Statement-for-the-Record on May 2017 Government Funding Bill
M. Speaker, I rise today in support of the Senate amendment to H.R. 244, the FY2017 omnibus spending bill. This is not a perfect bill, but many priorities that are important to my constituents in Oregon and people around the country are funded and protected, and it prevents a government shutdown.
In March, President Trump released a budget proposal that, if enacted, would be devastating to Oregonians, Americans, and people worldwide. Thankfully, this omnibus bill largely bypasses the President’s misguided funding recommendations, and instead focuses on making sure our federal dollars are being spent to help hardworking families get ahead, support vulnerable populations at home and abroad, and help grow the economy
This bill funds the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and allows Legal Aid work to continue through Legal Services Corporation. There is a strong commitment to securing our infrastructure through robust funding of TIGER transportation grants and environmental cleanup projects, and there is funding for Flint, Michigan to continue upgrading its drinking water infrastructure. Importantly, the bill does not waste any taxpayer dollars to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and it does not include harmful policy riders to defund Planned Parenthood, unwind the consumer protections of Dodd-Frank, or withhold federal funds from cities and states that decline to enforce federal immigration law that is outside their jurisdiction.
In Oregon, I hear from families of all backgrounds who are struggling to maintain their economic security. This bill provides funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and increases funding for housing programs such as Choice Neighborhoods, Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, and Housing for the Elderly. The bill secures funding for Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children and provides robust funding for Meals on Wheels and summer Electronic Benefits Transfer, to address food insecurity among some of our most vulnerable Americans—children and seniors.
The bill also recognizes the devastating toll of the opioid epidemic in our communities by providing a $650 million increase over 2016 funding to help address this crisis. That funding, coupled with a $2 billion increase to the National Institutes of Health, will help fulfill the commitment Congress has made to partner with our states and communities to address this and other health crises facing our country.
As a member of the Science Committee, I am committed to funding basic science research, mitigating the effects of climate change, and supporting healthy oceans and estuaries. I am glad the bill includes increases for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides weather forecasting, oceanic and atmospheric research, ocean and coastal services, and fisheries management to the communities I represent.
As a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, I am committed to making sure that all students can receive a quality education, from pre-K through college. The bill before us will provide supports for students, including reinstating year-round Pell grants, increasing Head Start funding by $85 million, and increasing Title I, IDEA, TRIO, and Gear Up funding over FY2016 enacted levels. I am disappointed, however, that Congress has raided the Pell Grant reserve fund to pay for other programs. I am also concerned that this bill significantly underfunds the Student Support Academic Enrichment Grants created in the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA provided $1.6 billion for these grants to enable school districts to provide locally-tailored programming and supportive services for students who need them most, including school-based mental health programs, drug and violence prevention programs, and well-rounded learning opportunities such as arts, music, and civics education. This bill only provides a fraction of the amount necessary to fully fund this grant program, and I will continue to advocate for full funding as we consider the FY2018 spending bills.
I am also disappointed that the bill reauthorizes the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) program that funds vouchers for private schools in Washington, DC, despite the program’s negative outcomes for students. In fact, a study released just last week from the Department of Education showed that students who received SOAR vouchers had lower math scores than before their enrollment in the program.
Finally, I do not support yet another increase in defense spending, especially when the President has failed to outline a clear strategy for how he intends to use our powerful military around the world. With cuts to programs that protect the environment, provide consumer protections, and provide access to women’s health services, it is shortsighted to further increase our defense spending without a plan in place from the President on how he will keep our country safe.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank our leaders in the House for working together on this bipartisan legislation that protects many of our most vulnerable communities and restores confidence in our economy by preventing a government shutdown. It is not a perfect bill, but one that I will support. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on bipartisan agreements that will keep our communities safe, support public education, protect our natural resources, and create good jobs in our 21st century economy.