We Need Fiscal Discipline and Funding for Social Programs

The House passed the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act, [HR:4200], a bill to establish new procedures to expedite projects for rehabilitating federal land after fires, floods, or other disasters. The bill would require the Interior and Agriculture departments to develop prompt response plans for lands they manage. Timber harvesting would be allowed on damaged land when trees are dead, likely to die within five years, or must be removed for public safety. The departments could assist state and local governments in restoring non-federal land after a disaster. The bill passed 243-182 without my support.

 

The fiscal year 2007 budget resolution, [HCR:376], passed the House 218-210, with my support. This bill would allow up to $872.8 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2007, plus $50 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would call for mandatory spending cuts of $6.8 billion over five years and tax cuts totaling $448 billion over five years. Defense discretionary spending would increase by 7 percent over fiscalyear 2006, to $460.2 billion, not counting a $50 billion war set-aside, non-defense discretionary spending would remain at $419.4 billion.

 

It is important that Congress pass a budget as a benchmark of fiscal discipline. I was pleased to vote for this bill as we begin to consider appropriations bills for this fiscal year. Although this bill was not perfect, I have pledged to work with my colleagues to make sure that education, health, and other social programs get the funding that they need. These are the programs that affect our communities at the core and need to be prioritized.



The first appropriations bill of fiscal year 2007 was also passed. The Interior-Environment Appropriations bill, [HR5386], passed 293-128 with my support. This bill provides $25.9 billion for the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and related agencies. The bill would provide $9.7 billion for the Interior Department, $7.6 billion for the EPA, and $4.2 billion for the Forest Service. The following are major amendments that were adopted on the House floor:

- Increases NEA and NEH each by $5 million; offset by a corresponding reduction in other programs.

- Prohibits use of funds for enforcement of EPA's Toxics Release Inventory Burden Reduction Proposed Rule.

- Limits funds related to oil royalties.

- Prohibits funds made from being used for the sale or slaughter of wild free-roaming horses and burros

- Prohibits funds to plan, design, study, or construct for the purpose of harvesting timber by private entities or individuals, a forest development road in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

- Prohibits use of funds in the bill to conduct activities in violation of the moratorium on drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.

- Prohibits funds to implement certain regulatory changes regarding the Clean Water Act.

House appropriators worked hard to find the proper balance between fiscal responsibility and protecting the environment. In the era of constrained federal spending in which the Congress now operates, this $25.9 billion spending bill reduces funding for grants programs, land acquisition, and construction to restore funding for core, mission-essential programs. At the same time, proposed language to sell Forest Service lands to fund rural schools, and sell Bureau of Land Management public lands to generate funding for Federal operations and for the U.S. Treasury was not included..

I have recently signed on as a cosponsor to the following legislation:

[HR:5399], a bill to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to eliminate the Medicare prescription drug late enrollment penalty for months during 2006. The Medicare prescription drug benefit program has allowed millions of seniors to get the drug coverage they need. Each senior saves hundreds of dollars each year in reduced drug costs thanks to this program. I do not believe it is fair to make seniors pay a penalty for missing the May 15 initial enrollment deadline, and I am proud to be an original cosponsor.

[HR:5051], a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Over fishing of our living marine resources threatens the health and productivity of our ocean ecosystems. It is critical that we end this practice and set scientifically established limits for annual fish harvests to support the long-term sustainability of fishery stocks.

 

The following are recent letters that I have signed:

 

To the Speaker of the House, encouraging him to bring H.R. 2491, the International Solid Waste Importation and management Act of 2005 to the House floor for a vote. The issue of was coming into Michigan from Canada for disposal is one of great concern from an environmental and public health standpoint, as well as for national security reasons. I am a cosponsor of this bill that would simply implement and enforce an existing bilateral agreement that has been ignored.

To the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, asking them to consider legislation pertaining to the cap on physical therapy services to Medicare beneficiaries.

To the Director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), asking him to raise Michigan's cap for Medicare support for physician fellowship and residency training by 15%. Michigan's medical schools also sent a similar letter.

To the U.S. Secretaries of Labor and United States Department of Health and Human Services, requesting that they take steps to make sure that public health workers are protected in the event of an influenza pandemic.

To the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader, asking them to restore the 37% reduction in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) proposed in the Administration's budget.

To the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, urging them to include $8 million through the Clean Cities Program for further development of E-85 infrastructure. This provision was subsequently included in the fiscal year 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

To the Speaker of the House, asking him to retain language dealing with Department of Energy reimbursements in the fiscal year 2007 Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The language would block a recently announced Department of Energy policy change that would stop reimbursing contractors for money spent on defined benefit plans for new employees. The policy would also prevent reimbursement for changes or augmentations in plans for current employees and retirees.

To the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies, urging them to support a $2 million appropriation for the CLEMIS program, to purchase portable biometric identification devices, palm print live scan units and a crime laboratory management system. CLEMIS - the Courts and law Enforcement Management Information System - is a law enforcement consortium of 105 law enforcement agencies in southeast Michigan.

To the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, urging them to fund the U.S. Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System at $1.5 billion, but in any case, no less than the $934 million requested by the Administration. Deepwater is an ambitious procurement program to replace the service's aging fleet of ships and aircraft with more flexible assets.