Mr. WALSH. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks on the conference report to accompany H.R. 2620, and that I may include tabular and extraneous material.
Mr. WALSH. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to present for consideration of the House the conference report on H.R. 2620, the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act for 2002.
In the interest of time, I will try to be brief. I would like, however, to begin by saying that this is a good bill. I think the fact that we had a unanimous vote on the rule is symbolic of what is to come. Like those presented in each of the past few years, it is very much a solid, bipartisan effort of the [Page: H7923]
House and Senate. In this regard I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), as well
as to our very able Senate colleagues, Senators MIKULSKI and BOND.
While we clearly had differences and many difficult decisions on several aspects of the bill as passed by each body, the conference report nevertheless represents a true collaboration of effort and an honest negotiated compromise. Again, I am grateful to my colleagues for their candor, perseverance, and friendship.
With the House's indulgence, I would like to take a few minutes to briefly outline the highlights of the proposal. First and foremost, the conference report is within the 302(b) allocation for budget authority and outlays. The bill's discretionary spending is $85.4 billion in new budget authority, which is an increase of just over $2 billion above the budget submission and some $2.9 billion over last year's bill.
I would note for the House that this level of discretionary spending includes emergency spending for $1.5 billion for FEMA for disaster relief requirements.
We have tried as best we can to spread the proposed increases throughout the bill: discretionary veterans programs overall are increased by over $1.4 billion compared to 2001. This follows on some very substantial increases in the last 2 years, with $1.05 billion of the increase going to medical care and the remainder spread to research, processing veterans' compensation, pension and education claims, operating our national cemeteries, and increasing necessary construction at VA facilities by
over $160 million over last year.
Housing programs have increased in HUD by over $1.67 billion compared to 2001, with increases in the housing certificate program, public housing operating subsidies, the HOPWA program, HOME investment partnerships, the housing for the elderly and disabled programs, and the disabled program is a significant increase, 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 changes
in policy direction which are represented by reductions in the Public Housing Capital Fund and the Drug Elimination Grant Program. Neither of these programs is serving the best interests of the people they were intended to serve, and it is our job to take whatever steps are necessary to remedy the situation.
In the case of capital funds, it meant getting tougher on public housing authorities to spend the dollars intended for the residents of public housing authority. There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars worth of code violations and hazards not getting fixed.
In the case of the Drug Elimination Grant Program, it meant taking an honest look at whether HUD is the best entity to run this type of program.
Based on HUD's track record, we did not believe that it was. Instead, this bill increases funding in the operating fund so that all PHAs will see an increase. They then have the discretion to use those funds as they see fit.
The Environmental Protection Agency's funding increases some $586 million over the budget request, and $74 million above last year. This proposal continues to provide a strong research program as well as increased resources for the many State categorical grants, including section 106 water pollution grants, section 103 and 105 air pollution grants, and the new BEACH grant program. The Clean Water SRF program has been funded at $1.35 billion and the Safe Drinking Water SRF has received $850 million.
These are substantial commitments. However, they are dwarfed by the need that is out there in combined sewer overflow projects throughout the country.
FEMA's operating programs increase by nearly $135 million over the 2001 funding level and we have provided $2.1 billion in emergency and nonemergency dollars for disaster relief. I should also mention that $150 million has been provided for the new firefighter grant program which, as my colleagues can imagine, is a very, very popular and competitive program.
NASA's programs will receive a net increase of $508 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.
Finally, I am proud to say that we have raised the overall funding for the National Science Foundation by just over $316 million to a total program of $4.789 billion. That is an increase of 8.2 percent compared to last year. Doing a little research myself, 10 years ago that budget was half, so that the National Science Foundation budget has doubled in the past 10 years. The bulk of this increase will go to improve available resources for National Science Foundation's core research programs, bringing
the total research program to nearly $3.6 billion, while the remainder would be spread to major research, construction and equipment, education and human resource programs, and salaries and expenses for NSF's capable staff.
I would like to add that I personally would have liked to do more here, as I know my colleague, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), would. However, to do so only could have been done at the expense of other very important programs found in other agencies throughout the bill. Having said that, given the increase proposed by the administration of 1 percent, we have done a remarkable job.
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 tremendous job developing a bill that represents the interests of both the legislative and the executive branch.
By the way, I would like to thank the executive branch for allowing us to do our job without a great deal of interference. They have been very cooperative. Their priorities were made. We tried to honor those priorities; in many cases we did. But the relationship this year was excellent.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I want once again to thank all my colleagues for allowing us the privilege of presenting this conference report on the fiscal year 2002 appropriations for veterans, housing and independent agencies. I urge its adoption.
