1:55 PM EDT

Deborah Pryce, R-OH 15th

Ms. PRYCE of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, for purposes of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to my colleague, the gentlewoman from New York (Ms. SLAUGHTER); pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purposes of debate only.

Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 210 is an open rule which provides for 1 hour of general debate, equally divided between the chairman, the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), and the ranking member, the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), on H.R. 2620, the fiscal year 2002 Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill.

The rule waives all points of order against consideration of the bill. After general debate, any Member wishing to offer an amendment may do so as long as it complies with the regular rules of the House. The rule makes in order one amendment printed in the report accompanying the rule and waives all points of order against that amendment.

The rule waives points of order against provisions in the bill for failure to comply with clause 2 of rule XXI for legislating on an appropriations bill and prohibiting nonemergency designated amendments to be offered to an appropriations bill containing an emergency designation.

Finally, the rule permits the minority to offer a motion to recommit with or without instructions.

Mr. Speaker, this bill provides yet another example of a carefully crafted bill from the Committee on Appropriations that strikes a balance between fiscal discipline and social responsibility. I would like to commend the chairman and the ranking member, and all the members of the Committee on Appropriations, for making the tough decisions required to produce a thoughtful bill that meets our most important priorities.

While we can never agree on everything, this is a good bill which we can all agree addresses some of our Nation's most pressing needs. It takes care of our veterans, it addresses the Nation's critical housing needs, it helps to preserve and protect our environment, it invests in scientific research, and continues our exploration into space.

This legislation maintains our commitment to our Nation's veterans, who selflessly place themselves in harm's way so that we may enjoy the very freedoms which we so cherish. Our veterans deserve our thanks, but more importantly they deserve and have earned the benefits in this bill.

This year, the fiscal year 2002 Veterans-HUD appropriations bill provides an additional $1 billion over last year's increase for Veterans Medical Health Care, bringing the total to $21.3 billion.

[Time: 14:00]

I am proud to inform my colleagues and, more importantly, our veterans that we have increased Veterans Medical Health Care by $4 billion over the course of the last 3 fiscal years.

This bill increases Veterans Medical and Prosthetic Research yet again, by $20 million, and provides an extra $128 million over last year's funding levels for the Veterans Benefit Administration to expedite claims processing.

Finally, H.R. 2620 provides $100 million for Veterans Extended Care Facilities, an increase of $50 million over the President's request.

Mr. Speaker, along with providing for the needs of our veterans, this legislation makes available important resources to help the most vulnerable in our society with a very basic need: placing a roof over their heads.

Low-income families will benefit through this bill's investment in the Housing Certificates Program, which provides funding for Section 8 renewals and tenant protection.

A $1.8 billion increase over last year's funding level will allow for the renewal of all expiring Section 8 contracts and provide needed relocation assistance at the level requested by our President. A total of $15.7 billion is provided for this important program in fiscal year 2002. This includes $197 million to fund some 34,000 new Section 8 vouchers.

In my district in Columbus, Ohio, we know all too well how crucial this housing assistance is for families who are trying to lift themselves up and improve their lives.

Other needed housing programs that help our elderly, that help people with AIDS and that help the disabled are also receiving increases over last year's funding levels in this report.

H.R. 2620 also looks toward the future by preserving and protecting our environment for the next generations to enjoy.

The bill targets funding and places an emphasis on State grants to protect the water that we drink and the air that we breath.

The State Revolving Fund for Safe Drinking Water is increased by more than $25 million from last year's level, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.2 billion, equal to last year's level, and, finally, State Air Grants are increased $8 million over last year.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation provides important funding which maintains our commitment to the exploration of space and the improvements of science.

I am pleased to say that the National Science Foundation is increased by some 9 percent or $414 million above the last fiscal year. This will go a long way to try to help foster scientific discovery, promote basic research, as well as increase science education.

