THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - April 27, 2012

Apr 27, 2012

In this issue:

  • Republicans vote to cut territory Medicaid
  • NMI Title I education funding increases to $4 million
  • Delegates fight to maintain territorial highway funds
  • Bipartisan support lines up for Special Diabetes Program
  • Out of Poverty Caucus supports AYUDA Act
  • Congressional dining room features Northern Marianas specialties
  • OPPORTUNITIES: Federal contracts, grants, and jobs for and in the Marianas
  • Highlights in the Legislative Program

Republicans vote to cut territory Medicaid.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted this week to take away about $100 million in Medicaid funding from the Northern Mariana Islands and increase our local match by 11%. All the U.S. territories would lose the Medicaid funding we won in health care reform—Obamacare—when Democrats led Congress in 2010. With the Commonwealth Health Center in serious jeopardy, with little kids getting turned away from the dentist, there could not be a worse time for Republicans to steal away our Medicaid money. Territorial delegates worked together to block the legislation. But Republicans killed an amendment offered by Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), who is a member of the Committee, on a straight party line vote. 30 Republicans voted to slash Medicaid for the territories by 65% over the coming decade. The 21 Committee Democrats voted to protect the territorial Medicaid money and maintain the current 55-45 federal-local match. Medicaid is the federal health care program for those with low income. About 14,700 people in the Marianas, who cannot afford care, are eligible for hospital care, outpatient services, and prescription drugs through Medicaid. As with last week’s vote in the Agriculture Committee to cut food stamps funding our poor families rely on, Republicans in Congress are choosing to balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.

NMI Title I education funding increases to $4 million.

Federal Title I education funding for the Public School System will increase to $4 million for the upcoming school year, up from $3.7 million last year. The U.S. Department of Education made the announcement this week. Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act provides financial assistance to local educational agencies with significant populations of children from low-income families. School Year 2012-13 funding may be increased more in October, when a second allotment is made based on 2010 Census data expected to be released this summer. Increases in the number of Marianas families eligible for Medicaid and food stamps suggest that incomes have plunged, which should make more Title I funding available for the NMI. The increase announced this week and expected in the fall is welcome news for PSS and our students, especially in light of dwindling local revenues for education.

Delegates fight to maintain territorial highway funds.

The representatives from American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are working together to maintain the current annual funding levels for the Territorial Highway Program. House and Senate conferees were appointed this week to settle differences between the House and Senate surface transportation reauthorization bills. The Senate bill, S.1813, decreases the territorial fund to $45 million, while the House version, H.R. 4348, keeps funding at the present level of $50 million. In our letter to the conference committee, we supported the House funding level and also requested that the territories be eligible for certain discretionary and planning grant programs not now available to us. House and Senate conferees are expected to hammer out the details of the reauthorization bill as soon as May 7. The transportation bill expired at the end of fiscal year 2009; since then, the surface transportation programs have been funded under temporary extensions. 

Bipartisan support lines up for Special Diabetes Program.

Along with 251 of my colleagues in Congress, I wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program. The program funds diabetes research studies, preventative care, and services for those diagnosed with diabetes. Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from this chronic disease. And according to Department of Public Health, 71 percent of adults admitted to the Commonwealth Health Center have diabetes. Congress should continue to support the Special Diabetes Program.  Many advances and research breakthroughs made possible through the program are already improving the health care of millions of Americans suffering from this terrible disease, helping to drive costs down.

Out of Poverty Caucus supports AYUDA Act.

The Congressional Out of Poverty Caucus has endorsed my bill to include the Northern Marianas in the national food stamp program. H.R. 1465, the AYUDA Act of 2011, has been posted to the Caucus website along with other legislative proposals to help those most in need. The mission of the Caucus, of which I am a member, is “to bring together lawmakers, organizations, community leaders, and other key stakeholders to find concrete solutions to end poverty. The COPC is committed to increasing awareness about and finding bipartisan legislative solutions to eliminating poverty in the United States.”  

Congressional dining room features Northern Marianas specialties.

