Hoeven: Appropriations Committee Votes Out Key Bills

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today outlined features in a number of key appropriations bills that affect North Dakota that were passed Wednesday night in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, on which he serves. The measures include support for increased CDBG funding for flood impacted North Dakota communities, a review of Souris River system management, Grand Forks Air Force Base, an accountability measure in the President’s health care bill and other provisions benefiting North Dakota communities.

“While we secured valuable provisions for North Dakota and the country in these appropriations, we also worked to reduce overall spending levels and meet the requirements of the Budget Control Act,” Hoeven said. “While this is a start, it’s essential that we to continue to find savings, as well as undertake tax and entitlement reform in order to reduce the deficit and debt.”

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Emergency Roads Assistance

          The Appropriations Committee approved a $400 million measure to fund Community Development Block Grants to help Americans working to recover from recent natural disasters, including residents of North Dakota. Hoeven sponsored an amendment with Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri to secure additional CDBG funding to help North Dakotans hard hit by this season’s historic flooding on the Mouse and Missouri rivers.

          Appropriators also approved $2 billion in Emergency Roads Assistance funding, which will help communities throughout North Dakota repair roads and other transportation infrastructure damaged from flooding.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The committee approved language Hoeven introduced to the bill supporting approval for unmanned and manned aerial vehicles to fly concurrently in the National Air Space. Additional language was added to ensure good communications between regional offices to ensure timely delivery of unmanned aircraft to the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Earlier this year, Hoeven introduced an amendment to the FAA bill that calls for the agency to develop a process to integrate unmanned aerial systems – unmanned aerial vehicles and remotely piloted aircraft – into the National Airspace System (NAS).  It also called for establishing pilot projects across the country at sites like Grand Forks Air Force Base.

U.S. State Department

Hoeven introduced language in the State Department bill requiring the Secretary of State to request a review of the Souris River management plan by the Souris River Board, which is administered by the International Joint Commission. The measure is intended to ensure that there are adequate flood protections in place for next year.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Appropriators approved a measure incorporating an amendment introduced by Senator Hoeven designed to ensure that health care funds expended by the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for prevention programs are used effectively to reduce health care costs. The health care appropriations bill also includes measures to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, and to support rural Community Health Centers.

Department of Labor (DoL)

          The Labor Department appropriation holds funding at the Fiscal Year 2011 level, and continues to support the Burdick Job Corps.

          Appropriators also approved $3.6 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists low-income residents with the cost of home heating.