NASA also receives an increase that will bring total funding to more than $15 billion. It fully funds the space shuttle operations and increases funding for the International Space Station programs. This will enable the United States of America to maintain our superiority in space exploration and aeronautical research.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, this bill addresses an unexpected shortfall within the Federal Emergency Management Agency by providing $1.3 billion in emergency designated funding.

While, as a fiscal conservative, I am generally opposed to the use of emergency designations on appropriations bills, this bill and the amendment made in order under this rule provides that the funds will only be made available if it is determined that they are necessary for FEMA to meet the needs of the communities adversely affected by disaster. These funds simply represent an insurance policy for some of our Nation's hardest hit communities.

Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill, and it deserves our support. It takes a responsible path towards addressing our Nation's most pressing needs and priorities. I urge all of my colleagues to support this straightforward and noncontroversial rule, as well as this must-do piece of legislation.

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

2:14 PM EDT

James T. Walsh, R-NY 25th

Mr. WALSH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time and for her leadership on this rule and for guiding this bill through the House for the third year in a row. I hope we are as lucky this year as we have been the last two.

I think we have a good bill, Mr. Speaker. It is a work product that incorporates bipartisanship in its truest form. The gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN) and I have worked hand in hand. Our staffs have worked hand in hand and worked together on priorities. We had a manager's amendment in the full committee that the gentleman from West Virginia helped to write. We incorporated that, and the bill was passed out of committee on a voice vote. So both parties, all Members, supported

the bill.

I think it is obviously a very complex bill. There are a lot of different issues in the bill. Perhaps the most important, as always has been the case, is Veterans. The authorizing committee asked for additional funds in medical care discretionary funds, and we provided a billion dollars over and above what was provided last year. So in the past 3 years, we will have increased veterans' medical care by just over $4 billion. That is a very substantial increase. It is a tremendous commitment on

the part of the Congress to provide funds to the veterans. In each case, we have met or exceeded the President's request dating back from the previous administration.

We also provided over $400 million for construction. This is a direct response to Members who felt that medical care centers around the country were in need of repair, major construction. This is a huge commitment that has not been duplicated in many, many years. So I think we have made a real effort here to put the funds where they need to be in Veterans.

We have also provided an additional $175 million above last year to provide for veterans' claims processing. This is Secretary Principi's highest goal, to provide those resources. We are going to help him to meet that commitment to get those waiting times down for veterans' claims processing.

2:16 PM EDT

Bill Young, R-FL 10th

Mr. YOUNG of Florida. I appreciate what the gentleman has said in response to what we have already done by increasing the President's budget request for these extremely important issues. I know that we would like to do more. But we are doing the best we can to keep all of our bills within our budget number. We cannot go over that budget number.

What I wanted to say to our colleagues is that the Obey amendment might have been more acceptable except for one little problem, which I will refer to in a minute. All of our committees in the House, jealously guard their areas of responsibility and their areas of jurisdiction. The gentleman from Wisconsin is one of the outstanding leaders in doing that for the Committee on Appropriations, to preserve our prerogatives, and our responsibilities. The problem with the amendment that the gentleman

from Wisconsin wanted to have made in order and he offered in the full committee, relates to two sentences:

``Paragraph 2 of section 1 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 relating to reduction in rates after June 30, 2001 .....'', This is the tax bill, ``..... is amended by adding after the table the following: in the case of taxable years beginning during calendar year 2002, the preceding table shall be applied by substituting 39.1 percent for 38.6 percent.''

That would change the tax law. The Committee on Ways and Means rightfully is protecting their responsibility and their prerogatives, in being opposed to this. I think it is incumbent upon us if we intend to maintain the integrity of all of our committee structures, that this is the reason we were not able to accept this amendment.

I appreciate the gentleman yielding. I also appreciate the good work that he and the gentleman from West Virginia have done to produce a really good bill.

