Congresswoman McCollum's Statement on the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2012, H.R. 2112
I rise today in support of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act 2012 (H.R. 2112). This legislation combines three fiscal year 2012 appropriations measures: Agriculture; Commerce-Justice-Science; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. H.R. 2112 also includes a short-term continuing resolution that will fund the remainder of the federal government through December 16.
H.R. 2112 represents the final House-Senate conference agreement on three of this year's twelve appropriations bills. While I strongly oppose many of the cuts to critical priorities included in H.R. 2112, the final package is – on the whole – far better than the proposals from Tea Party Republicans in the House.
Fiscal year 2012 appropriations for the Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration are significantly improved from the House-passed bill. The Women, Infants and Children program receives $6.6 billion, an increase of $570 million over the House bill and $36 million above the Senate. As a result, 700,000 low-income children and pregnant women in America will not lose the basic nutrition they desperately need and deserve. The conference agreement provides $1 billion for food safety inspections, which will protect America's food supply by preventing the elimination of USDA meat inspectors. Food safety in our country is further strengthened by the $2.5 billion included for the Food and Drug Administration. This $334 million increase over the House level will allow the FDA to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Funding was also restored for international food aid programs that fulfill America's moral obligation to assist millions of men, women and children around the world who are struggling with famine.
However, I am deeply disappointed that a handful of special interest groups succeeded in blocking important improvements to school nutrition standards that were recommended by the USDA. As a result, it will be harder for school districts to increase the use of whole grains, reduce the sodium content of school lunches and end the ridiculous practice of categorizing pizza as a vegetable. Every student in every American school knows pizza is not a vegetable. With this bill, Congress is failing our students and parents by allowing corporate interests to trump common sense. With this bill, we are missing an opportunity to substantially improve the health of America's children. This is a wrong that must be made right.
My Republican colleagues also won a victory for Wall Street criminals by demanding cuts to the entity responsible for enforcing financial laws. H.R. 2112 includes $100 million less for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) than requested by President Obama to carry out the financial reforms passed by Congress. Reckless behavior in America's financial sector has destroyed millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in education and retirement savings. It is unconscionable that House Republicans would undermine the ability of federal regulators to protect American families from a repeat of the 2008 crisis that nearly triggered a second Great Depression. Unfortunately, Congressional Republicans refused to yield. The result is a bill that leaves our country exposed to a repeat of this crisis.
Fiscal year 2012 Appropriations for Commerce-Science-Justice will enhance U.S. global competitiveness by making critical investments in science and technology. Overall, H.R. 2112 includes $490 million more for these priorities than the bill proposed by the House Republicans. As a result, the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration receive funding to conduct research that spurs innovation and drives future economic growth. In addition, the legislation provides $128 million for the Manufacturing Extension and Partnership Program, which helps American companies maintain good paying American jobs and compete with manufacturers in China, India, and other leading economies. And H.R. 2112 reverses the House Republican's massive cuts to firefighters, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For example, the Commerce-Justice-Science bill passed by House Republicans eliminated funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program that helps Minnesota keep police officers on our streets. This bill provides $198.5 million for COPS.
Fiscal year 2012 appropriations for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development fall short of what is needed to strengthen America's economy and stabilize our communities. Yet, the conference agreement does succeed in maintaining current levels of investment in most areas. For example, H.R. 2112 includes $39.8 billion for the federal-aid highway program, $12.1 billion more than the House draft bill and a level consistent with the annual funding assumed in the surface transportation extension act. The agreement also includes $10.5 billion for transit programs, $2.5 billion more than the House draft bill. This translates into $93.1 million for construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail line. While replacing the massive cuts to transit proposed by House Republicans is an achievement, the final agreement falls $5 million short of the federal commitment to the Central Corridor project. This shortfall is a major concern and something that must be addressed in the upcoming fiscal year 2013 process. Another concern is the complete elimination of funding for high-speed rail. Ideological opposition to rail investments from House Republicans will slow work on the planned Chicago-to-Twin Cities high-speed-rail route that will depart from St. Paul's Union Depot. However, the conference agreement did include $1.4 billion for Amtrak capital and operating grants and removed onerous House language that would have eliminated Amtrak service on 26 short-distance routes, affecting 15 states and more than 9 million passengers.
Regarding federal housing programs, House Republicans proposed devastating cuts that would have done serious harm to low-income families in Minnesota. Fortunately, this conference agreement rejected the most damaging Republican cuts. Section 8 tenant-based vouchers receive $18.9 billion, above the original level included in either the House or Senate bills. H.R. 2112 also maintains funding for homeless veterans, the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grant program and housing counseling services. Still, the legislation fails to meet the growing needs for safe, affordable shelter in our communities. For example, cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program will undermine the efforts of Minnesota cities to respond to the effects of high unemployment and the collapse in the real estate market.
H.R. 2112 is the result of extended negotiations and represents a genuine compromise between competing priorities. I believe that many of the provisions in this legislation should be revisited and many of funding levels should be restored in the next appropriations cycle. Still, I plan to support this legislation today with my vote to ensure the critical resources in H.R. 2112 reach Minnesota communities without further delay.
I yield back the balance of my time.