below the current level and $187 million (21 percent) below the President’s request.
The legislation also rejects the President’s proposed increase in staffing, holding the EPA to the current capacity of 15,000 positions, the lowest since 1989.
To stop the EPA’s anti-growth agenda that includes various harmful, costly, and potentially job-killing regulations, the bill contains a number of legislative provisions. Some of these include:
Native American Programs – The Bureaus of Indian Affairs and Education are funded at $2.9 billion – an increase of $72 million above fiscal year 2016. This includes necessary increases for schools, law enforcement, road maintenance, and economic development.
The Indian Health Service is funded at $5.1 billion – an increase of $271 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes operating costs for staffing at new facilities, and increases for rising contract support costs, medical inflation, and a growing and aging population.
Office of Surface Mining (OSM) – The OSM is funded at $236 million in the bill – approximately the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes $90 million to continue a pilot program to accelerate the reclamation of abandoned mine lands, which will help boost community redevelopment and economic growth. The legislation also continues state regulatory grants at $68 million, and rejects the President’s proposal to impose additional and duplicative federal oversight over the program.
To fight damaging bureaucratic overreach, the bill includes a provision to stop potentially job-killing, harmful changes to the “stream buffer rule.”
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – The bill contains $1.2 billion for the BLM, a decrease of $10 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
The bill rejects a flawed and potentially harmful presidential proposal to increase oil and gas inspection fees, which could increase energy costs nationwide. It also rejects a White House proposal to raise fees on American ranchers for grazing on federal land.
The bill provides an increase of $12 million above the fiscal year 2016 level for on-the-ground sage grouse conservation to protect the species and to preserve federal lands for public and private uses, such as energy development, ranching, recreation, and military training.
National Park Service (NPS) – The legislation contains $2.9 billion for the NPS, an increase of $71 million above the fiscal year 2016 level. Within this funding, the bill provides $65 million in targeted increases for park operations and maintenance to help reduce the maintenance backlog and addresses other priorities related to the Park Service’s centennial anniversary.
U.S. Forest Service – The bill includes $5.3 billion for the Forest Service. More than half of this funding – $2.9 billion – is targeted to wildland fire prevention and suppression. The bill also includes a provision prohibiting the Forest Service or BLM from issuing new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except in the case of public safety.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – The FWS is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a $17 million decrease below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Within this amount, the legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries. The bill also continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rulemakings for greater sage-grouse.
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – The bill includes $1.1 billion for the USGS, $18 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Funding is targeted to programs dealing with natural hazards, streamgages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. Also, within the total, the bill includes $10 million for an earthquake early warning system to help save lives during natural disasters, and $6 million for the accelerated launch of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements that are important to local communities for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions.
Smithsonian Institution – The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $863 million in the bill, $23 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The increases will improve the long-term storage of collections and increase security.
National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities – The bill includes $150 million for each of the endowments, $2 million above the fiscal year 2016 level and equal to the President’s request.
Eisenhower Memorial Commission – The bill provides no funding for the Eisenhower Memorial Commission, but extends the authority to build on the present site and requires all construction funding to be appropriated before construction begins.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – The bill provides $322 million for LWCF programs, a reduction of $128 million below the fiscal year 2016 level and $153 million below the President’s request. State and local recreation and battlefield preservation programs are prioritized, while federal land acquisition is reduced.
For the subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-114HR-SC-AP-FY2017-Interior-SubcommitteeDraft.pdf
The House Appropriations Committee today released the fiscal year 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The bill provides annual funding for the Treasury Department, the Judiciary, the Small Business Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other related agencies.
The bill totals $21.7 billion in funding – $1.5 billion below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $2.7 billion below the President’s budget request. The legislation targets resources to programs that will help boost economic growth and opportunity, to protect consumers and investors, promote an efficient federal court system, and stop financial crime. To make these investments within a tight budget, the legislation reduces funding for lower-priority or underperforming programs and agencies. The IRS, which receives a reduction of $236 million in the bill, receives additional oversight and transparency requirements in the bill to ensure tax dollars are properly used and the agency is acting responsibly. Several other policy provisions are also included to promote good government and stop bureaucratic over-reach that can slow economic growth.
“The job of this bill is two-fold: to make wise investments with taxpayer dollars in the programs and agencies that we need to grow our economy and enforce our laws, and to tightly hold the reins on the over-spending and overreach within federal bureaucracies,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “This bill makes great strides on all accounts – carefully investing taxpayer dollars in programs that promote opportunity, while keeping these agencies accountable to the American people.”
