Rep. Pascrell Endorses Omnibus Appropriations Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), a member of the House Budget and Ways & Means Committees, voted in favor or a measure to fund the government. The House adopted the $1.1 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016 by a vote of 316 to 113, and with Senate passage, the bill goes to the President for signature.
“While not everything we wanted, I am pleased that this budget ensures stable funding and government operations and, most importantly, it helps families in New Jersey by putting more money in their pockets. It invests in our schools, our police departments, our firehouses,” Rep. Pascrell said. “With this vote today, Congress has made a down payment on our future. This is a hard-fought victory for all of us who have working families at the top of our priorities list.”
“We fought against poison pills that would have limited health care options and chiseled away at water and air protections. We installed tax credits for renewable energy and made investments in education, defense, and research. These things hit home and we weren’t going to let up,” concluded Pascrell.
Among the notable provisions of the bill were:
Traumatic Brain Injury funding
As co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Rep. Pascrell has long advocated for investments in the research, prevention, and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI). He was successful in ensuring those investments in the omnibus. Programs for TBI prevention and resources for states and TBI survivors through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the TBI Act, which Rep. Pascrell passed into law, were fully funded. Brain research through the BRAIN Initiative will be provided with an additional $85 million under this bill. Additionally, Rep. Pascrell successfully restored $25 million that House Republicans cut from the Department of Defense’s Defense Health Program on TBI and Psychological Health through an amendment earlier this year.
“The House considered cutting $25 million and made requirements of other funds, but I kept on it at every turn,” said Pascrell. “The funding was restored and the requirements were met. This issue is still being understood and its consequences calibrated. We need to do more, not less.”
Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation
Rep. Pascrell has been a champion of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act since its inception. The omnibus includes a long-term extension and funding for the 9/11 Health Program and the Victims Compensation Fund to ensure that these heroes have access to the health care they need and families have adequate financial support.
“We have an obligation to care for the first emergency responders, the firefighters, and the police that worked on our nation’s behalf after we were attacked on 9/11,” said Pascrell, who represents North Arlington, the hometown of James Zadroga. “It is the job of the U.S. Government to protect those who protect us. Renewing the program that provides these heroes and their families with the health care and financial support they need should have been a no-brainer, not a bargaining chip. Nevertheless, I am pleased that we will have a long term extension of the Zadroga Act programs to care for and support those who answered the call of duty at Ground Zero.”
Teterboro Size and Weight Amendment
Rep. Pascrell backed an amendment, along with New Jersey Senators, successfully added to annual transportation funding bill drafts this year preventing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from advancing any proposal to lift the 100,000 pound weight limit at Teterboro Airport.
“Our amendment was included to continue safeguarding the region from the dangers and disruption caused by larger jets by prohibiting the FAA from overriding decision making on air traffic by the states of New Jersey and New York,” Pascrell said. “This must be a local decision.”
Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program is funded at $2.332 billion, an increase from $2.318 billion in FY15.
“The government at one time turned its back on this grave health issue,” Pascrell said. He has been the lead signatory of the House letter to the Appropriations Committee every year requesting funding for this program. “Not on my watch.”
Non-Profit Security Grant Program
The Non-Profit Security Grant Program is funded at $20 million (the highest level since FY07). This is an increase from $13 million in FY15.
“In my district we’ve seen that community centers, places of worship, medical centers, and other gathering places need increased security,” said Pascrell, who co-led a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting $25 million in funding. “With this funding, they can make the necessary upgrades so that the people of North Jersey feel safer.”
As the co-chair of the Law Enforcement Caucus, Rep. Pascrell has worked on a bipartisan basis to preserve federal funding for two crucial law enforcement programs, the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program and the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Through those efforts he was successful in bolstering funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Grant: $187 million, up from $180 million in FY15 and $187 million above the House GOP bill, which had eliminated the hiring grants. Additionally, Rep. Pascrell successfully ensured the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) received adequate funding to help local police departments across the nation meet their hiring needs: $476 million, up from $376 in FY15, with the increase dedicated to security for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
“It’s our duty to ensure our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to keep our streets safe. As police departments across the country continue to face budget constraints, these federal funds will allow our police departments to put cops on the street, where they can work with our communities to build partnerships built on trust. As our first line of defense we must continue support the brave men and women who protect us every day,” said Pascrell, who took the lead on an amendment to the subcommittee appropriations bill that increased Byrne JAG by $100 million to fund police hiring.
As chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and author of the Firefighter Investment and Response Enhancement (FIRE) Act, which established the firefighter assistance grants, Rep. Pascrell has fought to protect these federal assistance programs that have a positive impact in our communities during these difficult economic times. Earlier this year Rep. Pascrell co-led a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting $810 million to be equally split between Assistance to Firefighters Grants and SAFER Grants. Those efforts were successful in securing $690 million for these programs; $345 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (helps purchase equipment, protective gear, and vehicles) and $345 million for SAFER (helps fund firefighter hiring), up from $680 million in FY15.
“As a former mayor, I know the positive impact that federal assistance has in our local municipalities,” said Pascrell. “The equipment, training and additional hiring made available by these funds will ensure that our firefighters are best prepared to respond to emergencies and protect our communities. This is a worthy federal investment that will improve public safety.”
Pascrell co-led a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting increased funding for the refugee accounts. All funding levels were increased or remained level, but the reductions were avoided. Specifically, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s International Disaster Assistance received $874.763 million in FY16, up from $560 million in FY15, the Department HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Refugee and Entrant Assistance received $1.674 billion in FY16, up from $1.559 billion in FY15, and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate received $259.350 million in FY16, up from $239.065 million in FY15.
“So many of our families came from places where freedom was not an option. Our ancestors voted with their feet, which is exactly what these refugees are doing,” said Pascrell, who has been extremely active in helping to ensure that Syrian refugees have the ability to take refuge in the U.S. “America has always been the bulwark against tyranny. Nothing should change that now.”
Rep. Pascrell expressed concern about the inclusion of harmful appropriations riders in the omnibus. He signed a letter to House Leadership requesting that no harmful riders be included, including those on funding health care for women. In particular, the congressman was pleased that the bill did not include a provision which would have made it more difficult for or completely banned Syrian refugees from coming to the United States.
“These people are running from the terror, not invoking it,” said Pascrell, who co-led a letter to House Leadership urging them not to include any riders on Syrian refugees. “We are America, a place of refuge in the worst of times and it is the worst of times for these people. This was an important point of principle for me.”
• Renewable Energy: Provides a major boost to renewable energy by extending the wind Production Tax Credit for five years (through 2019), and extending the solar Investment Tax Credit for five years (through 2021), while phasing both credits down somewhat over time. Extending the solar tax credit is estimated to create 61,000 jobs in 2017 alone. It is also estimated that the wind industry will grow to over 100,000 jobs over four years with the renewed wind tax credit.
• Delays the so-called “Cadillac” tax, a tax on employer-provided health plans worth over a certain threshold, for two years – from 2018 to 2020. Rep. Pascrell is cosponsor of legislation to repeal the tax.