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

2020-07-08 09:00

WASHINGTON — 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 2021 bill:

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 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 at a moment of reckoning with its history and its present concerning racial discrimination, civil rights, and police violence and accountability.  This moment is long overdue in places like the community I represent in the South Bronx.  The federal government, and in particular this subcommittee, has an important role to play in addressing these problems, and it is my intent that this bill is a driving force for change.  Toward that end, this bill includes major reform efforts to enhance law enforcement accountability and to better protect our civil rights.

The bill includes increased 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 these types of accountability measures.  The bill provides funding for a National Task Force on Law Enforcement Oversight and a National Police Misconduct Database.  In addition, the bill includes more than $500 million for new grant programs proposed in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to drive law enforcement reform and accountability practices.  And we accelerate the momentum for reform by requiring recipients of Federal law enforcement grants  to first put strong reform efforts into effect at the state and local levels, 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 other words, this subcommittee will not tolerate police violence and the abuse of civil rights using Federal dollars.

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 invest in reducing 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.  And we promote criminal justice reform with large increases for both the First Step Act and the Second Chance Act.

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 at NOAA.  The bill includes 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 we have done, but I think we have always been able to have an open and honest dialogue. 

Lastly, I also want to recognize several Members, who, like myself, will be retiring at the end of this Congress.  Mr. Graves and Ms. Roby, I want to thank you for your contributions to this bill and this subcommittee. We have been lucky to have you here, and to count on your experience and wisdom.  I also want to reserve a special thank you for my compatriot and dear friend from New York, Chairwoman Lowey.  We have served together in this body, and on this Committee, for a long time- in fact many years ago we were appointed to Appropriations on the very same day.  It has been a true privilege to serve with someone so dedicated to her community and this institution.

On a personal note, barring something unusual, this is the last markup I’ll be chairing as a Cardinal of the Appropriations Committee.  I just want to say that it has been an honor to serve with all of you these past two years on this subcommittee, and with many of you for years before that.  This is a special place, and despite our strong differences sometimes, we all are striving to make this country live up to its ideals.  

At this time, I would like to yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Aderholt, for his opening remarks.


116th Congress