U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), today delivered the following opening statement at a markup of the fiscal year 2015 CJS appropriations bill:
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
I appreciate your leadership on this bill.
We have worked together for many years and I believe that this mark reflects our strong bi-partisan relationship.
The Murray-Ryan budget agreement has provided us the foundation to begin our work and the recommendation before the subcommittee is consistent with an allocation of $51.2 billion.
I believe that we have a good product and I appreciate the Chair’s willingness to accommodate the interests of a majority of Senators in this recommendation.
Balancing the important yet competing interests of law enforcement, terrorism prevention, research, scientific advancement and U.S. competitiveness is always a difficult task and I believe this bill strikes that balance.
Madam Chair, you have given an overview of the bill and I briefly want to emphasize a few points.
The bill once again provides robust funding for the Department of Justice and law enforcement grant programs that are essential to state and local law enforcement efforts.
We have also included language calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This bill ensures that the Department will have the resources necessary to conduct criminal and civil investigations into the troubling allegations that the VA falsified patient records at centers and clinics across the country.
This is a terrible national tragedy and those responsible must be held accountable.
In addition, the bill includes important resources to fight gangs, battle illegal drugs, protect our schools, and provide essential training for law enforcement personnel, bomb technicians and arson investigators.
The bill also includes significant funding for the Department of Commerce which is responsible for a myriad of issues, including weather forecasting, economic development, trade promotion, and fisheries conservation among others.
The bill prioritizes resources to support NOAA’s next generation of weather satellites to ensure the National Weather Service can continue to provide timely warnings for dangerous weather outbreaks.
The bill provides sufficient resources and direction to improve the management of our Nation’s fisheries including new approaches to manage red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.
These new approaches should provide a more equitable system for commercial fishermen and increase the number of fishing days for recreational anglers.
In addition, the subcommittee recommendation includes nearly $18 billion for NASA.
The bill maintains focus on efforts to develop a heavy lift launch vehicle, or SLS, and preserve the mission schedule for a 2017 launch by requiring NASA to follow its own internal guidance regarding joint confidence levels in future funding requests.
In order to maintain the schedule for a 2017 launch date, the bill includes $1.7 billion for SLS rocket development.
The recommendation also includes funding for ongoing activities of the International Space Station and other important science research missions.
I want to commend the Chair for working with me to include language that provides greater accountability and budgetary transparency in the commercial crew program and future commercial cargo missions.
We must ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollar and I believe that this language will make that happen.
Again, Madam Chair, I want to thank you for your hard work on this bill and your willingness to do so in a bipartisan way.
I believe that this bill reflects the Senate’s priorities and the needs of our nation.