Week ending September 8, 2017
H.R.3267 – Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018
The bill provides a total of $53,935,000,000 in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 2018, which is $2,620,000,000 below the fiscal year 2017 discretionary enacted level. The bill decreases overall FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding below FY2017 levels. Compared to FY2017 levels, the bill increases funding for DOJ and science programs while decreasing funding for the Department of Commerce.
Highlights: (From the Congressional Research service with some additions)
This bill provides FY2018 appropriations to the Department of Commerce, the Department of Justice (DOJ), science agencies, and several related agencies.
The bill funds agencies with a wide range of responsibilities for issues such as: addressing violent crime, drug trafficking, financial fraud, terrorism, espionage, and cybercrime; conducting the census; forecasting the weather; managing fisheries; exploring space; advancing science; providing legal services for the poor; enforcing employment discrimination laws; and overseeing patents, trademarks, and trade policy.
The bill includes provisions that restrict or prohibit the use of funds for:
the transfer of Guantanamo detainees or the construction of a new facility in the United States to house them,
the enforcement of certain restrictions and reporting requirements for firearms,
bilateral activities with China by NASA or the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and issuing certain trademarks related to property confiscated in Cuba.
Full Summary: (From the Congressional Research Service)
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2018
TITLE I–DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
Provides appropriations to the Department of Commerce for:
the International Trade Administration,
the Bureau of Industry and Security,
the Economic Development Administration,
the Minority Business Development Agency,
the Bureau of Economic Analysis,
the Bureau of the Census,
the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and
the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Provides appropriations to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for:
Scientific and Technical Research and Services,
Industrial Technology Services, and
Construction of Research Facilities.
Provides appropriations to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for:
Operations, Research, and Facilities;
Procurement, Acquisition, and Construction;
Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery;
the Fishermen’s Contingency Fund;
Fisheries Disaster Assistance; and
the Fisheries Finance Program Account.
Provides appropriations for Departmental Management, including:
Salaries and Expenses,
Renovation and Modernization, and
the Office of Inspector General.
(Sec. 101) Permits funds provided by this bill to be used for advanced payments (prior to the receipt of goods, services, or other assets) that are not otherwise authorized only if designated Commerce officials certify that the payments are in the public interest.
(Sec. 102) Permits funds provided by this bill to be used for hiring passenger motor vehicles, employment of temporary or intermittent experts and consultants, and the purchase of uniforms.
(Sec. 103) Permits the transfer of funds between Commerce accounts, subject to specified limitations and requirements. Requires Commerce to notify Congress prior to the acquisition or disposal of any capital asset not provided for in an Act providing appropriations to Commerce.
(Sec. 104) Extends requirements for NOAA to make and report to Congress on determinations regarding the identification and management of technical, cost, and schedule risk; the reliance on demonstrated technologies; and compliance with relevant policies, prior to entering into a contract for a major program with a life cycle cost of more than $250 million. Specifies the life cycle costs for the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series Program.
(Sec. 105) Permits Commerce to: (1) furnish services to facilitate the use or occupancy of Department of Commerce buildings, and (2) credit specified reimbursements received for the services to the appropriation or fund which bears the cost of the services.
(Sec. 106) Specifies that grant recipients may continue to deter child pornography, copyright infringement, or any other unlawful activity over their networks.
(Sec. 107) Permits NOAA to use, with consent and reimbursement, resources of other federal, state, local, and international entities to carry out the responsibilities of any statute administered by NOAA.
(Sec. 108) Prohibits the National Technical Information Service from charging for copies of reports or documents generated by the legislative branch unless the service has provided information on how a copy may be obtained for free online. Requires any charge to be limited to the service’s cost.
(Sec. 109) Permits NOAA to work with federal and non-federal agencies and governments by entering into agreements; using land, services, equipment, personnel, and facilities provided by the entities; or receiving and expending funds made available on a consensual basis.
TITLE II–DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Provides appropriations to DOJ for General Administration, including:
Salaries and Expenses,
Justice Information Sharing Technology,
the Executive Office for Immigration Review, and
the Office of Inspector General.
Provides appropriations to the U.S. Parole Commission.
Provides appropriations for Legal Activities, including:
General Legal Activities,
the Antitrust Division,
the U.S. Attorneys,
the U.S. Trustee System Fund,
the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission,
Fees and Expenses of Witnesses,
the Community Relations Service, and
the Assets Forfeiture Fund.
Provides appropriations to the U.S. Marshals Service for:
Salaries and Expenses,
Federal Prisoner Detention.
