Mikulski Takes to Senate Floor to Fight for a Safer, Stronger & Smarter America in Federal Spending Bill - Southern Maryland Headline News

Mikulski Takes to Senate Floor to Fight for a Safer, Stronger & Smarter America in Federal Spending Bill


"This bill provides a down payment for the victims of Katrina to help rebuild their lives and communities with additional funding coming in Supplemental Appropriations bills."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) took to the floor of the United States Senate this morning at approximately 10:30 a.m. to urge her colleagues to support the Commerce, Justice, Science spending bill. Senator Mikulski is the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Senator Mikulski highlighted specific assistance provided for victims of Hurricane Katrina in the bill, as well as funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the Small Business Administration, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, NASA, National Science Foundation, U.S. Trade Representative and the SEC.

Senator Mikulski's full floor statement, as prepared for the congressional record, is provided below:

"We are beginning consideration of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. We bring this appropriations bill to the floor at an extraordinary time. As we speak, rescue workers are continuing to rescue people throughout the Gulf Coast region. Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go to the families of those lost in this terrible tragedy. To the scores of National Guard soldiers, Coast Guard rescuers, doctors, nurses, paramedics and our regular armed forces, thank you for all you have done. God bless you, you make us proud.

"As of Monday, 17,500 lives have been saved by rescuers- 9,500 by the Coast Guard alone. 500 shelters across the Gulf Coast are now open sheltering 135,000 people. The Red Cross is now serving 500,000 hot meals a day. To the thousands of volunteers who have come to the Gulf Coast, or who have offered to shelter families in their homes and communities, thank you. To the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and all of the faith-based organizations - You are truly what the American spirit is all about.

"I am particularly proud of the people of my State of Maryland who are helping the victims of Katrina. Maryland Task Force 1 from Montgomery County, one of FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue Teams, has been sent to New Orleans to help look for survivors and rescue those who are trapped and need help. The Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, homeported in Baltimore, will be sent to the Gulf Coast to provide medical care for those who need it. Doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda have set up a telemedicine link to hospitals in the region to assist medical personnel in resolving complex medical problems among patients they are treating. To all those Marylanders who are helping, volunteering and opening their homes and hearts, I say thank you.

"The coming days will bring unbearable sorrow to thousands of families. But this tragedy was made worse by the response of government. The people of the Gulf Coast have been doubly victimized, first by Katrina and then by FEMA.

"I know FEMA better than most of my colleagues. Before I became Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, I was the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee that funded FEMA. Back then, FEMA was a relic of the cold war civil defense days run by political appointees with no emergency management experience. Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew devastated the East Coast, but FEMA failed the American people.

"So thirteen years ago, I led the effort to reform FEMA, working in a bi-partisan manner with the first President Bush and Andrew Card. We reformed FEMA into an all hazards, risk-based agency focused on readiness, response, and recovery. We required FEMA to hire and train professional emergency managers so we had a professional core of experts to plan and respond to disasters. We asked the President to appoint a professional emergency manager to lead the agency.

"Unfortunately, the FEMA that I worked so hard to reform does not exist anymore. It was not the FEMA that responded to Katrina.

"President Bush must fire the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. We must once again depoliticize and professionalize FEMA.

"FEMA must again be reformed, restored as an independent, cabinet level agency, reporting directly to the President with a risk-based focus, prepared to respond to all hazards: floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, dirty bombs, terrorists. It must be focused on the three Rs: Readiness, Response, Recovery.

"We must also establish an independent commission to find out what happened and why. We need hearings and oversight by Congress. We need to change the way we plan for and respond to major disasters so this never happens again. We owe it to the American people.

"But our first step must be to provide aid to the people of the Gulf Coast who need it so desperately. It is critical that we approve the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill quickly. This bill provides a down payment for the victims of Katrina to help rebuild their lives and communities with additional funding coming in Supplemental Appropriations bills.

"First, this bill funds the Small Business Administration's Disaster Loan Program. For individuals, SBA provides low interest loans up to $200,000 to help repair damaged primary residences and up to $40,000 for loss of personal property. And SBA provides low interest loans to businesses and non-profit organizations of up to $1.5 million to repair damage to real estate, machinery, equipment and inventory. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are also available to help small business pay bills and meet operating expenses. Interest rates range from 2.7% for homeowners and renters and 4% for business with terms up to 30 years. SBA will have disaster loan officers at each federal and state disaster recovery center in the Gulf Coast to help process applications.

"Second, this bill funds the National Weather Service. This bill provides $4.5 billion for NOAA, including the National Weather Service, an increase of $500 million above last year. This includes $775 million for the Weather Service. This funding will improve the ability of the weather service to predict hurricanes, tropical storms and severe flooding throughout the entire country.

