Chairman Serrano Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill

2019-05-22 10:39

Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY), Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Appropriations Committee's markup of the fiscal year 2020 Commerce-Justice-Science bill:

Thank you, Madam Chair.  The Commerce, Justice, Science bill that I’m presenting today is a good bill that is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the subcommittee.  So far this year, the Subcommittee has held 12 hearings on a variety of subjects, from climate change to our immigration courts, to the 2020 Census.  We have heard from a variety of Administration officials on their budget requests, and we have heard from members of this subcommittee and from throughout the House.

The budget proposed by the Trump Administration left a series of budgetary holes throughout the agencies that this subcommittee had to fill.  They proposed eliminating programs that members on both sides of the aisle support. Thankfully, we have been able to do this job with an adequate allocation of $73.895 billion in funding for fiscal year 2020, an increase of $9.8 billion over fiscal year 2019.  This amount includes a budget adjustment for the 2020 Census, which is an extremely high priority in this bill. 

Within this allocation, this bill makes significant investments in justice reform, economic development, and the science agencies.  We also increased funding for programs and research focused on climate change, and for efforts to address gun violence.  Let me go into a little more detail on some of these areas.

We are now less than a year away from Census Day. In order to address the ongoing challenges faced by the Bureau, this bill provides $8.45 billion for the Census Bureau, of which more than 90 percent directly funds the 2020 Census.  The amount is $2.3 billion above the Administration’s very underfunded request.  This funding will allow the Bureau to conduct a comprehensive outreach effort to all communities, as well as to maximize cybersecurity efforts.  It also provides sufficient contingency funding for any potential issues the Bureau will need to manage, such as lower-than-anticipated response rates or displacement due to natural disasters.  Additionally, this bill carries language that prevents funding from being used to include a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form.

The President’s request proposed drastic cuts to climate change research and mitigation programs.  This bill rejects those proposals, and instead adds investments to ensure that the United States remains a leader in addressing climate change.  The bill provides just over $2 billion for NASA Earth Science, a significant increase over fiscal year 2019, as well as a 17 percent increase for NOAA climate research activities.  Significant increases are also included for NOAA programs that address the impacts of climate change, such as Coastal Zone Management grants, National Coastal Resilience Fund grants, and the Coastal Science and Assessment programs. 

To address the epidemic of gun violence in our Nation, this bill increases funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by $122 million over fiscal year 2019.  We also provide $80 million for grants to help improve firearms background checks.   The STOP School Violence Act grants receive $125 million in fiscal year 2020, including a set aside of $31.25 million for school hardening measures. 

To ensure our Nation’s science agencies have the resources needed to continue our leadership in research and innovation, this bill adds substantial funding to NASA, the National Science Foundation, and NIST.  For the National Science Foundation, the bill provides more than $560 million above last year, including critical increases in their research and educational programs. NASA funding is $1.3 billion above the Administration’s initial request, and $815 million more than fiscal year 2019.   

This bill also includes strong funding increases for economic development activities in hard-hit rural and urban areas, in particular for the Economic Development Administration and the Minority Business Development Agency.  The subcommittee bill also provides a significant down payment on reducing the justice gap by increasing funding for the Legal Services Corporation to $550 million.

Lastly, let me talk about the Justice Department.  This bill makes key contributions to justice reform efforts at the Federal and State levels.  It fully funds the First Step Act.  It includes significant additional funding for the Second Chance Act.  It increases funding for effective grant programs for Drug Courts, the Criminal Justice Innovation Program, LEAD grants, and many more. The bill fully funds Violence Against Women Act programs and provides significant funding to address the opioid crisis that is devastating our communities.  It also helps state and local law enforcement by increasing COPS Hiring Grants, the SCAAP program, and much more. The bill includes new grant funding to provide legal representation in our immigration court system.

Before I conclude, let me thank all the members of the subcommittee and full Committee for their input. In particular, I want to thank Ranking Member Aderholt for his input into this product.  We may not agree with everything in this bill, but there is a lot that both sides support here.  I also want to thank the Subcommittee staff on both sides for their hard work in putting this bill together. On the majority staff, let me thank our Clerk, Bob Bonner, as well as Jeff Ashford, B.G. Wright, Matt Smith, Shannon McCully, T.J. Lowdermilk, and Trisha Castaneda, and on the Minority side, I want to thank Stephanie Gadbois and Kristin Richmond.  They have worked late nights and weekends in creating the bill and report.  They are the folks who make us all look good, and their hard work and dedication is truly appreciated.

I think this is a good bill that invests in the people and priorities of this nation.  I urge all my colleagues to support it.

116th Congress