3:37 PM EDT

James Nussle, R-IA 2nd

Mr. NUSSLE. Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak on H.R. 220, providing appropriations to the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development and various independent agencies. While I have some concern about several provisions in the bill, the bill is technically consistent with the Budget Resolution and complies with the Budget Act.

H.R. 2620 provides $85.4 billion in budget authority and $88.1 billion in outlays for fiscal year 2002. The bill does not exceed the VA-HUD subcommittee's adjusted 302(b) allocation. Accordingly, the bill complies with section 302(f) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which prohibits measures that exceed the reporting subcommittee's 302(b) allocation.

This bill designates $1.3 billion in emergencies, which triggers an automatic increase in the corresponding levels in both the Budget Resolution and the statutory caps. The appropriation is for FEMA Disaster Relief Operations in response to the recent tropical storm in Houston, Texas.

It is not entirely clear that the designation is necessary because the Budget Resolution provides ample resources for emergencies. With this said, the emergency designation is clearly permitted under existing law. [Page: H4680]

H.R. 2620 also provides $4.2 billion in advanced appropriations for the Section 8 Housing Certificate Program, which will be counted against the levels established in next year's Budget Resolution. This advanced appropriation is on the list of permissible appropriations under section 201 of H. Con. Res. 84.

I am somewhat concerned about several purported ``offsets'' in this bill. The bill claims $7 million from the repeal of a provision that was already signed into law. It claims another $121 million in savings from a veterans-related provision that already passed the House. Obviously, these savings can only be used once.

As Chairman of the Budget Committee, I am obligated to report to the Congress on how the appropriations bills compare to the Budget Resolution. Under existing law, this bill is consistent with the Budget Resolution and does not violate the Budget Act.

Nevertheless, the existing process with respect to emergencies is broken and needs to be fixed. At the very least, both Congress and the President should set aside resources for emergencies and restrict the use of these resources for legitimate emergencies.

3:38 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, it is a privilege today to present for House consideration H.R. 2620, the Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies appropriations bill for fiscal year 2002. In the interest of time, I will try to be brief.

I would, however, like to begin by telling my colleagues that I believe this is a good bill and that the Administration has indicated that they support its passage. Just as presented in [Page: H4662]

each of the past few years, this bill represents a joint effort of both myself and my distinguished colleague and ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN).

While we clearly have not agreed on every single aspect of the bill as reported, it nevertheless represents a true collaboration of effort for which I am very grateful.

With the House's indulgence, I would like to outline the highlights of the proposal.

First and foremost, this proposed bill is within the 302(b) allocation, budget authority and outlays, that approved by the committee. The bill's discretionary spending totals $85.4 billion in new budget authority, which is an increase of just over $2 billion above the budget submission and some $4.8 billion over last year's bill.

I note for the House that this level of discretionary spending includes emergency spending of $1.3 billion for FEMA disaster relief, which was amended during the full committee markup by the majority whip. The committee has tried, as best we can, to spread the proposed increases throughout the bill.

Discretionary veterans program will increae by $1.6 billion compared to last year, with $1 billion going to veterans' medical care and the remainder spread to research, processing veterans' compensation, pension and education claims, operating our national cemeteries and, most significantly, increasing the necessary construction at VA facilities by some $434 million. That is a direct response to Member requests, and we think it is a high priority. The proposal is well within the scope of the

amount allocated in the budget resolution.

Housing programs will increase by $1.4 billion compared to 2001, with increases in the housing certificate fund, section 8, public housing, operating subsidies, the HOPWA program, the HOME investment partnerships, the housing for the elderly and disabled programs, and the lead hazard reduction program.

It is important to note that this proposal also includes some very difficult, but I believe extremely important and highly defensible choices and changes in policy direction. They are represented by reductions in the Public Housing Capital Fund and the drug elimination grant programs. Neither of these programs is serving the best interests of the people they were intended to benefit. It is our job, albeit a difficult one, to take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation.

In the case of capital funds, it means getting tougher on public housing authorities to spend the dollars intended for the residents in the public housing authority properties. There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of code violations and hazards in these buildings that are not getting fixed.

In the case of the drug elimination grant program, it means taking an honest look at whether HUD is the best entity to run a law enforcement program. Based on HUD's track record, I do not believe that it is.

Mr. Chairman, I know these two items in particular will be discussed at length throughout the development of this bill in the House and in conference with the Senate.

EPA funding increases some $229 million over the budget request, although a decrease below last year's funding level. This proposal continues to provide strong research programs as well as increased resources for the many State categorical grants and significant resources for clean water and drinking water state revolving fund and congressional priorities for water projects and infrastructure grants.

FEMA operating expenses will increase by nearly $135 million over last year. We have provided the budget request of $1.37 billion in on-budget nonemergency dollars for disaster relief.

In addition, by virtue of the amendment in full committee markup, which I mentioned before, we have also included an additional $1.3 billion in contingent emergency spending for disaster relief. Those funds would not be drawn on unless the White House specifically asked for them and declared an emergency. I would just add that such emergency provisions have been used for several years to provide FEMA the ability to meet the needs of natural disaster victims.

In addition, our total appropriation of $2.6 billion for disaster relief is actually below the current 5-year average of $3.2 billion.

NASA programs would receive an increase of $641 million over last year, and we have proposed several structural changes in the Agency's account structure to provide them greater programmatic flexibility and the Committee better oversight capability. We have also included funding to reverse some of the changes to the International Space Station proposed by the President. I believe this is the right decision if the research mission of the station is to be fulfilled.

Finally, I am proud to say we have raised the overall funding for the National Science Foundation by just over $414 million to a total program budget of $4.84 billion. This is a 9 percent increase compared to last year. The bulk of these funds, some $292 million, would go to improve available resources for NSF's core research programs, while the remainder would be spread to major research, construction and equipment, education and human resources programs, and salaries and expenses for NSF's

capable staff.

