Chairman Serrano Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill

2020-07-14 15:24

WASHINGTON — 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 2021 Commerce-Justice-Science bill:

Thank you Madam Chair.  As I said at subcommittee, it has been a true honor to serve with you on this Committee, as Members from New York, and as friends.  Your commitment to our state and nation is unparalleled, and your record of public policy accomplishments is truly outstanding.

Of my 25 plus years on this Committee, I have spent 20 on the CJS Subcommittee.  It has combined issues I’m passionate about with issues important to my community in the Bronx.  I’ve loved this opportunity to finally chair it, and to develop a bill that combines justice, the environment, and economic development.  These are vitally important issues, especially at this time. 

The fiscal year 2021 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill includes a total of $71.473 billion in discretionary budget authority, which is a 1.7 billion dollar decrease below last year’s level.  This reflects a natural decline due to decreased needs associated with the completion of the 2020 Census.  That said, at this funding level, the bill sustains strong increases to invest in promoting economic development, reducing gun violence, addressing climate change, sustaining scientific leadership, and implementing police accountability and police reform. Let me go into a little more detail on some of these.

Our nation is in the midst of a moment of reckoning with its history of racial discrimination, denials of civil rights, and police violence.  Millions of voices are crying out for justice, fairness, and most of all, change.  That change is long overdue for the people I represent in the Bronx and for people, especially Black Americans, around this nation.  This bill takes those voices seriously, and we start the process of change.  To accomplish that, the bill includes major reform efforts to enhance law enforcement accountability and to better protect our civil rights.

To do that, the bill increases funding for the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorneys, and the FBI to conduct pattern and practice investigations of law enforcement agencies.  We include language to roll back Justice Department policies that have hindered this oversight.  The bill provides funding for a National Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight and a National Police Misconduct Database.  In addition, the bill funds nearly $500 million for new grant programs proposed in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to drive law enforcement reform and accountability practices.  Lastly, we require recipients of Federal law enforcement grants to implement strong state and local reform efforts if they want federal funding for law enforcement, and by requiring those entities who do receive Byrne-JAG money to set aside 25 percent of those dollars for training and accountability efforts.  In sum, these changes show that the federal government is deeply serious about ensuring police accountability and protecting civil rights. 

The bill does these things without neglecting important priorities elsewhere.  We reject the President’s proposed cuts to climate change research programs at NASA and NOAA, and instead, invest in those areas.  We promote economic development by supporting significant investments at the Economic Development Administration, the Minority Business Development Agency, and through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. We address gun violence by increasing ATF’s budget by $150 million, by sustaining funding for the NICS program and grants, and by increasing funding for the STOP School Violence Act.  We promote criminal justice reform with large increases for both the First Step Act and the Second Chance Act.  And we increase funding to address the ongoing opioid epidemic.

The bill also ensures that our nation’s scientific leadership can continue, by increasing funding by $270 million for the National Science Foundation, by $35 million for core NIST activities, and by $101.9 million for NOAA.  We also include significant funding for the educational components of NASA, NSF, and NOAA to ensure we are training the next generation of scientists to continue this work.

Before I close here, I do want to recognize the subcommittee staff and my personal staff for their work on this bill.  It has been an enormous effort this year under extremely difficult circumstances.  On the majority staff, let me thank our Clerk, Bob Bonner, as well as Jeff Ashford, B.G. Wright, Faye Cobb, Shannon McCully, T.J. Lowdermilk, and Trisha Castañeda, and on the Minority side, I want to thank Stephanie Gadbois, Kristin Richmond, and Darren Benjamin.  I also want to thank my personal staff, Marcus Garza, Angel Nigaglioni, and Matt Alpert for their work as well.  They are all truly remarkable. 

Let me also take a moment to recognize and thank the Ranking Member, Mr. Aderholt, for his contributions and partnership on this bill.  I know he doesn’t agree with everything here, but I greatly appreciate his input and friendship. 

Lastly, I also want to recognize several Members, who, in addition to Chair Lowey, will be retiring at the end of this Congress.  Mr. Visclosky, Mr. Graves, Ms. Roby, and Mr. Hurd have all been key parts of this Committee and this Congress.  I will miss their experience and their kindness.

Of course, I am retiring as well.  I have loved serving in this institution and this committee- serving here has been the honor of my life.  To have gone from Mayaguez, to Mill Brook Houses, to the New York State Assembly, to the halls of Congress is truly the American Dream.   

Thank you Madam Chair, and I yield back.



116th Congress