“Federal agencies have a duty and obligation to use hard-earned taxpayer dollars in the most effective and efficient manner. Americans work hard for the money they send to Washington and expect their legislators to make the same tough budget decisions that they have made. Our bill is the product of comprehensive hearings with input from both sides of the aisle with an emphasis on economic growth and job creation through small businesses, while bolstering law enforcement to protect our citizens. And, for the first time, funding to help individuals with disabilities overcome barriers to financial services is set aside within the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund,” said Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Ander Crenshaw.
“In addition, our bill reduces funding for agencies that we believe can produce results with fewer dollars. And, where there is a history of inappropriate behavior, such as the Internal Revenue Service, cutbacks and reforms are recommended to hold them accountable,” he continued.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – The bill provides $10.9 billion for the IRS – a cut of $236 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $1.3 billion below the President’s budget request. This holds the agency’s budget to below the 2008 level, but provides sufficient resources to perform its core duties.
For example, the bill maintains the current level – $2.1 billion – for Taxpayer Services. On top of this, the bill provides an additional $290 million to improve customer service – such as phone call and correspondence response times – fraud prevention, and cybersecurity.
The IRS has been plagued in recent years by the inappropriate actions of its employees and political leadership, resulting in the waste of taxpayer dollars and in unjust treatment and targeting of certain ideological groups. To address concerns related to these transgressions, the bill includes:
Judiciary – Included in the bill is $7.0 billion for the federal courts – an increase of $177 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This includes operational funding for federal court activities, to improve public safety through the supervision of offenders and defendants, to bolster the security of courtrooms and facilities, and to improve the speed and efficiency of processing federal cases.
Small Business Administration (SBA) – The bill contains $883 million for the SBA to help promote opportunities for American small businesses to begin, grow, and thrive. This includes full funding – $157 million – to support $28.5 billion in 7(a) and $7.5 billion in 504small business loans.
Also included is full funding ($186 million) for disaster loan implementation to allow for quick loan processing turnaround when unexpected natural disasters strike, and full funding ($12.3 million) for veterans programs. In addition, the legislation provides funding above the President’s request for Small Business Development Centers ($125 million), State Trade and Export Promotion ($20 million), and Women’s Business Centers ($19 million).
General Services Administration (GSA) – The bill provides $9.2 billion out of the Federal Buildings Fund for the GSA, a reduction of $951 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Savings and reductions were made primarily within GSA’s new construction account. In addition, the bill helps to save taxpayer dollars and reduce the federal footprint by providing funds for space consolidation and property disposal.
The funding includes $200 million to continue the construction of a new Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters.
In addition, the bill continues strong oversight measures over the GSA, including requiring the agency to provide reports on its spending and the status of GSA’s facilities portfolio.
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Included in the bill is $1.5 billion for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is $50 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $226 million below the President’s budget request. The bill focuses this funding on critical information technology initiatives and its economics division to help the Commission better serve investors. The bill rescinds the unobligated balances of the SEC’s “reserve fund” – a slush fund created under Dodd-Frank from which the SEC can freely spend without congressional oversight.
In addition, the legislation contains policy provisions and reporting requirements to improve transparency, accountability, and fairness. For example, the bill requires the
SEC OMB to report to Congress on the cost and regulatory burdens of the Dodd-Frank Act, and prohibits the agency from requiring the disclosure of political contributions in SEC filings.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – The bill includes a provision to increase oversight over the CFPB by bringing funding for the agency under the annual congressional appropriations process, instead of direct funding from the Federal Reserve. This change will allow for increased accountability and transparency of the agency’s activities and use of tax dollars. The legislation also changes the leadership structure of the CFPB from a single Director to a five-member Commission, and requires the CFPB to study the use of pre-dispute arbitration prior to issuing regulations.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – The bill contains $315 million for the FCC – a cut of $69 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $43 million below the request. The legislation prohibits the FCC from implementing the net neutrality order until certain court cases are resolved, requires newly proposed regulations to be made publicly available for 21 days before the Commission votes on them, prohibits the FCC from regulating broadband rates, and requires the FCC to refrain from further activity of the recently proposed set-top box rule until a study is completed.
Executive Office of the President (EOP) – The legislation contains $ 692 million for the EOP, which is $171 thousand above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The bill denies the President’s proposed cuts of $70 million to drug control efforts, including the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities programs, and instead increases funding for these programs by $5 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The bill also includes a requirement that the Office of Management and Budget release information on the expected costs of Executive Orders and Presidential Memorandums.
