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

2019-05-17 09:06

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

The Subcommittee will come to order.  Today’s markup of the fiscal year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is the culmination of a lot of hard work by this 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 about their thoughts on this bill.

To address the many challenges faced by the wide variety of agencies under this subcommittee’s jurisdiction, this bill includes a net discretionary total of $73.985 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, our country’s engines of innovation and research, and the decennial census.  We have also been able to increase funding for programs and research focused on climate change, and for efforts to address gun violence.  I will go into a little more detail on some of these areas.

Next April 1st is 2020 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 level will allow the Bureau to conduct a comprehensive outreach effort to all communities, as well as to maximize cybersecurity efforts, and to provide sufficient contingency funding for potential issues the Bureau will need to manage, such as lower-than-anticipated response rates or higher rates of 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 is 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.  The mark also provides $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 ensure our continued leadership in research and innovation, this bill adds significant 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 essential 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 Chairman’s Mark 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 also fully funds Violence Against Women Act programs and provides significant funding to address the opioid crisis that is devastating our communities, including the Bronx.  Lastly, the bill includes new grant funding to provide legal representation in our immigration court system.

Before I conclude, I really want to thank Ranking Member Aderholt and all the subcommittee members for their hard work and input into this bill.  Although we have both been on the Appropriations Committee for a long time, this was the first chance that Ranking Member Aderholt and I had the opportunity to work directly together, and I really appreciate his contributions to the hearings and to the product before us today.  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, who have been going non-stop since January, and on the Minority side, I want to thank Stephanie Gadbois and Kristin Richmond.  They are the folks who make us all look good, and their hard work and dedication is truly appreciated.

I think this is a very good bill that incorporates many of the priorities on both sides of the aisle.  I urge all my colleagues to support it.

With that, let me turn to my friend and colleague, Mr. Aderholt.


116th Congress