[Time: 15:45]

I would like to add that I personally would have liked to do more for NSF. However, to do so could only have been at the expense of other very important programs in other agencies. Having said that, given the increase proposed by the Administration of just 1 percent, I think we have done a remarkable job, and this is perhaps the aspect of the bill for which we can be most proud.

All Members are, of course, aware of the difficulty in putting these bills together, especially with so many diverse and competing interests. Developing the perfect bill is probably impossible. Nevertheless, I believe we have done a good job developing a bill that is both supportable and passable. Once again, I would like to thank my colleagues on the Committee from both sides of the aisle for their dedication, time, hard work, and thoughtful consideration of the provisions we have put into this

bill. I would also like to thank our staff who has done a terrific job in helping us to sort out the priorities, to fund those priorities, and to make the hard decisions that are required. This job would be impossible without this highly professional staff.

Mr. Chairman, I include for the RECORD the budget tables representing the mandatory and discretionary spending provided in H.R. 2620.

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Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:45 PM EDT

Alan B. Mollohan, D-WV 1st

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 5 minutes.

Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by thanking our excellent chairman, the gentleman from New York, for the work that he has done in crafting this legislation, the many hours that he has spent involved in it. Throughout the development of the bill, he and his staff have been accessible; and they have made every effort to accommodate the concerns that the minority have presented to them.

As I know he will tell you, we have not seen eye to eye on nearly all the issues in this bill. But the communication necessary for a cooperative effort has occurred and that is certainly very much appreciated.

The departments and agencies that are funded in this bill all deserve adequate funding, but the allocation that we have been given simply does not make that possible. Congress has been operating under unrealistic budget constraints fashioned for the purpose of justifying a huge tax cut. Many concerns were raised during the consideration of that tax cut, most importantly the concern of ensuring the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. While Members from both parties professed that these funds

were sacred, as we await the Congressional Budget Office's mid-term reestimates of the government finances, including projections for fiscal year 2002, which are due out in mid-August, it is becoming clear that the tax cut might well invade the Medicare surplus. This is exactly what Democrats were concerned about. This is not fair to our seniors, and it is not good fiscal policy.

It is that same tax cut that is forcing the Committee on Appropriations to make do with fewer resources than are needed. This has resulted in an inadequate allocation to this subcommittee. This has forced the gentleman from New York to engage in a balancing act. While he has been able to do many good things, he has by necessity had to underfund some important accounts.

First, let me mention two specific accounts where the gentleman from New York has markedly improved upon the administration's request. The National Science Foundation is provided $4.84 billion, an increase of $414 million over last year. This represents a 9 percent increase rather than the 1.2 percent increase that the President proposed.

NASA, an account that has been flat funded for the past several years, is in need of funding increases. NASA would receive an increase of $641 million over last year's funding for a total budget of $14.9 billion. Importantly, the bill and report also begin the process of addressing the cost issues associated with the International Space Station. It provides $275 million toward the Crew Return Vehicle, a vital station component that President Bush would eliminate. This funding is conditioned on

NASA reporting back to this committee its plan to address the Space Station cost overrun issue. In addition, NASA is charged with ensuring that research is not compromised in the solution.

To underscore the point that research continues to be a principal justification for the Space Station, the chairman's mark includes an additional $35 million for Space Station research. Further, the chairman's amendment includes an amendment that I proposed to the chairman that will add an additional $25 million. Once again, this bill reflects the strong support that science enjoys among the members of this subcommittee. But ensuring adequate resources for science is only one of the many important

responsibilities that needs to be fulfilled by this legislation.

The funding levels for several of the accounts are clearly inadequate. For example, to his credit, the chairman has increased discretionary funding to the Veterans' Administration by $1.6 billion over last year's level. While this is a large increase, it falls significantly short of the medical care need as outlined most recently by the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the authorizing committee.

Programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development are cut and several receive no funding at all. These include public housing capital funds, drug elimination grants, rural housing and economic development, empowerment zones, and shelter-plus-care homeless renewals.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is zero-funded and the Community Development Financial Institutions fund is sharply reduced from last year. I know that the gentleman from New York shares my concern about most of these accounts and that he would provide more resources to them if he could.

Today, amendments will be offered addressing some of the problems in the bill. However, even if adopted they will not remedy all the funding shortfalls in this legislation. Resources are simply not available to address the larger issues. We need more money.

From veterans, to housing, to water and sewer needs and even science, more needs to be done, Mr. Chairman. I hope that as this process moves forward, additional resources will be made available allowing us to properly fund the many needy, deserving programs in this legislation.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

3:51 PM EDT

Joseph Knollenberg, R-MI 11th

Mr. KNOLLENBERG. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the gentleman first of all for yielding me time and I in particular want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) and the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for the very, very difficult and hard work that they have done on this bill. We have to obviously recognize Frank Cushing, who heads the staff, and all of the staff, who have done, I think, yeoman's work in bringing about the expertise that produces a product that

is one that, I think, we should all be happy to support. The quality of the committee members should be highlighted along with the quality of their work product as well.

This appropriations bill is unique in that it covers an array of diverse agencies ranging from the Veterans Administration to the EPA. That is quite a broad stretch. It is not easy. It is not an easy task to bring this wide range of interests together into a single bill. But the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from West Virginia have a working relationship that I think makes all this possible.

The fiscal year 2002 VA-HUD bill is a fair piece of legislation produced under difficult circumstances, and it is within the budget resolution. It responsibly provides a $1 billion increase for veterans' medical health care, and increases funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration to reduce the backlog of claims. The bill increases funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by $1.4 billion and fully funds section 8 housing. H.R. 2620 also provides sound investments in research

with a 9 percent increase for NSF.