District of Columbia – The bill contains a $725 million federal payment to the District of Columbia
–which is $4.6 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $38 million below the request. Within this amount, the bill targets resources on public safety and security costs, and other essential services. It also includes $45 million for the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act (SOAR), which provides scholarships to low-income students in DC to attend private schools, and reauthorizes the program through 2021.
In addition, the legislation maintains provisions prohibiting federal and local funds from being used for abortion or to further marijuana legalization and it maintains a prohibition on federal funds from being used for needle exchanges in the District of Columbia. The bill also repeals the Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act, and it continues to appropriate the District’s local funds.
Presidential Transition – The bill provides one-time funding increases for the presidential transition for the Executive Office of the President ($7.6 million), General Services Administration ($9.5 million), National Archives and Records Administration ($4.9 million), and Federal Payment for Emergency Planning and Security in the District of Columbia ($25 million).
ObamaCare – The bill also includes provisions to stop the IRS from further implementing ObamaCare, including a prohibition on any transfers of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to the IRS for ObamaCare uses, and a prohibition on funding for the IRS to implement an individual insurance mandate on the American people.
Other Legislative Provisions – The legislation contains several policy provisions, including:
Other Provisions – The bill includes the SEC Small Business Advocate Act, which creates an office within the SEC and establishes an advisory committee to identify challenges that are unique to small businesses. The bill also includes the Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act, which makes changes to the U.S. bankruptcy code to facilitate the orderly and efficient resolution of a failing financial firm. Both were approved by the House on unanimous votes.
For the Subcommittee draft text of the legislation, please visit: http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/bills-114hr-sc-ap-fy2017-fservices-subcommitteedraft.pdf
The U.S. House today approved the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill (H.R.4974) on a bipartisan vote of 295-129.
The legislation contains $81.6 billion in funding – $1.8 billion above the fiscal year 2016 level – to house, train, and equip military personnel, to provide housing and services to military families, to maintain base infrastructure, and to support veterans’ benefits and programs. Of this funding, $63.3 billion was provided via an advance in the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bill last year.
Within this total, $73.5 billion is provided for the Department of Veterans Affairs – a 3 percent increase above fiscal year 2016 levels – including additional funding to address management problems and health care shortages, and to increase the speed, efficiency and effectiveness of its services to veterans.
Military construction totals $7.9 billion, $250 million above the President’s request, to fund family housing, construction of hospitals and health facilities, and support for critical overseas investments.
Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers made the following statement on the legislation today:
“We have made a commitment to our servicemen and women that we will care for them during and after their service, and this bill helps fulfill that promise. This bill also takes many steps to ensure that every cent of taxpayer money is spent responsibly and with good purpose.
“Shepherding through appropriations legislation is the constitutional duty of the Congress. Passage of these bills in a timely fashion is in the best interest of this nation.”
"Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 4974, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for FY 2017.
"I’m proud to speak today on the first bill of the 2017 appropriations cycle. Shepherding through appropriations legislation is the constitutional duty of the Congress.
"Passage of these bills in a timely fashion is in the best interest of this nation – it will help provide for our national security, the stability of our economy, and give certainty to all Americans who count on the federal government’s programs and services."I believe this bill in particular starts off this process on the right foot.
"H.R. 4974 is a balanced, bipartisan piece of legislation that provides critical funding for our troops, their families, and our veterans.
"We have made a commitment to our servicemen and women that we will care for them during and after their service, and this bill helps fulfill that promise.
"In total, this legislation provides $81.6 billion in discretionary funding for Department of Defense infrastructure and quality-of-life programs, as well as for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This represents a $1.8 billion increase above current levels.
"This increase is directed to Veterans Affairs programs, which receive a 3 percent bump above Fiscal Year 2016 levels.
"Of the total $73.5 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, $52.5 billion will support the VA’s medical services – funding that will treat 7 million patients this year. In particular, I want to highlight funding increases that will address mental health care, suicide prevention, Hepatitis C treatment, and homelessness.
"The increase will also help the VA tackle some of its greatest challenges – reducing the disability claims backlog, and continuing the modernization of the electronic health record system to ensure no gaps in care occur as our current troops become veterans.
"This bill also provides funding to support our active-duty military and their families, whether they are at home or abroad. Funding for hospitals, educational facilities, and housing tells our service members that they have the full backing of their government as they lay their lives on the lines for this nation.