2:18 PM EDT

David R. Obey, D-WI 7th

Mr. OBEY. I thank the gentleman for yielding. Let me simply say that I am concerned with the integrity of this Congress. And I think we can start demonstrating that integrity by being willing to make the specific trade-offs that we have to make in the real world. The problem that we have is that the tax bill was passed before we ever had a budget. That was a clever device by which the House was shielded from having to choose whether it was more important to cut taxes by a specific amount for

high-income folks or whether it was more important to use some of that money for veterans, for education, or for other high priorities. We have been denied every other way to make those trade-offs evident, so this is the only avenue left open to us. It may not be perfect, but it is a whole lot better than not joining the issue at all.

2:23 PM EDT

Patrick Toomey, R-PA 15th

Mr. TOOMEY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentlewoman from Ohio for yielding me this time, especially in light of the fact that I am rising in opposition to this rule. I would point out that it is a very reluctant opposition. This is the first time that I have opposed a rule since I have been in Congress.

The fact is in recent years we have been spending too much money. The result of that is that we are in grave danger, as a result of the spending increases we have had in recent years and the economic downturn, that within a few short years we could be back to raiding Medicare and raiding Social Security. We made a promise we would not do that. This rule makes that problem worse. It makes that danger worse. Let me explain why.

This bill, as we know, adds $1.3 billion in funding for FEMA. Above and beyond the $1.4 billion ordinary funding for FEMA, there is 1.3 billion additional FEMA dollars that have an emergency designation. The significance of the emergency designation is that that money does not have to be offset. So that means it is in addition to the entire budget. It is above and beyond all that we are going to spend in 2002. House rules forbid putting an emergency designation into a nonemergency bill. This

rule breaks that rule. It waives that provision.

Why was that done, again I ask? It was to make sure that this did not have to be offset. That is what is wrong with this. Those of us who are going to oppose this rule do not do so because we necessarily oppose the FEMA funding. What we oppose is the fact that we are not going to be able to strike the emergency designation and require this to be offset; and as a result, we are going to increase the risk that we may, in fact, end up raiding Medicare or Social Security at some time in the near

future.

I would also point out the President did not request this. Normally when the President requests an emergency, he sends a letter requesting emergency funding and designates a specific event. The President did not do that. In fact, he issued a statement of administration policy. I will quote briefly. It says:

``The administration appreciates Congress' attentiveness to the needs of FEMA. The administration is not, however, prepared to commit to a specific level of contingent emergency appropriations at this time.''

That is exactly what this does. It puts in an extra $1.3 billion. I urge my Democratic colleagues who object to not being able to offer an amendment, do not vote against the previous question only to vote for the rule. You ought to vote against the rule if you do not agree with this rule. I urge my Republican colleagues likewise.

2:28 PM EDT

Sanford Bishop Jr., D-GA 2nd

Mr. BISHOP. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Committee on Appropriations for their hard work on the bill. I offered an amendment in the Committee on Rules which was not granted a waiver and that is very, very disappointing, because my amendment would appropriate no additional funds and it would only authorize the use of existing funds for an important program. It would have authorized the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a minority emergency

preparedness demonstration program to research and promote the capacity of minority communities throughout the country to get data, information, and awareness education through grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements with eligible nonprofit corporations. These nonprofits

would do research on the status of emergency preparedness and disaster response awareness in African American and Hispanic communities across the country, in rural areas, suburban areas and determine how they are impacted by natural and man-made disasters and emergencies.

[Time: 14:30]

Also, they would be authorized to develop and promote awareness of emergency preparedness programs in minority communities and to develop competent educational materials that could be disseminated in these communities and to organizations and institutions.

This was a good bill. It would be very helpful, particularly since in the past year there were 51 disasters in 33 different states, and this year there have been 23 disasters in 22 different states. The impact on minorities has been established by FEMA at 2 1/2 times greater on minorities than any other group.

This is a very, very much-needed operation, given the disasters we have had; and I am very, very disappointed that the rule does not allow a waiver to allow consideration of my amendment, which has been printed and is in the RECORD.