The gentleman from New York, I believe, should be saluted for crafting this piece of legislation under these difficult circumstances. He has worked in good faith with the ranking member and the other side in a bipartisan way to forge the bill that is now before the House. As this process moves forward, we will have plenty of opportunities from Members to offer their suggestions and amendments before the President finally puts his signature on it.

This is a good, responsible bill. I encourage strongly my colleagues to support it.

3:53 PM EDT

Carrie Meek, D-FL 17th

Mrs. MEEK of Florida. I want to thank the gentleman from West Virginia for yielding me this time, and I want to thank the gentleman from New York.

Mr. Chairman, I have had the privilege and the pleasure of serving on this subcommittee. It is a very good subcommittee. It is very hardworking. I also want to give my thanks to the staff. They have just worked assiduously with all of us to make this bill come out as it is. We do owe them a great debt of gratitude.

I want to say that the main problem I see with this bill is that it is underfunded. It is not because we do not [Page: H4669]

have good leadership on this subcommittee or we do not have good supportive staff, but the fact that it is underfunded, the allocation was not adequate, probably due to the fact that we had to fund a great tax bill, now the results of that tax cut is coming back to haunt us in terms of being able to fund programs that come under our jurisdiction.

We were not able to fund veterans as much as we would have liked to have done. Therefore, we are seeing that as being a gap in this bill. The HOME account, however, there were some very good things going on in terms of accountability in the bill. The HOME account was increased by $200 million. It is one of the most valuable housing programs because it is very versatile and it is very effective.

That was very good of our subcommittee to be able to do this. Also, the subcommittee increased by 34,000 incremental vouchers which allow access to affordable housing on the private market. That is needed for additional low-income families. Section 202, one of my favorite programs for senior citizens, is increased by $4.2 million over fiscal year 2001. Also, this bill increases funding for HUD's Office of Lead Hazard Control. All these are strong points in the bill. Even though we were not able

to fund adequately all of the programs, there are many bright spots in this bill, particularly what we were able to do for the National Science Foundation.

However, despite these responsible funding levels, Mr. Chairman, and these lack of funding levels that I would like to see, this bill underfunds some areas which I must call the committee's attention to. It underfunds public housing. It is a part of our bill, a part of our assessment that it should be funded strongly. It underfunds community development. It also cuts money from the Public Housing Capital Fund which helps to rebuild the worn-down and torn-up housing projects throughout this Nation.

That is very badly needed. Children are in these housing projects. That makes it even more so. There are about 3 million low-income people that depend on public housing. One million of those are children.

The drug elimination grants which we have heard so many people talk about is also eliminated. It is needed. We need to keep drug trafficking out of our housing projects. Just the day before yesterday we voted $676 million in foreign aid to eliminate drugs. We need to eliminate drugs, Mr. Chairman, right here in our own country.

3:57 PM EDT

Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ 11th

Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of the VA appropriations bill and to thank, as others have done, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) for his leadership and the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for his leadership and cooperation.

Our bill, Mr. Chairman, helps the Veterans Administration provide health care to over 3.8 million men and women, who required last year over 717,000 inpatient visits and over 39 million outpatient visits to our Nation's 172 VA hospitals, 135 nursing homes, and over 600 outpatient clinics countrywide.

This bill provides for those purposes this year an additional $1.1 billion over last year's level for their medical care, for a total in the medical care account of $21.2 billion. With this latest increase, Congress will have provided an additional $4 billion for veterans' medical care over the past 3 years.

On a specific issue, our bill continues to direct Secretary Principi to address the serious issue of hepatitis C among the veterans population, particularly those of the Vietnam era.

On the housing front, the bill provides $30 billion for that agency, an increase of $2 billion over last year's level, and it continues our commitment to increasing housing opportunities for all people in need but especially for individuals with disabilities.

[Time: 16:00]

This bill that we consider today will provide funding for nearly 8,000 vouchers specifically to provide decent, accessible housing for individuals with disabilities who often must compete with programs that provide housing for the elderly.

On the environmental protection front, the committee has provided $1.2 billion for the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program. This vital program cleans up our Nation's most polluted sites and, in many cases, can restore formerly toxic sites to new productive uses. My own State has more of these sites than any other State in the Nation. Despite local successes in the Superfund cleanups, there are many more sites to be cleaned up and more sites and brownfields sites than ever.

Like the chairman, I think we need to highlight the fact that this bill substantially increases funding for the National Science Foundation by $415 million, or 9 percent, over last year's level, for a total of $4.8 billion over last year's amount. Basic scientific research funding is critical, and I particularly commend the gentleman from New York (Chairman WALSH) for his leadership and responsiveness which led to this much-deserved increase.

The committee has also provided $14.9 billion for NASA, an increase of $641 million over fiscal year 2001. While the committee rightly has concerns about cost overruns of the International Space Station, overall NASA is responsible for a number of research initiatives.

For this and other reasons, I support the bill.

4:02 PM EDT

David Dreier, R-CA 28th

Mr. DREIER. Mr. Chairman, I want to begin by complimenting both the gentleman from New York (Chairman WALSH) and the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for the superb job they have done on this bill, especially in the area of investment in scientific research and our Nation's space program.

I am joined by my very distinguished colleague, the gentleman from Glendale, California (Mr. SCHIFF), who has also joined with me in representing the area of Pasadena, which includes the Jet Propulsion Lab, and I would like to make a couple of comments about this.

Unfortunately, the vision that I just mentioned that the chairman and ranking member and the work of the subcommittee and the full committee reported out is not shared by the piece that came out from our friends in the other body. It not only does not provide sufficient funding for the National Science Foundation and NASA, but it goes so far as to propose the systematic dismantling of one of our Nation's national treasures, the Solar System Exploration Program.

