Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

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AMENDMENT NO. 237 OFFERED BY MR. HOLT

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Page 131, line 24, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced by $1,500,000,000)''.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment to eliminate the $1.5 billion in funding for the Iraqi Security Forces Fund.

If we are going to be cutting Pell Grants and energy research and heating assistance for families here in the United States, we certainly should take a hard look at Pentagon spending as well. Would taxpayers want their dollars to go to pay for Iraqi police on the streets of Baghdad when we are cutting funding for police in Trenton, New Jersey, and other cities and towns across our Nation? I want my colleagues to understand what the authors of H.R. 1 are proposing here today. It is about choices.

My colleagues, I am sure, could present a good justification for funding Iraq Security Forces. I certainly want to see the people of Iraq living in peace and freedom, free from harm, either domestic or foreign harm. However, the Government of Iraq has ample revenue from oil sales to pay for Iraq security. In contrast, our country faces not only a budget deficit, but critical unmet domestic needs, and this legislation before us today makes many, many unwise cuts.

H.R. 1 calls for spending $1.5 billion in taxpayer money to pay for foreign police officers in Iraq while simultaneously cutting $300 million for the highly successful COPS program here at home. The COPS program is vital. Our local police departments count on it to help them hire additional officers to combat crime in our communities and to provide true community policing. The contrast couldn't be more stark and absurd; have American taxpayers foot the bill for police in Baghdad but not for police in America.

H.R. 1 showcases the misguided priorities of the new majority. What are they thinking?

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Our colleagues may recall that Mr. DeFazio and I and others offered essentially this amendment in fiscal year 2007 and it passed, demonstrating the strong bipartisan support in this House for an increase in funding in this program. The $5 million funding level, however, although it was preserved until now, has been completely eliminated by this continuing resolution. In other words, both sides of this aisle have felt that this is worthwhile spending.

Despite the worst economic downturn we've experienced since the Depression, the market for organic consumer products grew more than 5 percent in the past year, well several times the growth of conventional food sales, and growth in organic nonfood items was even more pronounced, increasing more than 9 percent as compared to 1 percent in conventional nonfood items.

Now, my friend who just spoke in opposition to the legislation, Mr. Kingston, said, well, it's a booming industry, why do we need to do this? Well, transition from nonorganic farming to organic farming is a big step, especially for a small farm, and although there are more than 13,000 certified organic producers in the United States, that's not enough. We still need to help farmers make the transition to organic farming, and this program does more than help them make transition. It helps build an understanding of best practice.

The organic transition program is a highly competitive grants program. It's been extremely important to the organic farming community. It funds research to assist the farmers in overcoming the barriers to make the transition and, as I say, to understand organic farming. Through grants awarded under this program, for example, projects were funded at Ohio State to study the impact of organic animal production on water quality or grafting to improve organic vegetable production. The small farmers don't have the opportunity to do this research as they are facing the big step of whether to make the transition to organic farming.

At the University of Minnesota, this competitive grants program facilitated organic poultry production and helped achieve soybean aphid suppression using a fall-seeded rye cover crop. In other words, the organic industry really benefits from this.

We should be talking about job creation. The bill before us today, as it appears, will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs--cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. It will end hundreds of thousands of jobs. We should focus our resources on industries that are growing and providing jobs. This quite small restoration of funds, $5 million, would do a great deal for the quality of life of farmers but also for jobs in America.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to restore $5 million to the organic transitions program.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 12 OFFERED BY MR. HOLT

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment as a designee of the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. McCarthy).

The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Page 202, line 16, after the dollar amount, insert ``(reduced by $20,000,000) (increased by $20,000,000)''.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, this amendment is to make sure that we continue the good work of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The NICS is a national database system that keeps track of individuals who are disqualified under current law from purchasing and possessing firearms. Need I remind my colleagues of the many reminders we have had of the need for this.

The amendment before us here seeks to ensure that the Department of Justice continues funding the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 at the current level of $20 million. It was signed into law in January 2008 and requires all States to provide the NICS with relevant records that are needed to conduct effective background checks. Additionally, the NICS Improvement Act provides grants to States and territories to update their records and transmit the records to the NICS database.

NICS is a critical tool in the fight to keep firearms from those legally disqualified from purchasing and possessing them. The only way to enforce the law is to ensure that NICS has up-to-date records from State and Federal sources.

We understand the constraints on the Federal budget. However, by continuing to fund this program at the current FY10 level, we continue the vital effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.

I encourage Members to support this amendment.

Had I had the floor before, I would have offered an amendment to restore the $310 million that was cut from the lifesaving Community Oriented Policing, or COPS Program, but I was denied that opportunity. So I ask for support for the amendment from Mrs. McCarthy and me to fund the NICS Improvement Amendments Act.

I yield back my time.

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