This week, the Members’ Dining Room at the U.S. House of Representatives served up food specialties of the Northern Mariana Islands as part of its program to “Celebrate America” with recipes from each state and territory. A three-course meal of Kelaguen mannok (lemon coconut chicken), pork ribs estufao, and madoya aga’ (fried banana) was on the menu for Members of Congress, their staff and visitors. While I believe dining at the Member’s Dining Room would not appropriate when many of the people in the Northern Marianas do not have enough to eat, I appreciate that those who did eat there this week had the opportunity to taste our delicious island food and experience a wonderful part of our culture. Hopefully through this culinary diplomacy, we can create lasting and positive impressions of the Northern Mariana Islands.

OPPORTUNITIES: Federal contracts, grants, and jobs for and in the Marianas

GRANTS:

  • National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program  – The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program awards competitive grants to fund projects that reduce emissions from existing diesel engines through a variety of strategies including emission control and idle reduction technologies; cleaner fuels; engine upgrades or replacements; and/or vehicle or equipment replacements. Closing date is June 4, 2012.  For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/otaq/diesel/prgnational.htm.
  • AP Test Fee Program deadline extended  – The Department of Education has extended the deadline for the Advanced Placement Test Fee Program. The AP Test Fee program awards grants to eligible State educational agencies to enable them to pay all or a portion of advanced placement test fees on behalf of eligible low-income students who are enrolled in an advanced placement course. The program is designed to increase the number of low income students who take advanced placement tests and receive scores for which college academic credit is awarded. Closing date is now May 4, 2012. For more information, go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-04-24/pdf/2012-9855.pdf.
  • Empowering Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities through Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Programs – The purpose of this opportunity is to help ensure that self-management education programs are embedded into the nation’s health and long-term services and supports systems. This effort will help preserve and expand the prevention program distribution and delivery systems that were developed through previous AoA Evidence-Based Disease and Disability Prevention Program and Recovery Act CDSMP grants. Closing date is June 11, 2012. For more information go to www.Grants.gov.
  • State Environmental Enforcement Training  – The Environmental Protection Agency's  State Environmental Enforcement Training Grant provides non-competitive grant funds for states to build and expand their training on environmental compliance and enforcement. Training is to be provided in traditional classroom and distance learning training such as webinars, virtual classrooms, and web-based courses using computer-based technologies. Closing date is June 8, 2012. For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/compliance/state/grants/seet.html.
  • Conservation Innovation Grants – The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is announcing the availability of Conservation Innovation Grants to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies. Eligible governmental or non-governmental organizations or individuals are encouraged to apply for competitive consideration of grant awards for projects between one and three years in duration. Closing date is May 25, 2012. For more information, go to www.Grants.gov.

JOBS:

  • Teacher – The Department of Defense Education Activity is accepting applications for a Teacher in Guam’s DOD Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools. DDESS teachers will use professional teaching skills to assist students achieve optimum development of skills and mastery of knowledge identified by the DoDEA Community Strategic Plan and Curriculum by conducting assigned subject matter or grade levels instruction. Job position is open until April 23, 2013. For more information, go to http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/314823800.
  • Antenna Mechanic  – The Department of the Navy is accepting applications for Antenna Mechanics in Guam. Duties include performing periodic inspections and repairs of faulty antenna and supporting structural hardware. Job position is open until May 2, 2012. For more information, go to http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/315368800.
  • Air Conditioning Equipment Mechanic – The Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, is accepting applications for Air Conditioning Equipment Mechanics at Andersen AFB, Guam. Duties include repairing and maintaining a variety of large commercial and industrial refrigeration and air conditioning systems and supporting equipment with complex problems and extensive repairs. Job position is open until May 1, 2012. For more information, go to http://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/315172100.

Highlights in the Legislative Program

THIS WEEK

On the floor

H.R.2146 – The DATA Act (Agreed to by voice vote)

H.R.3523 – The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Passed 248–168)

H.R.3336 – Small Business Credit Availability Act (Passed 312–111)

H.R.4257 – Federal Information Security Amendments Act of 2012 (Agreed to by voice vote)

H.R.2096 – Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2011, as amended

H.R.3834 – Advancing America's Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Act of 2012 (Agreed to by voice vote)

H.R.4628 – Interest Rate Reduction Act (Passed 215–195)

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period