While the proposed transfer of the Telecommunications and Mission Operations Directorate to the Consolidated [Page: H4670]

Space Operations Contract is portrayed as an effort to save money and consolidate space operations, the cost savings are illusory and the transfer would be devastating to the space program.

The proposal assumes that an industry contractor can absorb the telecommunications and missions operations activities, but, in fact, because the deep space environment is substantially more hostile than the near-Earth environment, the personnel who presently operate the Earth orbiting satellites do not now possess the experience or training required to operate a spacecraft in deep space. Therefore, the contractor would have to hire new people to do the work.

Furthermore, in order to achieve the level of savings promised by the Senate, the contractor would be forced to conduct the missions with fewer than half the personnel presently on the missions. Unfortunately, we have already learned the short-staffing lesson the hard way. The Young Commission's findings on the loss of the two Mars missions concluded that the principal failure for both missions was the result of NASA headquarters' limitations on participation by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's

expert staff. Unfortunately, the bill from the other body ignores this finding and further weakens JPL's role.

In addition, the Senate proposal would transfer the mission operations and communications for all of the solar system exploration missions, including Galileo, Mars Global Surveyor, Ulysses, Cassini, Voyager and Mars Odyssey to an outside contractor.

Mr. Chairman, I am certain that this body did not authorize and appropriate the millions of dollars needed to fund these programs with the idea that they would then be outsourced to a new and inexperienced operations and communications team. We expect, and indeed should demand, that the operations of these high-risk, high-reward missions be conducted by the most capable, most qualified and the most experienced personnel available.

Mr. Chairman, I know personally NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the authority on deep space exploration, and the House cannot allow the Senate to place these vital missions in jeopardy simply to fulfill the parochial interests that exist in the other body.

I am joined, as I said, by my colleagues, the gentleman from California (Mr. SCHIFF), the gentleman from California (Mr. COX), the gentleman from California (Mr. LEWIS) and others to ask that you refuse to accept any of these shortsighted proposals during conference; and, in a bipartisan fashion, we offer whatever assistance we may have in this effort.

4:05 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for his comments and look forward to working with him.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. SCHIFF) for the purpose of a colloquy.

4:08 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to complete the colloquy.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to say I thank both gentlemen for their comments, and please be assured we will not allow investments made in the space exploration program to be wasted. Be assured that both the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) and I look forward to working with the gentleman from California (Mr. SCHIFF), the gentleman from California (Mr. DREIER), the gentleman from California (Mr. COX) and the gentleman from California (Mr. LEWIS) to

ensure that JPL remains one of the premier space research facilities in the country.

4:09 PM EDT

David R. Obey, D-WI 7th

Mr. OBEY. Mr. Chairman, the Congressional Budget Office just finished the study which showed that over the last 20 years the wealthiest 1 percent of people in this country had an after-tax income gain on an annual basis of $414,000 per year. The tax bill which this Congress passed just a couple of months ago gave those people on average a $53,000 tax cut, about an 8 percent increase in their after-tax income.

That study also showed if you are exactly in the middle of the income stream, you have had an income increase over the past 20 years of about $3,400, and the tax bill that passed gave those folks not an 8 percent or 7 percent or 6 percent increase in their after-tax income, it gave those folks a 2 percent increase in their after-tax income.

That study also showed if you were in the poorest 20 percent of people in this society, that you actually have lost $100 in your annual income over the last 20 years, and those folks got a 1 percent on average increase in their after-tax income by the tax bill that passed, except for the almost one-third of people in that bracket who got nothing whatsoever because they made too little money to qualify for the tax cut.

That tax bill took so much money that it made it impossible for the Committee on Appropriations to give the gentleman from New York an adequate allocation for this bill; and because of that fact, not because of the desires of the gentleman, but because of the realities imposed by that misguided tax bill, this bill today is at least half a billion dollars short in providing needed veterans medical care. It is desperately short of the levels we need to be at to provide assistance for low-income

people to obtain decent housing. It weakens our ability to provide environmental protection, and it does a number of other things that are not in the long-term interests of this country.

I have voted for the last five appropriation bills this House produced because I thought they were decent, bipartisan products, even though they were not perfect. But this bill I will not be supporting because of the shortcomings that I have cited.

I do want to say, however, that I think the gentleman from New York has done a very decent job with the [Page: H4671]

limited amount of resources that he had available to him, and I especially commend him for the way he dealt with the science budget. We needed an increase over the White House budget for science.

There is another strange twist to this bill, however. We tried on this side of the aisle on three occasions to get the majority to recognize that we were going to need more money for disaster assistance in FEMA's budget for the existing fiscal year. We were blocked on each of those three occasions.

Now, however, this bill contains a $1.3 billion item which has been labeled an emergency by no one less than the distinguished majority whip. That is the same distinguished majority whip who last year took the floor to defend the idea that somehow funding the census was an emergency, as though we did not know that every 10 years we are required by the Constitution to conduct a census. So I find that flip-flop strange indeed.

It is because of that flip-flop that this bill has been delayed for the better part of a day, and yet the majority leadership now somehow expects us to be able to make up the time lost by the internal divisions within the majority party caucus on this issue, and yet they expect us to work a miracle and finish this bill by 10, 11, 12 o'clock tonight. There are some 44 amendments pending. I do not believe it is possible to come anywhere near closure, even though we will try to work with the majority.

So I would simply say that if this bill cannot be finished tonight, it ought to be clearly understood why. It is not because of any delay on the part of anyone. It is simply because of the inconsistency which was noticed by the majority party caucus, the inconsistency represented by the DeLay amendment. While I support the DeLay amendment, I regret the ridiculous turmoil that it has caused.