"Third, this bill provides $1.3 billion for state and local law enforcement to help train and equip state and local police.

"The Economic Development Administration provides grants to state and local governments for infrastructure repair and modernization. EDA helps communities recover from sudden and severe dislocation. This bill includes $315 million for EDA. This funding will be more important than ever in helping the Gulf Coast recover.

"In making our country safer, the Department of Justice is our front line agency. The Justice Department includes some of our most important law enforcement agencies: FBI, DEA, ATF, U.S. Marshals. The Justice Department protects us from terrorists and protects our neighborhoods and communities. It provides assistance to our state and local law enforcement agencies. This bill provides $21 billion to the Justice Department, $170 million more than last year. The Justice Department accounts for almost 50% of our entire bill.

"ATF is our lead agency in fighting street arson, street crime and gangs that plague so many neighborhoods across the country. I visited the ATF arson laboratory in Maryland and saw first hand how ATF solves complex criminal cases involving arson and explosives. The ATF arson laboratory helped solve the DC serial arsonist case and the ballistic laboratory helped solve the DC sniper case.

"The FBI is our front line agency in the fight against terrorism. The FBI will receive $5.3 billion in 2006, a $100 million increase over last year. Since 2000, the FBI's budget has increased by 66%. Most of this increase has been devoted to counterterrorism. Through this bill, we have given the FBI a record amount of funding to fight terrorism.

"In addition to fighting terrorism, we are protecting our neighborhoods and communities- especially our children. We have provided $48 million to continue and expand the Missing and Exploited Children Program. This program helps locate and recover missing children and prevents the abduction, molestation, sexual exploitation, and victimization of children. This is especially important now because Hurricane Katrina separated so many children from their families. It also funds a 24-hour toll-free telephone hotline for callers to report the location of missing children or obtain assistance when a child is missing, and it funds a Cyber-Tipline, an online resource where people can report leads and tips about child sexual exploitation. We also provide $5 million for the Safe Schools program to prevent violence in our public schools. And we provided $2.7 million for the FBI's innocent images program to investigate and capture child pornographers who use the Internet to prey on children.

"The Committee included $1.5 million for the criminal division to target, prosecute and seize the assets of those who commit crimes against children. We increased funding for the U.S. Marshals Service to capture fugitives and protect our judges and Federal Court System. And we restored most of the cuts to the COPS program and Byrne Grants.

"This bill builds a stronger economy with robust support for innovation and science. We have provided $1.7 billion for the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) which is a record amount for the PTO and should help them reduce the backlog of patent applications. PTO is a key agency for innovation and making us a smarter, more competitive country.

"We've funded NIST at $845 million, a $145 million increase over last year. NIST set standards that are critical to successful commerce and transfers technology to American industry. The bill fully funds the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Extension Partnership programs which are important to fostering competitiveness.

"For NOAA, we have provided $4.5 billion, a $500 million increase over last year. This will provide the weather service with the funding it needs to improve weather prediction and severe storm warnings. The Weather Service helps save lives and communities by giving timely warning of severe weather so people can protect their property and get out of harms way. NOAA also saves livelihoods by restoring and protecting our fisheries.

"For NASA, we have provided $16.4 billion, which is a $200 million increase over last year. This includes $250 million for a Hubble servicing mission (pending a final decision by the NASA Administrator). And we provide full funding for the Space Shuttle, Space Station and development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). All major science programs are funded at the President's request level.

"It should be noted that there are two major NASA facilities along the Gulf Coast that were heavily damaged by Katrina. The Stennis Space Center in Misssissippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans. Both facilities sustained heavy damage and over 50% of the employees lost their homes. We expect the Administration will have a formal cost estimate in a few weeks and will make it part of the next Supplemental.

"With the successful mission of Discovery last month, we owe Col. Collins and her crew our heartiest congratulations. But unfortunately, there are still problems with the Space Shuttle that have to be solved. I have confidence in Administrator Griffin, but without more budget resources, his job will grow more difficult.

"NSF is funded at $5.5 billion, $58 million more than last year. Unfortunately, our stringent allocation did not allow us to provide more for NSF. We preserved funding for all major NSF programs, as well as funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

"I am concerned about funding for the Census Bureau - $150 million below the President's budget request and $17 million below last year's level. Census is America's database - tells us who we are and where we live. Communities and businesses depend on Census data for planning, transportation and education. The Census Bureau is headquartered in Suitland, Maryland. I am proud of the dedicated civil servants who serve our nation. So I hope that as we move forward we can increase funding for Census.

"I urge my colleagues to support this bill and help the victims of Katrina rebuild their lives and rebuild their communities."

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