News Releases

Murray Warns Law Enforcement and Veterans Healthcare Will Suffer Unless the Senate Passes the Joint Funding Resolution (H.J. Res 20)

Feb 12 2007

COPS Program, Byrne Grants would face cuts;
4,000 FBI Agents would be laid off, senator warns

(Washington, D.C.) - In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) urged the Senate to prevent cuts in local and federal law enforcement and in critical healthcare services for America's veterans by passing the bipartisan Joint Funding Resolution (H.J. Res 20).



Yesterday, Senator Murray spoke on the floor about how the failure to pass the joint resolution would undermine transportation safety, highway construction and housing for low-income families.



Senator Murray's remarks follow.



Mr. President, I rise today to once again urge the Senate to pass the bipartisan Joint Funding Resolution, H.J. Res 20. As I mentioned yesterday on the Senate Floor, President Bush's Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has testified that we will see "drastic consequences" if we fail to pass this bill. We'll see painful cuts to aviation safety, highway safety, and highway construction. I can also tell my colleagues that we will see painful and unnecessary cuts in housing, law enforcement and veterans' healthcare.



The Difference Between a CR and H.J. Res 20



I want to make sure that every Senator understands the difference between the Continuing Resolution that the government is currently running on and the Joint Funding Resolution H.J. Res. 20, that we are currently debating. If we fail to pass H.J. Res 20 and instead extend the current Continuing Resolution for the rest of the year:

  • Families will lose their housing.


  • Airline safety inspectors will be furloughed.


  • Air traffic controllers will be furloughed.


  • Highway construction will be cut.


As a result, some states will have to wait till the next construction season to deal with critical safety and congestion problems. In short, failing to pass H.J. Res. 20 will hurt our communities. That's why we need to pass H.J. Res 20 which is a bipartisan bill that is very carefully crafted to address the most critical funding shortfalls across our government. We've got to pass H.J. Res. 20, and we've got to pass it this week.



Local Law Enforcement



Mr. President, communities across the country need more help fighting crime, and that's one reason why we need to pass the Joint Funding Resolution.



Without this bill, state and local law enforcement will be cut by $1.2 billion. Our Joint Funding Resolution prevents that cut. And our resolution then adds money for Byrne Grants and COPS grants providing a $176 million increase over last year for those two programs. That money goes straight to local communities to help them fight crime.



When I sit down with law enforcement officials in my home state of Washington, they tell me they need more help from the federal government. A few months ago, I was in Yakima listening to law enforcement officials talk about their efforts to fight meth and gangs. They told me that Byrne Grants are critical to their efforts. There's a big difference for Byrne Grants under a CR and under our Joint Funding Resolution. Under our bill, the Byrne Grant Assistance Program is funded at $519 million, which is an increase of $108.7 million over FY 2006. Under our bill, the COPS Program is funded at $541.7 million, which is an increase of $67.9 million over FY 2006. That's exactly the type of support our local law enforcement officials need, but they only get that support if we pass H.J. Res 20.



Support for Federal Law Enforcement



Our resolution also supports national efforts to fight crime. Under a CR, the FBI would have to lay off 4,000 special agents. At a time when violent crime is rising, when robberies are up nearly 10 percent nationwide, when the FBI is working to fight crime - do we really want to lay off 4,000 FBI agents? No, and that's why our resolution provides the FBI with an additional $216 million dollars over FY 2006. That means the FBI will not have to layoff those special agents. If we don't pass H.J. Res 20, those FBI agents will be furloughed - sitting at home, unpaid, rather than coming to work to fight crime.



The Justice Department's Violence Against Women Office is funded at $382.5 million in our resolution. That's nearly one million dollars over FY 2006.



Fighting Terror Funding



The Joint Funding Resolution will help us cut off funding to terrorists. The Treasury Department is working hard to block the flow of money to terrorists. Last year, Treasury hired new intelligence analysts in that effort. Under a CR, those new analysts would be furloughed. Talk about a step backwards in the fight against terror. Our Joint Funding Resolution ensures those analysts stay on the job and keep disrupting terror financing. In short, we must pass H.J. Res 20 to:

  • prevent cuts in local law enforcement,


  • to prevent the layoffs of thousands of FBI agents,


  • and to keep our federal law enforcement efforts on track.


So this vote is a test either you support funding law enforcement at an appropriate level, or you're voting to cut funding to your local law enforcement community. That's the choice every Senator will have to make.



Veterans



Mr. President, America's veterans have a great deal at stake in how the Senate votes on the Joint Funding Resolution. I just came from a hearing with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson this morning. It's absolutely clear to me that we are not doing enough to meet the needs of those who have served our country. Veterans are facing long lines for health care. Veterans who need mental healthcare are being told they have to wait to see a doctor. And the VA is not prepared for the many veterans who are coming home with serious physical challenges.



We need a VA budget for the current year that finally meets their needs. If we just pass a CR, veterans are going to get less funding -- and with it -- fewer medical services, less funding for medical facilities, and more delays in getting the benefits they have earned. We owe our veterans more than cuts and delays.