[Time: 16:15]

4:14 PM EDT

Barney Frank, D-MA 4th

Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, I am the ranking minority member of the Subcommittee on Housing. There are enormous questions at issue here, and trying to rush them through would be inappropriate.

4:14 PM EDT

Solomon P. Ortiz, D-TX 27th

Mr. ORTIZ. Mr. Chairman, I thank the ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for yielding me this time.

I would like to enter into a colloquy at this point with the Chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH). After testifying last spring, Mr. Chairman, the subcommittee has been very helpful in finding creative solutions to the challenges faced by a multitude of veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley. I know the limitations on our spending this year, and I applaud the gentleman's work.

I appreciate language in the VA-HUD report to this bill that directs the VA to work with the Defense Department to share resources to serve our veterans, our active duty military, military retirees, and their dependents. The language directs the VA and DOD to submit a plan to the Committee for three demonstration sites through which to integrate health care resources and reduce the burden on veterans.

I would like to propose that a hospital in South Texas, which is at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, be considered as a prospective site for just such a demonstration to help our veterans. I know that the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HOBSON), my good friend, has actually traveled to South Texas and looked at the facility with this in mind. There is room in the hospital and open beds that could be used to tend to the specialty care and the needs of our veterans.

I am grateful for a recent meeting with Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi in which we had a very good discussion about the needs of South Texas veterans. The Secretary was very engaged and helpful with suggestions. Secretary Principi agreed to have his experts at the VA study the prospect of having one of these demonstration sites at the Naval Air Station Hospital at Corpus Christi. I am very appreciative.

Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH).

4:15 PM EDT

Marge Roukema, R-NJ 5th

Mrs. ROUKEMA. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank him for his distinguished leadership on this issue.

Certainly, as the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Housing, I have just completed a series of hearings on the availability of affordable housing. These hearings focused on many of the programs within the jurisdiction of this appropriation bill, such as HOME, CDBG, section 8 vouchers, section 202 elderly housing, homeless and the disabled.

We have an intelligent understanding, even in this good economy, that there are a growing number of hardworking Americans who suddenly cannot afford rental housing that they are occupying because of the higher rents in their particular area. So at our housing affordability hearings, witness after witness reinforced the need for improved administration, utilization, and delivery of HUD programs. Furthermore, programs like HOME, CDBG, HOPE, section 8 vouchers, disability and 202 for the elderly,

all of these programs need community development groups that can help them and can more efficiently and effectively meet the needs of these vulnerable populations.

Now that we have concluded the hearings, it is our intention to begin crafting legislation that will help to meet the needs of the growing housing affordability and availability problem.

We must remember, and I say this as a strong fiscal conservative, we must remember that the American taxpayer deserves consideration in this budget debate as well. If directing resources from one program to another means, as is done in this bill, means resources are being more efficiently and effectively used, then we should be supportive. The gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) has done that in this bill.

I would like to point out that the bill is not absolutely perfect, but I must say that I wish it had included credit subsidies.

4:18 PM EDT

Solomon P. Ortiz, D-TX 27th

Mr. ORTIZ. Mr. Chairman, I thank the ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for yielding me this time.

I would like to enter into a colloquy at this point with the Chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH). After testifying last spring, Mr. Chairman, the subcommittee has been very helpful in finding creative solutions to the challenges faced by a multitude of veterans living in the Rio Grande Valley. I know the limitations on our spending this year, and I applaud the gentleman's work.

I appreciate language in the VA-HUD report to this bill that directs the VA to work with the Defense Department to share resources to serve our veterans, our active duty military, military retirees, and their dependents. The language directs the VA and DOD to submit a plan to the Committee for three demonstration sites through which to integrate health care resources and reduce the burden on veterans.

I would like to propose that a hospital in South Texas, which is at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, be considered as a prospective site for just such a demonstration to help our veterans. I know that the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HOBSON), my good friend, has actually traveled to South Texas and looked at the facility with this in mind. There is room in the hospital and open beds that could be used to tend to the specialty care and the needs of our veterans.

I am grateful for a recent meeting with Veterans Secretary Anthony Principi in which we had a very good discussion about the needs of South Texas veterans. The Secretary was very engaged and helpful with suggestions. Secretary Principi agreed to have his experts at the VA study the prospect of having one of these demonstration sites at the Naval Air Station Hospital at Corpus Christi. I am very appreciative.

Mr. Chairman, I yield to the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH).

4:20 PM EDT

Dave Hobson, R-OH 7th

Mr. HOBSON. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to join in thanking the gentleman from Texas (Mr. ORTIZ) for bringing his testimony before the committee.

I visited this hospital in Corpus Christi, along with a number of other members of my subcommittee, and I really believe that the available capacity at that hospital and certainly the need of the veterans in that area would lend itself to progress in this program that he wants to do in this area. I want to commend the Chairman for encouraging the VA to work with DOD at the possibility of establishing not only this project, but other similar programs, because I think it comes into the extension

of quality, cost-effective care for our veterans around the country, and the gentleman's facility in Corpus Christi is a good place to demonstrate that program.

4:21 PM EDT

Michael Garver Oxley, R-OH 4th

Mr. OXLEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 2620. I want to thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), the chairman of the subcommittee, and the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), the ranking member, for putting together an appropriations bill that balances all of the competing interests and programs, given the fiscal restraints that we are under.

As the chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, the housing programs administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development fall under our jurisdiction. To date, the committee has held at least nine housing program and oversight hearings to explore how to make these programs models of efficiency and expand housing opportunities for everyone.

What the hearings reveal is that we are facing a housing crisis. In some areas, that crisis is one of availability of housing, while in others, it is affordability, with low-income families paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income for housing. In other cases, it has been poor management of public and private resources and, indeed, our committee plans to look into that.