Mr. Speaker, I include the following material for the RECORD:
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Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume. I rise in support of the 2002 VA, HUD and independent agencies conference report and all of its fundings.
I want to begin by thanking Chairman WALSH who, as usual, has done an excellent job with this legislation. We appreciate his courtesies and the opportunity for input in the bill throughout the process. He has had an especially full plate this year, managing this bill with restricted allocations and at the same time providing leadership in the appropriations process to ensure that New York receives adequate funding to address its emergency needs arising out of the September 11 terrorist
I want to begin by thanking the majority staff, Frank Cushing, Tim Peterson, Dena Baron, Jennifer Whitson, Jennifer Miller and Ron Anderson, for their hard work and openness during the development of this conference report. I must make particular note of their generosity in sharing their Capitol office space with the minority staff during the time that Members and staff were prohibited from occupying our office buildings. I also want to thank my excellent staff, Mike Stephens, Michelle Burkett,
Angela June Ohm and Gavin Clingham, for their hard work during this process. All staff have really done an excellent job on a very difficult bill.
Given the resources, Mr. Speaker, that this subcommittee was allocated, we were forced to work together in a constructive manner to reach reasoned compromises. No Member got everything that they wanted, each sacrificed on issues of importance, to us and to our caucuses, but we have produced a conference report worthy of the body's support.
The bills passed by the House and the Senate were not significantly different in allocation but did contain significant substantive differences. In each case, a middle ground was sought and improvements have been made.
I want to take a minute to discuss a few of the programmatic numbers in this conference agreement.
Veterans remain a top priority of the members of this subcommittee. We have provided $21.3 billion for the medical care account. This is $350 million over the President's request, an increase of $1.5 billion over the current year, and almost $50 million over what was in the House bill when it left this body. We also increased the medical and prosthetic research account by $20 million over 2001 funding.
Important to members of my caucus, we were able to improve the House-passed funding levels for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, and provide the Corporation for National and Community Service funding comparable to its fiscal year 2001 funding. The Public Housing Capital Fund was increased $290 million from the House-passed funding level, and we maintained the $250 million increase in the operating fund that was contained in the House bill. Funding
to renew all existing Section 8 vouchers is included, as is funding to provide 18,000 new Fair Share vouchers and 7,000 new vouchers reserved for the disabled.
Within EPA, we restored the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to the funding levels of past years, $1.35 billion, and provided an overall increase of $75 million over this fiscal year, nearly $600 million over the administration's request.
These improvements have not come at the expense of scientific research. The National Science Foundation will receive an increase of $362 million, an 8.2 percent increase over 2001, an increase that is distributed broadly by research category and includes adequate funds for major new science initiatives.
For NASA, a 3.5 percent increase is provided. While I continue to have concerns that we are not providing NASA the resources needed to undertake the missions that have been identified for that agency, I would suggest that this minimal increase is a recognition of the budget constraints we face. I believe that we as a Congress should look closely at NASA in the next year and provide additional resources to that agency.
This conference report is the product of a balancing act, and I believe that we have done a good job ensuring that the needs of each agency are met. I ask for the body's support.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. YOUNG of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I rise, number one, to congratulate Chairman WALSH for having done such a tremendous job in taking a 302(b) allocation that was not nearly as much as these agencies could have used but in providing a bill that really gets the job done. He has done an outstanding job. He could not have had a better partner than the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN). They worked together in just a very strong, bipartisan fashion. Their staff support was
equally bipartisan, and we produced a good bill. And so I would hope that we would get a very good vote for this conference report.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an announcement to the Members that we are nearing the end of the appropriations process for fiscal year 2002. I think everyone would breathe a deep sigh of relief over that, especially the chairman of the committee.
Briefly, we have produced two major supplemental bills since we received the details of the President's budget on May 9, which was about 2 months later than we normally get it, but I think we all understand the lateness of the new administration being put in place. But we were 2 months late in actually getting the detailed numbers that we need as appropriators to work these bills. But since that time on May 9, we have produced the two supplementals that were major supplementals through the entire
process and to the President.
We have also concluded all of our work on the Interior appropriations bill, the Military Construction appropriations bill, the Energy and Water appropriations bill, the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, the Treasury-Postal appropriations bill, and today we will conclude our business on the VA-HUD bill that is before us.
Also today we received unanimous consent to take up the appropriations bill for Agriculture, to file it by midnight tomorrow night; we will complete the conference on Commerce, Justice and State later today; we appointed the conferees for the District of Columbia appropriations bill; and we appointed the conferees for the Labor, HHS and Education appropriations bill. We hope to conclude those conferences by the middle of next week and hopefully will be on the floor before or by Friday of next
I might say, Mr. Speaker, that part of the slowdown here also has been that the other body, while its appropriations committee had reported out most of its bills, the other body held appropriations bills for a long time and did not pass them. And so we cannot go to conference on an appropriations bill until the other body passes it as well. But while the committee did pass out its bills, the full Senate did not take them up.
