Serrano statement at subcommittee markup of 2018 Commerce Justice Science Appropriations bill
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is my first year back as the Ranking Member of the CJS subcommittee, and I just want to take a moment to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for being so welcoming in my return as Ranking Member. I have been a part of this subcommittee for a long time, and I am glad to see that you have continued the bipartisan traditions from Chairman Wolf and Chairman Rogers. Although we don’t agree on everything in this bill, you have always tried to be fair to our side and to find common ground where it is available.
I also want to take a moment to thank staff on both sides for their hard work on this bill. They were given challenging circumstances in which to draft a bill and report this year, so it is a testament to their dedication and commitment that they have once again risen to the occasion.
I wish we could be here in other circumstances. After scorekeeping adjustments, the bill includes an approximately 1 percent cut from last year’s funding level in the Omnibus. This funding level is inadequate given the key roles that the agencies under this subcommittee play in securing our nation, promoting economic development, and ensuring our leadership in scientific endeavors. That has resulted in some difficult choices by the majority, many of which I do not agree with.
Before I detail my concerns, let me point out some of the important investments that this bill makes. The Chairman’s Mark rejects some of the Trump Administration’s worst proposals. That includes rejecting cuts to National Science Foundation research and the Minority Business Development Agency, both of which are held flat here. There is an increase included for both the FBI and the ATF, which have critical law enforcement roles. The bill also largely rejects efforts to cut funding for the educational efforts at both NSF and NASA, which help inspire and train our next generation of scientists.
But I am concerned that several other programs and agencies are inadequately funded.
The Legal Services Corporation is cut by $85 million dollars from FY 2017. As a strong supporter of LSC, I think this is very unwise. LSC grants help local providers assist veterans, domestic violence victims, the elderly and many others to assert their rights. The LSC plays a crucial role in ensuring that our legal and constitutional rights are available to all Americans- not just those who can afford it. I hope we can work together to increase this amount.
Programs that conduct crucial climate change research are also shortchanged in this bill. There is a 19 percent cut to NOAA climate research, and NASA’s Earth Science program is cut by $217 million below last year, and $50 million less than what the Trump Administration requested. The result of this is that we will jeopardize our ability to improve our scientific understanding of the Earth system and its changes, which will undermine our ability to protect the health and safety of our communities.
The Justice Department is underfunded in a number of critical areas. The bill largely eliminates COPS Hiring grants. It is deeply troubling that this effective program, which supports important police reform and public safety initiatives, is being tossed aside. I am also troubled by the proposed elimination of two crucial juvenile justice grant programs, the State Formula Grants and the Delinquency Prevention Incentive Grants. These grant eliminations, among others, will harm efforts to reduce crime, promote police-community relations, and prevent recidivism.
The Census Bureau is also inadequately funded. Although the Periodic Censuses and Programs account is given the requested amount in FY 2018, the Trump Administration shortchanged the important planning and testing tools that are needed now to prevent higher costs in the future. Without this crucial testing now, the initial response rates will drop and costs will rise. The Trump budget in this area is penny-wise and pound foolish, and I think we need to do more to correct this mistake.
President Trump proposed ending Federal support for Economic Development Administration programs and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. While the chairman’s mark does not copy that proposal, it still contains huge cuts to both of these programs. These programs help create and retain tens of thousands of American jobs every year.
Lastly, I am also troubled that this proposal allows several of the Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities to go forward, including new attorneys for eminent domain proceedings along the border, and additional attorneys for criminal immigration prosecution efforts. At best, this is an unwise choice. 52 percent of criminal prosecutions at DOJ are already immigration related- there is a practical limit to how much we can do before we intrude upon the other important missions of the Department.
Before I conclude, let me also mention a few troubling riders that are included in the bill. There is a rider to prevent the US Patent and Trademark Office from approving trademarks for any company that has confiscated property in Cuba. Aside from harming our diplomatic efforts with Cuba, this is an impossible standard that the USPTO says they cannot meet. The bill also includes a rider to prevent an ATF demand memo on multiple long gun sales along the border from being enforced. This rider will harm public safety. And lastly, the bill attempts to make permanent four annual gun related riders. I think that these riders undermine eventual bipartisan compromise.
I hope we will be able to find the common ground necessary to reach bipartisan compromise as this bill moves forward. That starts with increasing funding for domestic spending priorities, including in this bill. But as it stands, I cannot support this legislation in its current form.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.