"Beyond these quality-of-life programs, military construction funding is prioritized to respond to threats arounds the globe, including Russia, the Middle East and North Africa.
"While overall funding is increased in this bill, the Committee took many steps to ensure that every cent of taxpayer money is spent responsibly and with good purpose. We made difficult decisions to find savings wherever possible. The bill also includes good-government provisions that increase oversight for the VA – helping to stop waste and improve service for our veterans.
"This is a very good bill – one I am proud to support today. I want to thank the Chairman of the Subcommittee, Congressman Dent, for his leadership. I also want to thank the Ranking Member, Congressman Bishop, and the rest of the Subcommittee for their teamwork and effort in bringing this bill to the floor today. Lastly, I want to thank the staff for the many hours they put into helping usher this bill to the floor today. Caring for our troops and veterans is a great responsibility, and the subcommittee and our staff have not taken that responsibility lightly.
"I urge my colleagues to support this responsible, balanced bill, and I yield back."Read More
Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Today, it is my honor and privilege to bring H.R. 4974, the fiscal year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
I present this bill alongside my great friend and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Sanford Bishop from Georgia, who has been an essential partner along the way. I greatly appreciate the participation and support of our Committee members, both sides of the aisle, as we considered priorities and funding levels for the important programs in our bill. We analyzed the budget request, developed questions, and held oversight hearings to get direct feedback from members of all the Services, the Department of Defense leadership, the Secretary of the VA, and the VA Inspector General. We received over 1,000 requests from members; again, from both sides of the aisle, and gave them full consideration. The bill is also the product of actively listening to the concerns of our veterans and veteran advocates, service members, spouses / caregivers / military family members, and health care providers both within and outside of the VA over the past year.
As we consider this bill, I can’t proceed further without noting that this Subcommittee has a formidable level of support from the Chair and Ranking Member of the Full Committee. Thank you, Chairman Rogers and Mrs. Lowey. Your attention, oversight and genuine care for the military and veterans has been inspiring.
And, to round out the team, we have some great support from our professional staff: Maureen Holohan, Sue Quantius, Sarah Young, Tracey Russell, and Matt Washington on the Committee staff, and Sean Snyder, Drew Kent and Heather Smith on my personal staff. I’d also note Michael Reed and Michael Calcagni with Mr. Bishop’s office. We couldn’t do it without them.
I’d also like to note the retirement of the senior member of our subcommittee, Sam Farr. He’s been on this subcommittee since 1999. In our Full Committee meeting we went into detail about Sam’s accomplishments on this subcommittee, including being the architect of the “Monterey model,” which is now the benchmark for a successful public-private partnership in a community with a base closure. Sam, your commitment and passion and good humor will all be missed. All the best to you in your retirement.
H.R. 4974 demonstrates our firm commitment to fully supporting our nation’s veterans and servicemembers. Our investment of $81.6 billion for Military Construction, VA, and Related Agencies, $1.2 billion over last year’s level, is unprecedented. The bill addresses issues to help veterans in every part of the country -- every congressional district-- and our troops around the world.
This bill provides comprehensive support for servicemembers, military families, and veterans. It supports our troops with the facilities and services necessary to maintain readiness and morale at bases here in the states and overseas. It provides for Defense Department schools and health clinics that take care of military families.
And the bill funds our veteran healthcare systems to ensure that our promise to care for those who have sacrificed in defense of this great nation continues as those men and women return home. We owe this to our vets and are committed to sustained oversight so that programs deliver what they promise, and taxpayers are well served by the investments we make.
The bill provides a total of $7.9 billion for military construction projects and family housing, including base and Overseas Contingency Operations funding – an increase of $250 million over the President’s request.
This funding meets DOD’s most critical needs, including priority projects for the Combatant Commanders and funding new mission requirements. It provides $304 million for Military Medical Facilities. It provides $246 million for Department of Defense Education Facilities, for construction or renovation of four schools. It supports our Guard and Reserve through $673 million for facilities in 21 states. It includes $514 million for projects from the Department of Defense Unfunded Priority List, benefitting the most critical projects--as identified by the services--that were not included in the budget request. It fully funds Military Family Housing at $1.3 billion. And it provides $178 million for the NATO Security Investment Program, which is $43 million over last year’s level, to deal with increasing threats and necessary investments overseas.
The legislation includes a total of $176 billion in combined discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Discretionary funding alone for Veterans programs in the bill is $73.5 billion. Total fiscal year 2017 discretionary funding is $2 billion above fiscal year 2016, which is a 3 percent increase and $1.5 billion below the budget request. Within that total, VA Medical Care is provided with $64 billion—a 5 percent increase over last year.