Under our Joint Funding Resolution, total funding for VA Medical care is $32 billion -- an increase of about $3.5 billion over the FY 2006 appropriated level. Let's look at one VA account in particular.



Under our bill, VA Medical Services are funded at about $25 billion -- an increase of $2.965 billion over the FY 2006 appropriated level. That's going to help veterans with medical care including inpatient and outpatient care, mental healthcare, and long-term care.



Under our bill, there's an extra $70 million for the VA's General Operating Expenses. Some of that money will help the Veterans Benefits Administration deal with its massive backlog of benefit claims.



The VA wants to hire a net of 300 more employees to cut down on the waiting time for benefits. Without the Joint Funding Resolution, the VA won't be able to hire those new employees, and veterans will continue to face long delays for the benefits they deserve.



Transportation Safety



Mr. President, I also want to discuss the effect that not passing the Joint funding Resolution would have on critical programs under my own jurisdiction in the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Subcommittee.



Without this bill, air traffic controllers will be furloughed, and air safety inspectors will be furloughed. If we fail to pass this bipartisan bill, we will see a decline in our ability to provide railroad inspections, pipeline safety inspections, and truck safety inspections.



Simply put, if we don't pass this bipartisan bill, the safety of American citizens could be put in danger



Housing



We will also feel the consequences in the area of housing. If we don't pass this bill, hundreds of thousands of Americans will face a housing crisis.

  • 157,000 low-income people could lose their housing,

  • 70,000 people could lose their housing vouchers,


  • 11,500 housing units that are housing the homeless could be lost.


Mr. President, those are just some of the consequences that Americans will face if this Congress fails to pass the Joint Funding Resolution. But don't take my word for it. On Thursday, I held a hearing with President Bush's very able Secretary of Transportation, Mary Peters.



Unless We Pass H.R. Res 20, Safety Will be Compromised



At that hearing, Secretary Peters talked in very clear terms about the consequences not passing this Joint Funding Resolution would have.



I asked Secretary Peters what it would mean for safety and hiring if Congress does not pass the Joint Funding Resolution. She said, "[W]e will see a serious decline in the number of safety inspectors: truck safety inspectors, rail safety inspectors, aviation inspectors across the broad range in our program."



That's directly from the President's Transportation Secretary.



Does any Senator want to be responsible for voting for a "serious decline" in the number of truck safety inspectors, rail safety inspectors, and aviation safety inspectors? How would you explain to your constituents that you voted to undermine their safety as they travel by car, train or plane?



Unless We Pass H.J. Res 20, State Highway Construction Will Stall



We also need to pass the Joint Funding Resolution because, without it, states will not be able address their most pressing highway, bridge and road problems. In fact, Secretary Peters warned that some states could miss an entire construction season if Congress does not enact this bill soon.



Secretary Peters said, "It is especially important to those states who have a construction season that will be upon us very, very shortly, and if they are not able to know that this funding is coming and be able to let contracts accordingly we could easily miss an entire construction season."



So your constituents will feel the impact of your vote in roads that are fixed or roads that remain clogged, congested and unsafe.



Highway Funding



Mr. President, the bill pending before the Senate provides an additional $3.75 billion in formula funding for our nation's highway and transit systems. That funding will serve to create almost 160,000 new jobs, while alleviating congestion. It will be an important infusion of cash to the States to help them address their most pressing bridge replacements, highway widenings, and safety enhancements.



Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent, that a table provided to me by the Federal Highway Administration that displays the highway funding increases that will be enjoyed by each and every state be included in the record at this point.



Housing: Unless We Pass H.J. Res 20, Housing Will Suffer



The failure to pass H. J. Res. 20 will also have a painful impact on housing for hundreds of thousands of Americans. In this bipartisan bill, we worked hard to make sure that vulnerable families would not be thrown out on the streets or face out-of-reach rent increases. We provided critical support for Section 8, Homeless Assistance Grants, Housing Equity Conversion Loans, HOPE VI, and the Public Housing Operating Fund.



Without increases in these programs:

  • Housing vouchers will be lost.


  • Many low-income residents will become homeless.


  • Renters will be displaced or will face unaffordable rent increases.


  • Seniors will lose a valuable source of equity.


  • And efforts to replace deteriorated public housing units will be eliminated.


Clearly, the consequences of not passing the Joint Funding Resolution would be severe for some of our country's most vulnerable families.



Mr. President, in closing, I think it's clear that our communities will pay a very high price unless the Senate passes H.J. Res 20.



I urge my colleagues to vote:

  • to allow low-income families to keep a roof over their heads,


  • to keep safety inspectors on the job,


  • to keep highway construction projects moving forward,


  • to help your local law enforcement fight crime,


  • and to give our veterans the care and benefits they have earned.


I urge my colleagues to support H.J. Res 20. Otherwise you're going to have to tell your veterans, your police officers, your commuters, your air traffic controllers, your public housing tenants, your housing advocates, and your airline passengers, pilots and flight attendants, why you voted against them.