THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - June 16, 2017

Jun 19, 2017

In this issue:

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Thoughts and prayers

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with my colleague, Congressman Steve Scalise, and the others wounded in the horrific shooting at the Congressional Baseball Game practice in Alexandria, Virginia on Wednesday. Our deepest gratitude goes to the brave men and women of the Capitol Police, who were heroes that day, as they are every day. Despite the shooting, Chairman Tim Walberg and I decided that it was important to continue forward with the business of Congress and that afternoon held a previously scheduled Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee hearing. One of the wounded, Matt Mika, was a former member of Chairman Walberg’s staff.  Our remarks on the shooting incident are here at the opening of the hearing.

VA to look at Marianas clinic

My request that the Department of Veterans Affairs report to Congress on what prevents setting up a health clinic in the Marianas and other underserved areas is now part of Military Construction and Veterans Affairs spending bill for fiscal year 2018. The report will also look at whether existing health care providers in remote areas can meet veterans needs. The House Appropriations Committee included my provision in the bill on Thursday. Next, the appropriation goes to the House floor for a vote. When I met with VA Secretary David Shulkin in May, we agreed to work on a community-based health clinic for the Marianas. The congressional requirement for a report will keep a fire lit under that project. The 2018 MilCon/VA appropriation provides $4 billion more for the Department than last year. And Congress will direct the funds towards improving veterans’ access to services and increasing oversight and accountability within the VA

WWII survivors sought

Eastern Carolina University faculty will be on Saipan in July to talk with veterans, their families, and other survivors about their experiences in World War II. The researchers will also train local volunteers to lead discussions. The academic project—War in the Pacific: A Difficult Heritage—is a partnership with the Northern Marianas Humanities Council and the Saipan Historic Preservation Office. Funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The 17th century Spanish-Chamorro Wars and the WWII Battle of Saipan will serve as bookends to the history of resistance and aggressions in our islands. To learn more and how to participate, call the Humanities Council at (670) 235-4785 or visit: https://cnmiheritage.wordpress.com/. On Facebook go to War in the Pacific. Or e-mail lead researcher Dr. McKinnon at mckinnonje@ecu.edu.

Arts, humanities are "essential"

Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has responded to my letter in support of funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities saying, “the Administration does not consider [the Endowments] to be core federal responsibilities.” I profoundly disagree. And I am in good company. As President Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it, “The humanities teach us who we are and what we can be. … The arts are among our nation’s finest creations and the reflection of freedom’s light.” The Administration plans to cut all funding for the Endowments, $300 million, to help offset $54 billion in extra defense spending. I understand the need for a strong defense, but to quote another president, George Washington, the arts “are essential to the prosperity of the state.”

Holding the line on EPA funding

As the Pacific Islands Environmental Conference on Saipan concludes, I want to say thanks to Region IX Administrator Alexis Strauss, who was there, and all the team at the Environmental Protection Agency office in San Francisco. From the Tanapag PCB clean-up to the closure of the Puerto Rico dump EPA has been one of the Marianas’ best federal partners. So, I am disturbed by the huge cuts that President Trump proposed for the agency in his fiscal year 2018 budget. The Marianas received $2.1 million in direct grants from EPA in fiscal 2017, mostly funding BECQ. Trump wants to cut that by $926,678. BECQ also got $1 million from the federal Coastal Zone Management program to help control development on our shoreline. Trump wants to end that program entirely. And the President proposes cutting about $1 million from the water and sewer project money the Marianas gets each year. I worked hard to change the water and sewer funding formulas, when I first came to Congress. As a result, our share was $55 million from 2010 through 2016, instead of just $6 million under the old formula. Imagine if CUC ratepayers had to make up that $49 million difference! See the projects that $55 million paid for here.

$1.4M for workforce training

The Marianas is receiving $422,385 for Youth, $399,609 for Adults, and $608,422 for Dislocated Workers to help with job training and career services, such as counseling, work search assistance, and development of individual employment plans.  The $1.4 million in total funding comes from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act produced by the Education and the Workforce Committee, on which I sit, in the 113th Congress. Youth services will particularly focus on those who are no longer in formal schools and could include occupational skill training and job mentoring.

$2.5 million for fish and wildlife

The Marianas is receiving $1.3 million for wildlife and habitat restoration and another $1.2 million for sportfish restoration projects. Congress authorized the grants in the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Acts. Funding comes from excise taxes paid everywhere in the U.S. on firearms and ammunition, sport fishing gear, boat engines and fuel. And American Samoa, Guam, the Marianas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all receive the same amount. In addition to protecting wildlife and habitat, the money can be used for projects that benefit public use, such as boat access development and maintenance, and for land acquisition. I believe we hold our islands in trust and have a moral responsibility to leave them in better shape than when we were given stewardship. These federal grants help us meet that responsibility. But caring for, restoring, improving the lands and waters of the Marianas is not only for the future. We all benefit today from having a healthy environment.

OPPORTUNITIES

Jobs:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

On the Floor

  • H.R.338 — To promote a 21st century energy and manufacturing workforce (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.627 — Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act of 2017 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • S.1094 — Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 (Passed, 368-55)
  • H.R.1109 — To amend section 203 of the Federal Power Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.2274 — HYPE Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.2372 — VETERAN Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.2579 — Broader Options for Americans Act (Passed, 267-144)
  • H.R.2581 — Verify First Act (Passed, 238-184)

Legislation I Cosponsored

  • H.R.2915 — To repeal section 3003 of the Carl Levin and Howard P. "Buck" McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015
  • H.Res.380 — Commemorating one year since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016.

NEXT WEEK

On the Floor

  • H.R.1654 — Water Supply Permitting Coordination Act
  • H.R.1873 — Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act
  • H.R.2353 — Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act
  • H.R.2842 — Accelerating Individuals into the Workforce Act

Committee Hearings
Wednesday, June 21

  • Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2662, “Restoring Accountability in the Indian Health Service Act of 2017"

Thursday, June 22

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “Examining the Department of the Interior’s Spending Priorities and the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal”
  • Committee on Education and the Workforce Hearing on “Student Safety in the Job Corps Program”