I urge ultimate passage of the bill, but if we can defeat the rule and perhaps allow consideration of this amendment, I certainly would be appreciative. It would be good for America, good for African American and Hispanic communities that are impacted so greatly by our floods, tornadoes and natural disasters where there have been tremendous fatalities and loss of life over the past few years. [Page: H4657]

2:31 PM EDT

John M Spratt Jr., D-SC 5th

Mr. SPRATT. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentlewoman yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, we are now in the eighth of 13 appropriations bills, and, as we drive this process to conclusion, I think it would be smart to stop and look at the fuel gauge.

That is what we have here, a gas gauge. We started out with a full tank, flush with surpluses, $95 billion this year. We did our resolution, 302(a), and gave $4 billion more than the baseline, so you take that out. We did a budget resolution with a placeholder number for defense. Now we are having to come back and put in a real number for defense, and, in outlay terms, it is $12 billion.

Because we did not adequately provide for defense and because we did not provide at all for emergencies, even though the chairman of our committee wanted to institutionalize that, it appeared that a bigger tax cut was feasible. So the tax cut for this year takes out $75 billion, but for a gimmick I will mention in just a minute. So when you factor in those changes you get down to $3 billion. That is how close we are to being empty.

Now, one thing saves us, and that is we did an artificial one-time transfer of funds from September 15 to October 1. The problem is, when we go home in August, that money may disappear when CBO does its update of the budget and economy. If that is true, we will really be running right on empty. That is all we have got left to provide for emergencies, to provide for other priorities that come along in this process before it is completed. That is what is wrong with the tax cut.

What happened? I do not blame the subcommittee at all. I did not get up to criticize the subcommittee. I think they have done as well as they could do with what was allocated.

But we pointed out if you went with this budget with these tax cuts and this allocation, this was going to happen to veterans. We could not fund fully the basic needs of the Veterans Health Care Program. It has happened. It has come to pass. We have less than they need. They have done a good job in trying to plus it up as well they could, but there is not enough there.

In the Housing Program, how could one pick a program that helps the vulnerable more than housing? We have a $20 billion backlog in capital requirements and maintenance needs. What are we doing? Taking a half billion dollars out of it. The housing projects are a haven for drugs. We are eliminating the Public Housing Drug Elimination Program.

This is a consequence of having a budget where we did not adequately provide for emergencies, we did not adequately provide for defense, we fooled ourselves about the size of the tax cut, and now we are inheriting the consequences. You see the fruits of this in the bill before us today.

I commend the committee for doing the best they could with what they have got, but these are the consequences of the tax bill that we adopted just a couple of months ago.

2:34 PM EDT

Maurice Hinchey, D-NY 26th

Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, the consideration of this appropriations bill and the rule attendant to it presents somewhat of a serious dilemma to all of us who are approaching this issue very carefully. On the one hand, it elicits only a sense of praise for the subcommittee chairman, the chairman of the full committee, the ranking members, for the way in which they have squeezed as much as they have into this bill, given the limited resources that they had to work with.

But that is essentially the problem. We have choked ourselves off in this country by this enormous tax cut that we passed earlier this year preceding the budget, in the craziest way of approaching fiscal policy I think we have seen in this government in a long, long time. What does that leave us with? It leaves us with some very serious problems we are not addressing.

The gentleman from South Carolina just made the point about housing. We have a $20 billion backlog in housing. We have a housing crisis in this country. Many people, in urban and rural areas across America, find it impossible to get a house. Municipal workers, for example, are not making enough money to afford a house in the present market. This is a housing crisis. There is no place for them to live and raise their families.

Similar things can be said about environmental protection. This bill does the best it can, but it does not provide nearly enough money to protect the quality of the natural environment from toxic discharges and other releases into the ambient air and the general environment.