The bill funds VA medical services at $52.5 billion. That includes $850 million that VA came back and asked for this year, on top of the advanced funding provided last year.
Many members expressed concerns about medical services, and we were able to fully fund the budget request for: Hepatitis C at $1.5 billion; Veteran Homelessness at $1.6 billion; Long-Term Care at $8.6 billion; Caregiver Stipends at $725 million; and the Office of the Inspector General at $160 million.
For Disability Claims, we provide the full request for the Veterans Benefits Administration, which is a $118 million increase over fiscal year 2016, and the full request for the Board of Veterans appeals, which is a $46 million increase.
The bill will enhance transparency and accountability at the VA through further oversight and an increase for the VA Office of Inspector General’s independent audits and investigations.
This legislation also contains $260 million for the modernization of the VA Electronic Health Record and includes language restricting all of the funding until the VA meets milestones and certifies interoperability to meet statutory requirements.
We continue to focus on major construction oversight- the bill includes language that will hold back 100% of the funding for the largest construction projects until VA contracts for outside Federal management, and we maintain strict restrictions on transfers, use of bid savings, and scope changes.
The bill provides $528 million for major construction projects in Reno, Nevada and Long Beach, California, as well as cemeteries in Florida, New York and Colorado.
We include bill language regarding improved standards for the Suicide Hotline and certification of mental health therapists to expand access for veterans who need their care.
The bill prohibits all performance awards for VA senior executives. This was in response to multiple member requests to restrict bonuses of various types at VA. I understand this is controversial, but given the horrendous mismanagement we have seen at VA facilities across the country, we were compelled to send a strong message about accountability. The prohibition we included has passed as a floor amendment several years in a row.
We have received some unfounded criticism from the Administration for the actions we took. The Administration may not be happy with any change to its budget proposal—but this bill provides very generous funding that adheres to the law and our responsibility to practice fiscal responsibility. Overall, with this bill and the funds that were provided in advance last year, for FY 2017, the VA will have available 98 percent of what it asked for. 98 percent. I would wager that there won’t be another Department in that enviable position. This shows the level of commitment we have to our veterans and their families. So despite any criticism, we should all be proud of this bill and what we have done in it.
Let me tell you, I can say with absolute certainty—VA’s problems stem from poor management, not too little money. We continue to push for better management and the Secretary has replaced most of the senior managers at headquarters and in the field. Many VA employees are committed to the veteran, are talented, and work very hard. I have met these folks and appreciate each of them. But the “corrosive culture” that has been cited at VA remains the root of VA’s problem.
I want to discuss the Choice Act, or VACAA, a bit. I, and probably all of you, fully support the Choice Act and want veterans to have access to quality healthcare at a convenient location for them. The Choice Act was so popular that it brought a lot of demand to VA, and VA has been spending both Choice Act funds and discretionary funds to meet the increased demand. The Choice Act expires at the end of fiscal year 2017, and its funding is being depleted sooner than that. Some of the Choice programs are already out of money, and others will be out of money halfway through the year. For example, the Choice Act hires of medical professionals to cut the backlog of appointments runs out of funds to pay those people halfway through the year. We—that is, discretionary appropriations--are picking up a $600 million tab to pay them through the end of FY 17. It is the right thing to do, but not what we planned for.
There will be unprecedented and massive demands on the discretionary side to continue programs started with a $15 billion slug of emergency funding. That’s a huge issue for FY 2018. Right now, it is incumbent on Congress all to reform VA healthcare with a responsible plan that meets the needs of veterans in a sustainable manner, and I hope we take that very seriously.
We fund the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Arlington National Cemetery, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans at the requested funding levels, which total $241 million.
In closing, this is a very solid, bipartisan bill that is focused on the needs of servicemembers, veterans and all their families. We are $1.8 billion over the fiscal year 2016 level; more than a 2 percent increase. We have provided for our military and veterans to the very best level we can in a manner that is fiscally responsible. Did we fund every last dime requested? No.
Not every idea has merit—not every project is mission critical. We did not fund some projects, we cut some requested increases, and we rescinded funds. These were fair decisions and part of our responsibility as appropriators.
We will do a lot of good with this bill—it is fair, it is balanced, and it is generous. On behalf of our service members, military families, and veterans, I urge your support of this legislation. Let’s take care of those who have sacrificed for our country.
I reserve the balance of my time.Read More
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