I applaud the committee on their work. For example, the HOME program is increased by some $200 million to accommodate the President's request. This new initiative will expand the homeownership dream, particularly for low-income, first-time home buyers. While the overall homeownership rate is 68 percent, we have lots of work to do in our minority and disabled communities to foster this American dream. I will oppose any amendments that diminish the Downpayment Initiative incorporated in the HOME

program.

I do want to point out to my colleagues that there will be some amendments today related to the elimination of the Public Housing Drug Elimination Grant Program. As I understand, this program is duplicative and that the Public Housing Authorities already have existing authority to provide crime-fighting initiatives through the operating fund. H.R. 2620 increases the PHA operating subsidy to 8.1 percent to allow flexibility to do crime-fighting initiatives and other activities. Moreover, the Drug

Elimination Program experienced many abuses, including HUD's approval to allow PHAs to use funds for ``creative wellness'' programs that teach residents to surround themselves with colored gemstones and incense; and I am not making this up, Mr. Chairman, to the tune of $800,000; for occasions and trips, and for controversial gun buy-back programs.

I am also concerned that there is $397 million of unspent funds, some dating back to as far as fiscal year 1997. I support the Administration's proposal to eliminate duplicate programs.

4:24 PM EDT

Alan B. Mollohan, D-WV 1st

Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. FATTAH), a distinguished and hardworking member of the subcommittee.

4:24 PM EDT

Chaka Fattah, D-PA 2nd

Mr. FATTAH. Mr. Chairman, let me also thank the ranking member and the chairman of the subcommittee for their hard work.

I have a number of concerns about the bill, even though I am generally supportive. One of course is the elimination of the AmeriCorps program, and the elimination of the drug elimination fund. There is nothing controversial about gun buy-back programs in neighborhoods where people have been victimized by the illegal use of these guns. But I think that even though there are some unfortunate directions, there is a lot to be very pleased with in this bill, and I commend both the gentlemen who have

had the leadership roles.

I wanted to yield a moment to the chairman, the gentleman from New York, to have a brief colloquy on the question of the reserve funds for public housing authorities.

I, along with the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. PRICE), have [Page: H4673]

talked before about our concerns about the move from 2 months to 1 month. We realize that the vast majority of housing authorities have not needed a 2-month reserve, but there have been instances where, for a small percentage of housing authorities where they have had to go beyond the 1 month. I just want assurances from the chairman that he will be mindful of this and monitor and

seek to ensure that HUD would have the flexibility to be responsive so that no family presently being served would in any way be jeopardized by the decision, and I think the correct decision that has been made, which is to roll the reserve back to a 1-month status.

4:26 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, certainly, it is not the committee's intent, nor do I believe this action will have any negative impact, on the ability of Public Housing Authorities to fully utilize their vouchers. It is my understanding that less than $46 million of the $1.3 billion in reserve funding was drawn down last year.

I assure the gentleman that it is the committee's intention that any PHA which exhausts its funds will be given additional funds to ensure that its legitimate needs are met. In fact, I have a letter from the Deputy Secretary which indicates that HUD will continue its long-standing policy to provide any Public Housing Authority that has exhausted its funds for legitimate needs with whatever funding is necessary to ensure that all families currently served retain their assistance.

4:27 PM EDT

Joe Scarborough, R-FL 1st

Mr. SCARBOROUGH. Mr. Chairman, I would also like to thank the committee staff for this worthy bill which promotes environmental cleanup and scientific study for areas impacted by toxic pollutants.

One such area of impact is Escambia County, Florida, which is my home county. In 1998, it ranked 22nd out of 3,300 counties in America in the amount of toxic releases reported to the EPA. Now there is mounting evidence that these toxic pollutants contributed to increased illnesses in Northwest Florida. Friends, neighbors, family members, and other constituents continue to ask me questions at town hall meetings and elsewhere about whether there is a connection between buried toxins and increased

levels of cancer and other diseases.

Fortunately, the University of West Florida and Escambia County Health Department have formed a partnership to find scientific answers to these troubling questions. These questions as to whether toxins buried underground decades ago are now causing sharp increases in cancer and other deadly diseases need to be answered.

Also, too often, the affected areas are occupied by some of our poorest constituents, not only in Northwest Florida, but across America.

[Time: 16:30]

That is why I am grateful that this committee has urged the EPA to study Escambia County's increased levels of illness, and it will impact not only Northwest Florida, but also affected areas across America.

That is why I encourage passage of this worthy bill, and thank the chairman and the staff for recognizing the importance of the measure.

4:28 PM EDT

Barney Frank, D-MA 4th

Mr. FRANK. Mr. Chairman, this bill is a stunning example of the social harm that is resulting from the excessive tax reduction of earlier this year.

We have widely acknowledged that there are housing crises in many parts of this country. The gentlewoman from New Jersey (Mrs. ROUKEMA), who chairs the subcommittee, has presided over hearing after hearing in which witnesses brought forth by both sides of the aisle have testified to that.

The very prosperity which benefits so many and is so welcome exacerbates the problem in many areas of those people in middle-income and lower-income categories who are not participating, and this bill systematically makes it worse. It is not a matter of what the subcommittee chose to do, it is a matter of the substantial reduction in resources mandated by that tax bill, which left them with no real options.

As a result of the inaction of this committee pursuant to that tax cut, the Federal Housing Administration, the FHA multifamily program, is shut down, has been shut down, and will remain shut down. When we get in the full House I will put in a letter from the homebuilders and realtors and many others lamenting this. We are not building multifamily units for middle-income people.

Public housing residents are savaged by the President's budget, and unfortunately, this bill repeats that. The public housing drug elimination program, I do not think it is duplicative to have more cops in public housing. This cuts virtually every aspect of public housing.