Provides appropriations to DOJ for:
the National Security Division;
Interagency Law Enforcement;
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA);
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and
the Federal Prison System.
Provides appropriations to the Office On Violence Against Women for Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs.
Provides appropriations to the Office of Justice Programs for:
Research, Evaluation, and Statistics;
State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance;
Juvenile Justice Programs; and
Public Safety Officer Benefits.
Provides appropriations for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) programs.
(Sec. 201) Provides additional funds to the Attorney General for official reception and representation expenses.
(Sec. 202) Prohibits funds provided by this title from being used to pay for an abortion, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or in the case of rape or incest.
(Sec. 203) Prohibits funds provided by this title from being used to require any person to perform or facilitate the performance of an abortion.
(Sec. 204) Specifies that: (1) section 203 of this bill does not remove the obligation of the Bureau of Prisons to provide escort services to an inmate receiving an abortion outside of a federal facility, and (2) nothing in this section diminishes the effect of section 203 intended to address the philosophical beliefs of individual employees of the Bureau of Prisons.
(Sec. 205) Sets forth requirements and procedures for transferring and reprogramming DOJ funds provided by this bill.
(Sec. 206) Prohibits the FBI or the U.S. Marshals Service from using funds provided by this title to transport prisoners classified as maximum or high security, other than to a facility certified by the Bureau of Prisons as appropriately secure.
(Sec. 207) Prohibits federal prisons from using funds provided by this bill to purchase cable television services, or to rent or purchase audiovisual or electronic media or equipment used primarily for recreational purposes. Includes exceptions for inmate training, religious, or educational programs.
(Sec. 208) Prohibits funds provided by this title from being used for a new or enhanced information technology program with estimated development costs exceeding $100 million unless the Deputy Attorney General and the Department Investment Review Board certify to Congress that the program: (1) has appropriate program management controls and contractor oversight mechanisms in place, and (2) is compatible with DOJ enterprise architecture.
(Sec. 209) Requires DOJ to follow reprogramming procedures for any deviation from the program amounts specified in this bill or the report or for any use of de-obligated funds provided by this title in previous years.
(Sec. 210) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used for a public-private competition for work performed by employees of Federal Prison Industries, Incorporated.
(Sec. 211) Prohibits U.S. Attorneys from holding dual or additional responsibilities that exempt them from statutory residency requirements.
(Sec. 212) Specifies percentages of grant and reimbursement funds provided to the Office of Justice Programs that may be used for: (1) training and technical assistance; and (2) criminal justice research, evaluation and statistics.
(Sec. 213) Permits DOJ to use specified funds made available for grant and reimbursement programs for tribal criminal justice assistance without regard to the authorizations for the grant or reimbursement programs.
(Sec. 214) Waives the requirement that DOJ reserve certain funds provided for offender incarceration for payments for incarceration on tribal lands.
(Sec. 215) Prohibits funds, other than funds for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System established under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, from being used to transfer an operable firearm to a known or suspected agent of a drug cartel if law enforcement personnel do not continuously monitor or control the firearm.
(Sec. 216) Establishes limitations and requirements for the obligation of specified funds from the Department of Justice Working Capital Fund and the Assets Forfeiture Fund. Requires DOJ to submit to Congress a spending plan including the planned distribution of Assets Forfeiture Fund joint law enforcement operations funding during FY2018.
Provides appropriations to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Provides appropriations to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for:
Safety, Security, and Mission Services;
Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration; and the Office of Inspector General.
Includes administrative provisions for NASA that establish requirements and procedures for the availability of funds for an announced prize, the reprogramming and transfer of funds provided by this bill, and NASA’s spending plan.
Provides appropriations to the National Science Foundation (NSF) for:
Research and Related Activities,
Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction,
Education and Human Resources,
Agency Operations and Award Management,
the Office of the National Science Board, and
the Office of Inspector General.
Establishes requirements for the transfer or reprogramming of funds provided by this bill to the NSF.
TITLE IV–RELATED AGENCIES
Provides appropriations for related agencies, including:
the Commission on Civil Rights,
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
the U.S. International Trade Commission,
the Legal Services Corporation,
the Marine Mammal Commission,
the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and
the State Justice Institute.
Specifies restrictions, terms, and conditions on the use of funds by the Legal Services Corporation.
TITLE V–GENERAL PROVISIONS
(Sec. 501) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used for publicity or propaganda purposes that are not authorized by Congress.
(Sec. 502) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from remaining available for obligation beyond the current fiscal year, unless expressly permitted in the bill.
(Sec. 503) Limits expenditures for consulting services to contracts where the expenditures are a matter of public record and available for public inspection, unless otherwise provided by law or executive order.