We still have to do the Transportation conference, and there is one issue that is delaying us there, and that has to do with a difference of opinion between several Members of the other body and the President of the United States on the issue of trucks entering the United States from a foreign land. That has to be resolved yet, but we think that will happen also by the end of next week.
The major outstanding issue, having said all of this is the Defense bill. It has yet to be done in the Committee and in the House, but I believe we will also have it through the House by Friday of next week. I do not think we will be able to have it conferenced by Friday of next week. The Defense bill itself has been completed for over a week, but we are using it as a vehicle to deal with last $20 billion of the second supplemental we did.
This gets a little confusing and complicated, but on the $40 billion supplemental that we passed in the days after the terrorist attacks, if Members recall, we required that the last $20 billion of that Act actually go through the appropriations process once the President decided how he would like to use that $20 billion to respond to the terrorist attack of September 11. So while the Defense bill has been completed for about 10 days, we have been [Page: H7931]
it as the vehicle for that $20 billion. We will mark up that $20 billion part of that Defense bill on Tuesday of next week and hopefully will have it on the floor Wednesday or Thursday. That is our plan.
Again, Mr. Speaker, because of the good work of members of the Committee on Appropriations on both sides of the aisle and the support that we received by both sides of the aisle on our appropriations bills this year, again I say, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We are reaching the end of that process for fiscal year 2002.
Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
As my colleague is aware, the New York State Department of Health recently released its findings from its Cancer Surveillance Improvement Initiative. That report showed that Rockland County and the East Side of Manhattan have among the highest breast cancer incidents in our State.
Specifically, the report shows that a majority of these two areas are characterized by elevated incidence and are 15 to 50 percent higher than the State average for breast cancer incidence.
In response to that alarming finding, I have been working with my colleague from Manhattan, the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. MALONEY), to secure funding from the EPA for the NYU School of Medicine to conduct an assessment to determine if the observed excess incidence of breast cancer in my area of Rockland County and in the East Side of Manhattan, the area of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. MALONEY), are associated with air pollution and electromagnetic radiation generated
from the local power plants.
I am gratified the VA-HUD appropriations conference report contains $500,000 for Rockland County, New York, for an assessment of environmental hazards in Rockland County and the East Side of Manhattan. It is my intention and that of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. MALONEY) that this money be allocated to the NYU School of Medicine for this important study.
Therefore, I am asking our good chairman, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), to clarify this is the intent of this proposal.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time, and I rise in support of the VA-HUD conference report and want to thank the gentleman from New York (Chairman WALSH) and the ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), for their leadership and the good work of their staff.
I support this conference report for any number of reasons, but particularly because it contains a $1 billion increase for veterans medical care over last year's level. This is critically needed funding, especially for my home State of New Jersey, but for the rest of the Nation; and it will help provide men and women who served in the military with better access to the medical care that they have so richly earned and deserve. Over the past 3 years under the leadership of the gentleman from New
York (Chairman WALSH), the committee has provided $4 billion in increase for medical care.
The conference report also takes an important first step towards providing veterans with schizophrenia medicines that are far more valuable and very important to their lives. It encourages the VA to inform its doctors, pharmacy managers and, hopefully, its VISN directors as well, not to use the cost of atypical antipsychotics as a measurement of job performance, and instead, to reinforce VA policy that physicians use their best judgment when prescribing medicines for mentally ill veterans. If
anyone deserves access to all the latest, most advanced medicines available, it is our veterans. They deserve the best possible treatments we can provide them.
I also support this conference report because it provides a much-needed funding increase for the Section 811 program, housing for disabilities. I am pleased that the House provided $29 million more for this program than the Senate, and in the end, the conferees agreed to provide the higher level. There is a great need in our Nation for housing of all types, but particularly housing dollars for nonelderly individuals with disabilities.
I support this conference report because it also contains an important set-aside: $40 million within the Section 8 voucher program to further increase housing options for individuals with disabilities.
Combined with the increase in the Section 811 program, these two provisions will continue our efforts to provide housing for some of those who are in greatest need, who wish to live with independence and dignity. [Page: H7933]
I also support this conference report because it increases funding for the National Science Foundation by $363 million over last year's level. Basic scientific research is critical, and this funding will help continue the NSF's work, including a number of projects in my home State, a State with a long history of scientific research and development.
This conference report also deserves support because it continues to provide funding for critical environmental programs, including $1.27 billion for the Superfund program to expedite clean-up of hazardous waste sites. My State has the dubious distinction of having more of these sites than any other State in the Nation.
