Serrano statement at subcommittee markup of FY 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill
Thank you, Chairman Culberson. I want to thank you for your work in putting this bill together, and for listening to the priorities and concerns on this side of the aisle. Although we do not agree on everything in this bill, you have always tried to be fair to me and to our side of the aisle, and I appreciate how we have been able to work together.
There is a lot here that we can agree on in the Chairman’s mark. The bill provides $4.8 billion in funding for the Census Bureau, approximately $2 billion above last year’s level, and $1 billion above the request. At this critical time for the 2020 Census, this investment will help ensure the Bureau has the resources to move forward with its critical missions to ensure an accurate count. The bill also provides many needed investments in the National Science Foundation and at NASA, which will help ensure that our nation remains a leader in scientific discovery and development. And the bill includes increased funding for programs that focus on helping minorities- like the Hispanic Serving Institutions program at NSF, the Educational Partnership Program at NOAA, and the Minority Business Development Agency.
The bill also avoids some of the worst proposals in the Trump Administration budget request. It does not eliminate the Legal Services Corporation- instead holding the funding level steady. The bill does not zero out the Economic Development Administration at the Department of Commerce or the Community Relations Service at the Department of Justice – holding those at the same level of funding as last year’s bill as well. Our side would prefer to increase funding in all these areas, but the rejection of these program elimination proposals is a step in the right direction.
There are still many other problems that our side believes need to be addressed. As in past years, there are several riders having to do with guns that are made permanent in this bill. In addition, the majority has once again added a rider to prevent the reporting of multiple long gun purchases along the border, as well as an unnecessary Cuba related rider affecting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There are also cuts to several important climate programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration- including the coastal resilience grant program- and within the Juvenile Justice Programs account.
Moreover, this bill fails to address some of the most egregious actions taken by the Trump Administration to date to undermine due process, fairness, and our constitutional values. From the ongoing attacks on the Russia investigation and Special Counsel, to the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census form, to attempts to tilt the scales of justice in our immigration courts- there seems to be an endless series of actions taken by the President and his appointees to weaken many of our cherished democratic principles. It is up to this branch of the federal government to reign in these excesses, but this bill fails in that regard.
We’ll have more to discuss at the full committee markup, but for the moment, let me conclude by thanking Chairman Culberson and the staff of both the majority and minority for working long hours to put this bill and report together. I look forward to improving the bill as it moves forward through the process. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.