Hoeven: Congress Passes Omnibus Appropriations Legislation for 2015
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, who serves on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that the U.S. Senate and House have passed an omnibus appropriations bill, a bipartisan measure that will fund the U.S. federal government through September of 2015. The House of Representatives passed the measure by a vote of 219 to 206, with 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voting for the bill. The Senate vote was 54 to 40.
“It’s important that we passed this bill to keep the government funded,” Hoeven said. “It actually reduces spending, which is very important to reduce the deficit and the debt, but at the same time, funds important priorities, like agriculture and aviation, as well as defense, to keep our military strong, and law enforcement. Importantly, too, we begin to reduce regulatory overreach by directing the EPA to withdraw the interpretive rule for the Waters of the U.S., which is a step toward rescinding the entire rule.”
The total discretionary spending level for Fiscal Year 2015 is consistent with the level provided in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. It reduces spending compared to FY 2014 from just over $1.1 trillion to under $1.1 trillion, and by almost $400 billion below 2009 levels, from $1.5 trillion to $1.1 trillion.
The legislation funds all federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2015 except for the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded only through February 27, 2015. That will give lawmakers in the new Congress time to address President Obama’s executive action on immigration and work to strengthen border security.
Priorities that Senator Hoeven pushed for North Dakota include measures to bolster America’s military strength and support veterans services; strengthen law enforcement in western North Dakota and on tribal lands; advance aviation; and support our farmers and ranchers.
- Maintaining the Nuclear Triad: Includes the Hoeven-Tester amendment that passed in committee which prohibits the administration from cutting any additional nuclear missiles or bombers in Fiscal Year 2015 and ensures all 450 ICBM silos remain in operational or “warm” status. Minot Air Force Base is home to two legs of the triad.
- Nuclear Force Improvement Program: Devotes $21 million for the Air Force's Nuclear Force Improvement Program. This money represents an initial investment to upgrade basic equipment and facilities associated with the nuclear missions at Minot Air Force Base. Hoeven worked with the Air Force to start this program earlier in 2014.
- Cruise Missile Warhead: Includes $9.4 million to begin a development of an updated warhead for the air-launched cruise missile (ALCM). Hoeven worked with the committee to include this funding to extend the viability of the ALCM, which the primary nuclear weapon carried on the B-52.
- B-52 Anti-Skid Replacement: Allocates $6.3 million requested by Hoeven to replace the B-52's anti-skid system. This equipment is aging and funding in this bill will accelerate the replacement process for the full B-52 fleet.
- Army Guard Shop: Appropriates $10.8 million for an Army Corps Guard Vehicle Maintenance Shop in Valley City, ND.
- Global Hawk funding: Provides full funding for the RQ-4 Global Hawk in 2015. The Air Force previously considered divesting the Global Hawk fleet but later reconsidered and now plans to keep the Global Hawk and divest the older U-2 fleet. Grand Forks Air Force base hosts a Global Hawk mission.
- UAS Research: Includes an additional $7.8 million Hoeven requested for UAS research at the Department of Defense and an additional $6 million for UAS research at the FAA. This funding will support integration research projects that can be performed at the UAS test sites and the establishment of a Center of Excellence for UAS research.
- Veterans Administration Claims Backlog: Provides $2.5 billion to help reduce the backlog of Veterans Administration disability claims.
- VA Medical Services: Includes $7.2 billion in mental health care services. Hoeven requested prioritized funding for a range of critical veterans’ needs, including $133 million in suicide prevention activities and $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment. These mental health needs are increasingly pronounced among the Veteran community, and the senator urge enhanced efforts to comprehensively meet these needs coupled with prioritized funding. The measure also includes $7.4 billion in homeless veterans’ treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PUBLIC SAFETY
- State and Local Law Enforcement: Boosts support for state and local law enforcement entities by $54.5 million to a total of $2.3 billion.
- Williston Community Safety and Law Enforcement Issues: Continues to support permanent FBI presence in Williston and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents in the western region of North Dakota. Additionally, it increases funding for DEA by $15.3 million.
- Bureau of Indian Affairs: Provides $2.6 billion for the agency, a $70 million increase. The bill also increases funding for tribal law enforcement to $193 million. The measure also includes funding to conduct background checks on foster care parents. Hoeven has authored a bipartisan bill requiring background checks for all adults living in a foster home where children have been placed by tribal courts.
- Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA): Provides an additional $9.1 million over 2014 levels for PHMSA to make rail transport safer, including support for more pipeline inspectors, and to establish national policy, set and enforce standards, educate and conduct research to prevent incidents in transporting hazardous materials.
- Tanker Car Design: Directs the Secretary of Transportation to finalize DOT -111 tank car design regulations no later than January 15.
- Waters of the U.S.: Requires the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the Waters of the U.S. Interpretive Rule issued this spring that made it more difficult for farmers and ranchers to qualify for an exemption from burdensome Clean Water Act (CWA) dredge and fill regulations for normal farming and ranching activities. Hoeven will continue to work in the next Congress for withdrawal of the larger proposed EPA and Army Corps rule, which would bring almost every acre of wet ground under federal CWA jurisdiction.
- Ammunition Lead Content (EPA): Includes a House provision that prohibits any funds in the bill from being used to regulate the lead content of ammunition and fishing tackle. Currently, it is regulated at the state level and there have been fears that EPA might seek to regulate in this area. Preventing this regulation has bipartisan and bicameral support.
- Fargo Diversion: Includes language allowing the administration to start new construction projects in Fiscal Year 2015. In selecting new projects for construction, the language directs the administration to prioritize projects where the local project sponsor is prepared to pay its share of the project’s total cost and where the local sponsor can implement the project by identifying alternate sources of funding to bring down the federal government's share of project costs. This will help the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion project compete for funding from the Army Corps of Engineers.
- Agriculture Research and Services: Provides $1.13 billion for the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), which conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of national priority. Senator Hoeven announced in August that USDA’s ARS Bioscience Research Laboratory on the campus of North Dakota State University has been selected as the site for the newly formed National Agricultural Genotyping Center. In addition, the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory funded through ARS develops environmentally sounds practices and adds value to agricultural systems.
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture: Provides $787 million to support research, extension, and higher education at America’s land-grant universities and related institutions, including North Dakota State University.
- NRCS Water Bank Program: Provides $4 million to help preserve and enhance wetlands for habitat, improve water quality and compensate producers for flooded land.
- Whole Grains: Includes Hoeven’s amendment that allows states to waive new whole grain-rich requirements for school meals that took effect on July 1, 2014, provided that school food authorities establish hardship from this requirement.
- Sodium: Includes Hoeven’s provision that prevents the Department of Agriculture from requiring sodium reductions in school meals below current levels of Target 1 until the latest scientific research establishes that the reduction is beneficial for children.
- White Potatoes: Includes a provision that prohibits USDA from excluding white potatoes from the WIC program, until the completion of the next regularly scheduled IOM review. The results of the review would drive future decisions on the exclusion of potatoes.
- Impact Aid: Includes $1.3 billion to support school districts impacted by the presence of federal lands.
- EPSCoR: Supports research and development at colleges and universities in states that historically received limited National Science Foundation (NSF) research and development funding. It was established to increase the geographic distribution of federal research and development funding.
- Tribally Controlled Postsecondary Career & Technical Education: Supports education and training of American Indian students, including programs at United Tribes Technical College.
- Health Care Workforce Development and Rural Health: Appropriates $6.3 billion, an increase of $23.8 million over last year. The majority of the increases can be directed to Rural Health and Health Workforce programs, including Primary Care Medicine, Oral Health, Preventative Medicine and Nursing.
- $17.4 million increase for the Bureau of Health Professions.
- $5.1 million increase for the Office of Rural Health programs. That includes
- $2 million increase for Rural Outreach Grants.
- $1 million increase for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants.
- $1.1 million increase for the Rural/Community Access to Emergency Devices
- $1 million increase for Telehealth.
- Essential Air Service (EAS): Provides $155 million to ensure that small communities are served by certified air carriers and maintain a minimum level of schedule air service.
- Airport Improvement Program (AIP): Includes $3.35 billion to continue awarding grants to airports for planning and development of public-use airports. This money is used to fix and improve runways, taxiways, airfield lighting, airport layout and a number of other areas of an airfield to increase safety and functionality. Communities like Minot, Dickinson, Williston and others across North Dakota are experiencing ever-increasing boardings and we need air service infrastructure to grow with our state.
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