That is a serious mistake. And why? Because we choked ourselves off with that huge tax cut, and we do not have the resources that we need to attend to vital concerns addressing our people. The same thing can be said about health care. The same thing can be said about our growing crisis in transportation. Look at any of the airports in this country and you can see it very, very clearly. Drive along the roads during rush hour. It becomes readily apparent. We are not doing anything to deal with

the need for surface transportation, particularly rail transportation between our major cities.

So, this is a dilemma for all of us. We are not allowing ourselves to deal with these important issues facing the American people.

2:37 PM EDT

Bob Filner, D-CA 50th

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from New York just spoke of the inability of our budget to handle the needs of our people. I want to speak to the veterans' budget, the veteran parts of this budget, because the same is true there. We simply have let our veterans down in this budget. We have not honored the promise, we have not honored our commitment, we have not honored our contract with our Nation's veterans.

Now, we are fond on the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, at least on the Democratic side, of saying that you do not have a surplus until you have paid your bills, and we have not paid our bills to the Nation's veterans. We had a decade of flat-line budgeting, and, as a result, the quality of medical care declined, the waiting times for appointments expanded greatly, and the new diseases and the diseases of aging veterans could not be handled with the same professionalism as previously. So we have

not paid our bills to our Nation's veterans.

Now, the distinguished chairman of the subcommittee said that we added $1 billion to last year's budget. Well, all independent analysts say that $1 billion for our veterans' health care system barely keeps up with inflation and does not allow us to make the gains that we had promised over the last decade.

I am going to make several amendments to this bill when the time is appropriate to bring the level of the budget up to a more appropriate level, especially in health care.

All the veterans' groups in this Nation got together to produce something called the Independent Budget. What they did here was a very professional analysis of what was needed to care for our veterans, not just give me more money here or give me more money there, but let us reduce the waiting times to this number of days by putting this much money in. Let us increase the number of positions in the Benefits Administration so we can decrease the waiting times for adjudication. Let us make sure

we can have research that will deal with the new diseases, like hepatitis C and the Persian Gulf War illness. That is what this Independent Budget does, and that is what this Congress ought to do.

So I will be making amendments to increase the health care budget by $1.7 billion, which is what the veterans groups' analysis says. We will try to make improvements in the health research budget. We will try to make amendments to treat such diseases as hepatitis C and also to treat the Filipino veterans of World War II who we have denied care to for the last 50 years.

So we will make those amendments. I hope they will get the similar waiver that you have for emergency funding, [Page: H4658]

that you have for other items. Let us really keep our commitment to our Nation's veterans.

2:40 PM EDT

Jeff Flake, R-AZ 1st

Mr. FLAKE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in reluctant opposition to the rule. I have not been here long, but this will be the first rule that I have opposed. I am not insensitive to disasters like the one we had in Texas, but I just feel that it would be disaster to ignore the spirit of our own rules and go right back to emergency spending.

We are perilously close to dipping into the Social Security and Medicare surpluses. We promised our citizens that we would not do that. We are close to it. We need not do it.

The problem is not the tax cut, the problem is spending. We have had an average of 6 percent a year growth in spending over the past 3 years. That is the problem. We cannot simply cannot maintain that.

I urge a vote against the rule.

2:48 PM EDT

Deborah Pryce, R-OH 15th

Ms. PRYCE of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, again, this is a good bill; and the Committee on Appropriations has done yeoman's work in balancing a number of very, very important priorities. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. YOUNG), the chairman of the committee; along with the gentleman from New York (Mr. WALSH), the subcommittee chairman; and the gentleman from West Virginia (Mr. MOLLOHAN), the ranking member, have done a great job.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2620 responds to the needs of our veterans. It protects our environment. It keeps the U.S. at the forefront of space exploration. It provides needed funding to ensure new scientific discovery. It addresses our Nation's critical housing needs and, finally, helps more Americans realize the dream of owning their own homes. This we do without reversing tax relief that we just gave to the American people, tax relief which has not even gone into effect yet.

Mr. Speaker, I urge a ``yes'' vote on the rule and the underlying legislation. Support the previous question.