The President says he will leave no child behind. Who does he think lives in public housing, stuffed animals? Children live in public housing, the poorest children in this country. They are victimized by the poor resource allocation that this bill manifests.

This bill is, unfortunately, far below the minimum we should expect, and that is mandated by that irresponsible tax cut.

4:31 PM EDT

Mel Watt, D-NC 12th

Mr. WATT of North Carolina. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.

Mr. Chairman, this is kind of a strange institution we are operating in here, because both the chairman of the Committee and the ranking member I think have done a good job of operating within the context of what they are operating in. Unfortunately, they are playing with a budget the size of a baseball when the size of the need is, at best, the size of a softball or a soccer ball, or perhaps even a basketball or bigger.

The dramatic example of that is in the area of housing. The chairman, the Republican chairman, the Democratic ranking member, and those of us who sit on that committee have gone through hearing after hearing after hearing, and every single witness has come and said, ``We need more affordable housing in this country.'' Yet, there is nothing that will address that need in this bill.

It is not because of the ranking member or the chairman of the Committee, it is because of the big tax cut that has taken all of the money that we should have been spending on low-income housing and affordable housing and sent it back to rich people, leaving poor people in destitute housing. That is a shame for our country.

4:33 PM EDT

Dennis Kucinich, D-OH 10th

Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.

As co-chair of the Congressional Aerospace Caucus, I strongly support maintaining America's leadership in space exploration, research, and technology. That is why I rise in support of increased funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Let me speak of two challenges being met by NASA in aircraft noise and engine emissions. The ultraefficient engine technology program at the NASA Glenn research center is improving local air quality around airports and reducing aviation's impact on global warming.

The program is developing revolutionary propulsion technologies for increased performance and efficiency of aircraft engines. The goal of NASA's quiet aircraft technology program is to develop technologies which will contain aircraft noise within airport boundaries.

The Federal Government is investing millions of dollars every year to insulate homes. Such sound insulation is the only feasible approach today. However, breakthrough technologies developed by NASA through the UEET program and the quiet aircraft technology program will properly address the problem by achieving significant reductions in aircraft noise and emissions. [Page: H4674]

I urge increased support for NASA. Not only will this funding enable the U.S. to remain at the forefront of space technology, but it will serve to give much-needed relief to our constituents who live near airports.

4:34 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, there have been a number of the speakers who have commented on HUD funding. I would just like to respond briefly on a couple of points.

First of all, we, unlike the Senate, increased Section 8 housing vouchers. We put, I believe, 34,000 new housing vouchers in. Eight thousand of those are specifically for people with disabilities. I think that it is the subcommittee stepping up to the plate and dealing with an issue that we have not fully dealt with in the past. The Senate provided no new Section 8 housing vouchers, so I think the House did an excellent job there.

We also increased operating expenses for the public housing authorities across the land by 8 percent. That is a very, very substantial increase.

Although we have a reduced amount of funding in the capital budget, I would remind my colleagues, there is $8 billion in the capital expenses pipeline for public housing authorities across the nation. That is $8 billion that is appropriated but unallocated to a specific project, and unspent.

We would urge those public housing authorities to move forward and allocate those funds toward a project. Otherwise, they will lose those funds, and we will assign them to public housing authorities that are spending their funds in a timely way.

The problem is, we are appropriating these monies and they are not taking care of their housing code violations, they are not taking care of the hazards that people living in public housing have to deal with every day. So it is our responsibility as a Congress to make sure those public housing authorities spend that money.

Lastly, the level of funding that we have provided is exactly what the Clinton administration asked for for the past 3 years. So to say that we did not do our job for HUD, Members can say that, but it is tougher to make the case because the facts I think would argue otherwise.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

4:37 PM EDT

Bob Filner, D-CA 50th

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I thank the ranking member for yielding time to me.

Mr. Chairman, I add my voice to those of my colleagues on this side of the aisle who have said there are stunning examples in this bill of how the tax cut has forced us into insufficient funding for important programs. I join everybody who has spoken in thanking the Chair and the ranking member for doing what they can with the insufficient budget they had.

Let me just add another stunning example, as my colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts said, of the social harm that has been done by insufficient funding.

We all have said we have added $1 billion to the health care for our veterans in this budget. That is true. But $1 billion, given the inflationary cost of health care in this Nation, barely keeps up with that inflation; $1 billion barely keeps up with the inflation. How do we make up for all the years that we have not granted sufficient funding to our Nation's veterans?

Of all people, these are the folks who we should take care of before we declare a surplus, before we give a tax cut to the wealthiest 1 percent of our Nation. It is our veterans who have made this Nation the prosperous one it is. Yet, they have come last, again.

The so-called Independent budget that is put out by the veterans service organizations of this Nation, virtually every single veterans' organization has contributed to this independent budget, they think another $1.7 billion is necessary for the health care for our Nation's veterans to keep up with inflation and to deal with problems such as Hepatitis C, with problems of our aging veteran population, with bringing down the incredible 5 months and 8 months and year-long waiting times for specialty

doctors.

So I will be proposing an amendment, when we get to that stage in the bill, to give $1.7 billion extra. We have emergency funding in this bill now. I would hope that this House would agree with me that the funding for our veterans is an emergency, that we ought to declare our support for our Nation's veterans and provide this level of funding.

There will be amendments to do that. There will be amendments to increase the medical research budget, to increase the budget to fight and treat Hepatitis C victims, and there will be amendments to give health care to the 75,000 Filipino veterans of World War II, one-third of them citizens of this Nation, and the others living in the Philippines who have contributed to our Nation's victory in World War II. It is time that we supported them.