Further, this proposal provides nearly $95 billion for the brownfields program, which will help clean up contaminated sites to allow them to be used and returned to productive use in many of our cities and urban centers.
This conference report builds upon what we have done in the past while staying within the confines of our allocation and within the overall level agreed upon last month by the Congress and the President.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity, and I am sure all committee Members do, to commend FEMA Director Alpaugh, VA Secretary Principi, and EPA Administrator Whitman and their respective agencies and personnel for all of their collective efforts addressing so many tragic, tragic events related to September 11. All of these agencies sprang into action to offer the resources and their dedicated personnel in the wake of these attacks.
For these and many reasons, Mr. Speaker, I support the conference report and I urge everybody to vote for it.
Mr. MOLLOHAN. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. WATERS).
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) for yielding the time, and I thank the chairman of the committee and the ranking member for their commitment to our Nation's veterans. They have had significant increases in this budget in the last 2 years and they have worked very hard. Given the constraints, they have had to do the best in this year.
Let us put this in context as we are about to adjourn for our Veterans' Day. This budget appropriates barely sufficient funds for the VA to keep up with inflation, barely sufficient funds. At a time when we are all going to go out on next Sunday and Monday to say how much we support our veterans, we are falling behind in our commitment.
This budget is $2 billion below what the veterans groups have come together to try to argue for in their independent budget. This budget is below what both the House and the Senate have in their resolutions, this at a time when we are producing more veterans as they defend our country in this war against terrorism, and this comes at a time when the VA has already informed its field people that they are going to fall $800 million behind in this budget and they better prepare for that.
The VA is being called to help with emergency efforts at a time of potential casualties in this Nation. Not only do they not have sufficient resources, not only are they falling behind, but they are called upon to do new things in this war against terrorism.
So what occurs is backlogs for disability adjudications are building at the rate of 10,000 a week, 10,000 a week. Appointments have to be made 6, 8, 9, 10 months in advance that our veterans have to wait for. This is not a way to give a signal to those who are fighting in Afghanistan that we are going to treat them right when they come home.
This budget is disappointing. We should not vote for it, and we should put this in context. When people tell me we do not have the resources, this House just passed a $25 billion subsidy for retroactive tax increases for the biggest corporations in America, $25 billion dollar. A check for $2 billion was given to IBM, and we do not have money for our Nation's veterans.
We cannot do anything about Persian Gulf War illness and our veterans are homeless on the street. I am going to vote no on this budget because on November 11 this is not a way to honor our veterans.
Mr. WELDON of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH) for yielding me the time, and I certainly thank the chairman and the ranking member for their efforts in this bill.
I rise reluctantly to say that I intend to vote no on this bill. I recognize that the chairman made a very strong effort to stick to the original House mark on NASA, but without the support of the administration or the other body, it was very difficult for him to hold on that issue, and certainly I thank him for his efforts.
My greater concern is just that we are continuing the general trend that we have been on for the last 8 years when it comes to our investment in aerospace. At the conclusion of the first Bush administration, aerospace investment for the United States of America, 15 percent of the total Federal R&D went to aerospace.
At the conclusion of 8 years of the Clinton administration, it was down to a figure of only 7 percent, only 7 percent of our Federal investment goes into aerospace. Now today that figure is treading down even further. Indeed, this is a critical issue not only for our competitiveness, manufactured products that we make in the United States lead the way in our import/export balance sheet in the area of aerospace; but we are losing that competitive edge. Also, I think this is a critical issue for
national security and national defense.
Specifically, if you look at this bill, NASA's budget barely keeps pace with inflation. This is a budget that has essentially been flat for 10 years. A budget that, when you adjust for inflation has an agency that has seen its purchasing power decline by close to 30 percent, barely gets an inflationary adjustment here.
Let us look at the some of the comparisons in this bill. EPA gets a 10 percent increase over last year; housing an increase of 6 percent over last year. Despite the fact that some people have come to this floor saying they want even more for housing, housing actually gets an increase that is double the inflation rate. The Science Foundation, certainly something I support, a 10 percent increase over the last year, but yet the NASA account barely keeps pace with inflation.
Let me just say there are some good things in this for NASA. There is a 25 percent increase to cover some expenses at the vehicle assembly building, a building that was built to support the Apollo program that is deteriorating. Fortunately, there is some money for new doors in that building. It needs a lot more: a new roof, a new facade. Certainly, I am very pleased that the chairman was able to hold the mark on the shuttle upgrades account which was very, very good news; but overall in the area
of human space flight, it actually transfers money out of human space flight to cover NASA accounts elsewhere.
Overall, I cannot support this bill. I do not think the people in my district support this bill, and I intend to vote no.