Washington, DC - Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA) released the following statement after voting in support of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which funds the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2017:
“The FY17 government funding bill provides critical resources for key priorities of my constituents and the Commonwealth at-large. The bill includes increased support for our national security and military, as well as funding for the largest pay raise for our troops in six years at 2.1%. It increases our support for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion so that our scientists can find new cures and treatments for those suffering from chronic and deadly diseases. The bill also tackles opioid addiction by fully funding the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which addresses education, prevention, treatment services, diversion, and interdiction. The Chesapeake Bay Program received full funding for cleanup efforts. Also the federal government met its $150 million obligation for Metro so that it can implement safety improvements and replace old rail cars. Fundamentally this bill marks a major shift. No longer will our military and national security be held hostage in exchange for equal funding in domestic spending.”
The bill makes our national security a top priority and increases funding by $25.7 billion over FY16 funding and finally breaks the parity requirement that was implemented by the Obama Administration which required increases in domestic spending be 1:1 for any defense spending. We are finally turning the corner on the defense sequester. Also included in this legislation is funding the Administration requested to rebuild military readiness and support overseas operations and the pay increase for our troops.
National Institutes of Health
The bill provided another needed increase to the National Institutes of Health in an effort to bolster our medical research for cures and treatments for chronic diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and more. We are at a critical time where breakthroughs and new treatments are being developed and we need to accelerate our progress for new treatments and cures. In total, NIH received $2 billion in new spending, bringing the total budget to $34 billion.
Congresswoman Comstock is Co-Chair of the STARBASE Caucus in Congress. The STARBASE program incorporates civilians and members of the military in the Guard and Reserve and uses them as role models to give school-aged students a hands-on STEM education experience that can put them on a path toward being STEM leaders in the 21st Century economy. The DoD’s STARBASE program received $30 million to garner interest amongst our nation’s youth to civilian and military technological environments. A STARBASE STEM Academy is located in Winchester. Previous statement on STARBASE: Comstock’s Previous Statement on Funding of DoD STARBASE Program
Chesapeake Bay Funding
Congresswoman Comstock and her colleagues have advocated for the necessary funding to cleanup the Chesapeake Bay. As a member of the House of Delegates, Congresswoman Comstock continuously advocated for the cleanup of the Bay, and this bill provides full funding for Chesapeake Bay cleanup and continues the important state and federal partnership.
Assistance to Firefighter (FIRE) Grants, Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants
10th Congressional District Fire Departments both professional and volunteer rely on these grants so they can continue to provide high quality fire and emergency services to the community. This bill included $345 million in grant money for firefighters so that they may acquire infrared cameras, protective gear, hazmat detection devices, and improved respiratory systems to better protect themselves from the dangers in the line of duty as well as the long term health hazards. It also included $345 million to supplement the shortage of firefighters across the United States by providing resources to recruit and develop new career and volunteer firefighters.
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)
There is full funding of the programs authorized under CARA to help fight the ongoing opioid epidemic that is impacting our region. We need a coordinated response to this epidemic and this bill provides resources to meet that challenge. CARA addresses education, prevention, treatment services, diversion, and interdiction.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program
The HIDTA Program received robust funding in this funding bill so that counties that have a HIDTA designation–such as Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Frederick Counties–can partner with federal law enforcement and receive additional resources to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic. Last year, Congresswoman Comstock joined the Valley community in advocating for HIDTA designation for Frederick County, which was accomplished. Previous statement on HIDTA: Rep. Comstock on HIDTA Designation for Frederick County
Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Programs
The COPS program received a total of $15 million for the Collaborative Reform Model and community policing development, as well a $10 million increase in grant funding for State-wide anti-heroin task forces that are critical to Virginia’s 10th District. Funding for the Byrne-JAG Program will provide training so police officers in Virginia can better respond to citizens with mental illness. The funds will also support multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces that will help law enforcement combat gangs like the extremely violent MS-13.
Customs and Border Protection will get an increase of over $911 million over last year’s budget for a total of $12.2 billion. The funding will go toward hiring more boarder agents and increase technology use for border security.
Community Health Centers
The bill provided $1.5 billion for Community Health Centers, which is $149 million above the previous administration’s budget request. These health centers like HealthWorks for Northern Virginia in Leesburg are important sources of quality, affordable, and accessible health care for low-income women and families in our communities.
In 2008, Congress voted to create a matching grant program through the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) by which Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia each contribute $50 million for Metro’s capital needs, which is then matched by $150 million in federal funds. During each of the next seven years, Congress passed, in a bipartisan fashion, appropriations bills to fulfill its financial obligation to Metro. In 2015, some members attempted to cut this funding for Metro by 50%, which would have devastated an already-hurting transit system. Congresswoman Comstock worked with Chairman Diaz-Balart throughout the remainder of 2015 and, ultimately, the full $150 million federal share was included in the final Omnibus for FY 2016, passed in December of 2015. The funding included in the Omnibus for the remainder of FY 2017 again fulfills the federal obligation to Metro.
Opportunity Scholarships & Charter School Support
The bill provides parents and children more choices for education by giving support toward charter school organizations. This bill also renews the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program that puts low-income children on a path toward a better education.