4:40 PM EDT

Curt Weldon, R-PA 7th

Mr. WELDON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I thank my colleague for yielding time to me.

I want to praise both the chairman and the ranking member of this subcommittee for their outstanding work in a very difficult budget environment. I know the tough decisions they had to make were not easy, and I support the effort they have put forth.

I want to speak about one very small part of this bill we are going to be voting on today that impacts one very large group of people in America.

We talked about the FEMA budget and how we need to help resolve those problems created by disasters and reimburse towns and cities for the expenses they have lost, the debts they have in incurred. But we have not heard anything about FEMA's commitment to the 1.2 million men and women in this country who are the fire and EMS personnel.

Under the chairman's leadership, with the strong support of the full committee chairman, the gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG), this past year the Congress for the first time established a grant program to support the Nation's domestic defenders. The $100 million that was allocated was requested by 30,000 fire and EMS departments across this country to the tune of $2.9 billion. We will only be able to fund a very small portion of that request.

I am pleased that this bill has an additional $100 million, and I am going to ask at a later point in time, when I offer an amendment, that my colleagues and the leadership of this subcommittee support the Senate position, which is $150 million.

We talk about the needs that we have in this bill, but Mr. Chairman, each year 100, on average, fire and EMS personnel die in the line of duty protecting our communities, and 85 percent of them are volunteers. The right thing for us to do is to support a program that will help prevent and protect these individuals from the loss of life and injuries that they assume on a regular and annual basis.

4:42 PM EDT

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-OH 11th

Mrs. JONES of Ohio. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me. I know the chairman works very hard to try and craft some legislation that would address the issues of our community.

But I am concerned about the cut in housing that has occurred in this bill, particularly the drug elimination program that was provided for public housing. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that will mean the cut is equal to the entire budget for the law enforcement department at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. For me and for my community and district, that is significant.

So I ask Members to rethink that. I ask them to realize that even though people think it is a stupid program, in fact the people who live in public housing that have had an opportunity to have drugs eliminated think it is a great program.

However, I do want to compliment the chairman and the ranking member on the work they have done for the NASA program. The NASA program in Cuyahoga County is very, very important. I want to thank the chairman, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. HOBSON), and my ranking member for seeing that NASA had an opportunity to get additional dollars. [Page: H4675]

4:45 PM EDT

Ralph M. Hall, D-TX 4th

Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this fine bill that the chairman, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), and the ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), have brought to the floor.

I do not get excited about many Federal programs, but this bill contains money for two of the very best science agencies in the world, NASA and the National Science Foundation. These are programs that ultimately will result in an increased understanding of the world around us and will deliver practical benefits to the American taxpayers. It is a good bill.

Again, let me congratulate the Chair and the ranking member for their fine work, and I urge my colleagues to support the NASA funding in this bill.

4:46 PM EDT

Bernie Sanders, I-VT

Mr. SANDERS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, what this debate is about, really, is the priorities of this country. Several months ago it was the wisdom of the President of the United States and a majority of the Members of the Congress that we were a rich enough Nation that we could afford to provide hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population, people who have a minimum income of $375,000 a year. That is how rich we were. But today, when we are talking about the needs of our veterans, the

men and women who put their lives on the line to defend this country, the men and women who were [Page: H4676]

wounded in action, well, guess what, today we do not have enough money to address their needs.

All over this country, including the State of Vermont, there are waiting lines for veterans to get the quality treatment that they need. There is speculation that the prescription drug program for veterans will cost veterans more money because we do not have, as a Nation, the funding available to take care of those people who made such sacrifices for this country. Hundreds of billions of dollars for tax breaks for those who do not need it but inadequate funding for our veterans.

Mr. Chairman, in my State, and again all over this country, millions of Americans are paying 50 or 60 percent or more of their limited incomes for housing. In one region after another in this country affordable housing is unattainable. Yet, once again, we apparently do not have enough money to adequately fund affordable housing in this country, so that families and children sleep out on the street and working people pay 50, 60 percent of their incomes for housing. Tax breaks for millionaires,

yes; adequate funding for affordable housing, no.

And, once again, all over this country communities are struggling to make sure that the air that they breathe, the water they drink, is not polluted. Money for tax breaks, yes; money for the environment, no.

4:49 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, I thank my colleague, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), for joining me in this debate and a general discussion of the bill. As I said before, I think we have a good bill. I suspect that if we had $150 billion to spend, someone would stand up and say we just need more money. Last year, we provided a record increase in veterans medical care, the most ever in the history of this country in one year and we still had amendments asking for more money.

I think we have done a pretty good job of providing the resources that we need. I would remind my colleagues that back in the years of the Reagan tax cut, there was a very substantial tax cut but there was an agreement that they would cut taxes and that they would also commensurately cut spending. The tax cuts occurred, the spending cuts did not. Therefore, we wound up with very substantial budget deficits. I think that what we have done thus far this year is the right thing to do. We have had

growing surpluses, we were collecting more money than the government needed to operate, and if the money was left there, it would have been spent. So the President proposed a tax cut that was supported by both the House, and the Senate, in very large numbers, and signed by the President. It is now law and the money is being mailed out to the taxpayers who were overpaying.

So we have to now take care of the spending part, which is really what this bill is about. It is spending priorities. We have close to $110 billion in this bill. Some of it is at our discretion, about $85 billion. I think we have done the best we could. I think we have met the priorities of the country.

We have increased veterans medical care by $4 billion in the last 3 years, if this bill passes. We have provided for the protection of the environment. We have provided for emergency relief, disaster relief for emergency victims, and we have provided for the housing of our Nation. I think we have made some difficult choices, but we have made wise choices. And I think that the people who pay the taxes would accept the fact that we have done our level best.

So I submit to my colleagues in closing the debate with my feeling that we have done the very best that we could.