U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas
Statement on FY2012 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill
Conference Report to HR.2112
Congressional Record - November 17, 2011
Mr. President, I appreciate the distinguished Senator from Missouri for managing the bill for our side because there are three appropriations bills included in this package. I am also pleased that we are actually passing appropriations bills that have been amended and debated in the Senate the way it ought to be done.
I am also very pleased to talk about the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill, which is the subcommittee on which I am the ranking member. The chairman, Senator Mikulski, has already spoken earlier this evening on the bill and what is in it and how we put it all together.
I can't thank Senator Mikulski enough for being the kind of chairman who could really bring people together, bring the House Members together, where we had some significant differences. I believe she and I were on the same page, that we have national priorities in this bill, and we ensured that those priorities were met because they are so important for our country. It wasn't easy. As has been said by everyone who has spoken, difficult choices had to be made. We had an allocation that was $583 million below the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution level. It was $4.7 billion below the President's request.
This bill is also in accordance with the Budget Control Act that passed on August 2, 2011. I just want to mention on that point that all of the appropriations bills that have gone through the Appropriations Committee this year have met the Budget Control Act requirements. That is something I think we should have done and certainly something we were expected to do.
There are some Members, however, who will be speaking against these bills. They wanted a different standard from the standard we set, which was below the fiscal year 2011 continuing resolution and below the President's request. But that is the standard we should have met, and we did.
We struck a balance between the competing interests of law enforcement, terrorism, research, and competitiveness through investing in science. I think the chairman, Senator Mikulski, spoke about the specifics of that, but I want to highlight some of the programs of national interest that I was particularly insistent that we focus on.
We have worked hard to ensure that law enforcement receives the priority funding needed to protect our Nation, our communities, our children, and the victims of crime. That was a particular point that Senator Mikulski made and with which I agree.
We have also made sure the FBI has the resources it needs to continue its major role in the global mission of counterterrorism and counterintelligence. Director Robert Mueller has seen the largest transition of the agency certainly in modern times, but maybe ever--a transformation from a traditional crime-fighting organization into an intelligence-driven, threat-focused law enforcement organization and a full member of the U.S. intelligence community since 9/11.
A lot of people are going to say: Well, gosh, why would you increase the FBI? Well, because they are a part of our national security today. They are no longer just a domestic crime-fighting agency--though very important but nevertheless a smaller function. They are part of our U.S. intelligence agencies that are helping us fight terrorism all over the world. So we funded them, and I am glad we did.
We have also included language to encourage the Department of Justice to maintain its current fiscal year 2011 level of funding that focuses on the Southwest Border. This is so important, as we read about the atrocities happening in Mexico and on our border, some of which have begun to spread across the border, and drug cartels are becoming increasingly emboldened.
I was talking to someone in the law enforcement community today who has had very high positions in our government, and he said those drug cartels are terrorists. I agree with him. Those drug cartels are terrorists. What they are doing to innocent people is atrocious. So we are encouraging and we have given the money to the Justice Department for the Southwest Border.
The El Paso Intelligence Center is another important program that is one of our first safeguards along the border. It is a national tactical intelligence center that supports law enforcement in the United States, Mexico, and the whole Western Hemisphere. It is the Drug Enforcement Administration's most important intelligence-sharing entity focusing on all things related to our borders.
Another important program in this bill is the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program which we funded to provide Federal assistance to the States and localities that are incurring the costs of incarcerating undocumented criminal aliens who have been accused or convicted of State and local offenses. We know there are counties throughout our country that do not have big budgets. Yet we have illegal alien criminals who are being put in county jails and city jails and it is important for the Federal Government and it is the Federal Government's responsibility to pay for housing those illegal alien criminals. We have done so in this bill.
I was also pleased to work with Senator Mikulski and Jon Kyl, the Senator from Arizona, to include more money for the U.S. Marshals Service for its mission along the Southwest Border, including detention construction and security upgrades in Southwest Border federal courthouses.
The last thing I wish to mention is that we had a very moving ceremony yesterday honoring the significant astronauts--they are all significant, but some of those who took the first chance to go where no human being had ever been, and we honored them with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest honor Congress can bestow on a civilian: John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first and second men to walk on the moon, the Americans who did that, and they were ferried there by Michael Collins, who landed Apollo 11.
We talked, and the speeches were very uplifting, about the importance of space exploration and what it has done for our country. It has clearly been an economic boon to this country. It has created jobs, it has created better quality of life, and it has also inspired generations of scientists. With the significant support of Senator Mikulski, we were able to give NASA the funding it needs to assure that we have not only the vision that was established by Congress in the 2010 authorization bill but the funding to achieve the vision going forward.
Since our space shuttle program has been shut down, we are now on a mission to provide a commercial crew vehicle to take our astronauts to the space station, where we are doing scientific research, and we have fully funded the launch vehicle that is going to take our astronauts beyond Earth orbit and into the asteroid and, hopefully, Mars. That funding has started with this appropriations bill that is going through this year.
So we will have our launch system and our Orion capsule that will be the next generation of space exploration for our country, and Senator Mikulski and I agreed on that priority, along with the Webb telescope, which is a very significant scientific priority, that we would assure that those priorities were met. We support the emerging commercial space companies to bring cargo and astronauts to the space station, and our investment for discovery on the space station as well as the science that is gotten from these wonderful, incredible telescopes that fly out there in space and gather information.
NASA has now released its design for the heavy launch vehicle that will be able to carry our astronauts in the Orion crew vehicle to the Moon, the asteroid, and beyond. Now that that decision has been made, we can focus on the future and on moving human exploration forward. NASA has announced its commitment to the path that Congress authorized, and now we are providing the funds to accomplish the development of that rocket.
Chairman Mikulski and I have strived to produce a bill that reflects not only the Senate's priorities but the needs of our Nation. Not only do I commend her and all the Senators who have a part in passing these bills and the House Members who also have a significant part, but our staffs did a lot of the work in making sure these priorities were met. Her staff, Gabrielle Batkin, Jessica Berry, Jean Toal Eisen, Jeremy Weirich, and Molly O'Rourke did wonderful work and were so close in concept and in close relationships and working relationships with my staff, James Christoferson, Goodloe Sutton, and Allen Cutler.
I recommend our bill. I think we stayed within the budget resolution, the Budget Control Act we passed, but we set the priorities, and I am very pleased to offer it to the Senate tonight.