(Sec. 504) Provides that if any provision of this bill or the application of the provision is held invalid, the remainder of the bill is not affected.
(Sec. 505) Establishes restrictions and requirements for the reprogramming of funds provided by this bill.
(Sec. 506) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to award contracts or subcontracts to a person who has been found to have intentionally affixed a ”Made in America” label to any product that was not made in America. Requires promotional items purchased using funds provided by this bill to be manufactured, produced, or assembled in the United States or its territories or possessions, to the extent it is practicable.
(Sec. 507) Requires Commerce, DOJ, the NSF, and NASA to provide quarterly reports to Congress regarding the status of balances of appropriations at the account level.
(Sec. 508) Requires costs incurred by agencies for personnel actions due to funding reductions in this bill to be absorbed within the budgetary resources available to the department or agency. Provides transfer authority between appropriation accounts to carry out this provision, subject to reprogramming procedures. Specifies that this section applies to Commerce actions taken for the care and protection of loan collateral or grant property.
(Sec. 509) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to promote the sale or export of tobacco or tobacco products or to seek the reduction or removal of foreign restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products, except for restrictions which are not applied equally to all products of the same type.
(Sec. 510) Establishes obligation limits for funds from the Crime Victims Fund. Requires specified funds to be used for grants to Indian tribal governments to improve services and justice for victims of crime.
(Sec. 511) Prohibits DOJ from using funds provided by this bill to discriminate against or denigrate the religious or moral beliefs of students who participate in programs for which financial assistance is provided, or of the parents or legal guardians of the students.
(Sec. 512) Prohibits the transfer of funds provided by this bill to a department, agency, or instrumentality of the U.S. government, unless the transfer is pursuant to an appropriations Act.
(Sec. 513) Specifies that funds included in this this bill to implement E-Government Initiatives are subject to reprogramming procedures and requirements.
(Sec. 514) Prohibits Commerce, DOJ, NASA, or the NSF from using funds provided by this bill to acquire certain information systems unless the agency has:
reviewed the supply chain risk for the information systems against criteria developed by NIST and the FBI,
reviewed the supply chain risk from the presumptive awardee against available and relevant threat information provided by the FBI and other agencies,
conducted an assessment of any risk of cyber-espionage or sabotage associated with the acquisition of the system,
developed a mitigation strategy for any identified risks, and
determined that the acquisition is in the national interest.
(Sec. 515) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to support or justify the use of torture by any official or contract employee of the U.S. government.
(Sec. 516) Prohibits funds from being used to require export licenses for exporting components, parts, or attachments for certain firearms to Canada.
(Sec. 517) Prohibits funds from being used to deny certain import applications for firearms, parts, or ammunition that are curios or relics. (Curios or relics are firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons.)
(Sec. 518) Prohibits the use of funds provided by this bill to include specified patent provisions from the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement, or the United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement in any new bilateral or multilateral trade agreement.
(Sec. 519) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to authorize or issue a national security letter (NSL) in violation of specified laws authorizing the FBI to issue an NSL. (An NSL is a written directive, comparable to an administrative subpoena, used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to demand certain information from third parties such as telecommunication providers, financial institutions, and consumer credit reporting agencies.)
(Sec. 520) Requires congressional notification regarding Commerce, DOJ, NSF, or NASA projects that total more than $75 million and are expected to have cost increases of at least 10%.
(Sec. 521) Deems funds provided by this bill for intelligence or intelligence related activities as authorized by Congress during FY2018 until the enactment of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY2018.
(Sec. 522) Prohibits contracts or grant awards above $5 million unless the prospective contractor or grantee certifies that the organization has filed all federal tax returns, has not been convicted of a criminal offense under the Internal Revenue Code, and has no unpaid federal tax assessment.
(Sec. 523) Rescinds specified unobligated balances from prior appropriations to DOJ and Commerce and requires the departments to submit reports to Congress regarding the rescissions.
(Sec. 524) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to purchase first class or premium airline travel in violation of specified federal travel regulations.
(Sec. 525) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to pay for the attendance of more than 50 department or agency employees at any single conference outside the United States, unless it is a law enforcement training or operational event where the majority of federal attendees are law enforcement personnel stationed outside the United States.
(Sec. 526) Prohibits funds from being used to transfer or release any individual detained at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Guantanamo) who is not a U.S. citizen or member of the Armed Forces into the United States, its territories, or possessions.
(Sec. 527) Prohibits funding from being used to construct, acquire, or modify any U.S. facility (other than the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) to house any individual detained at Guantanamo.
(Sec. 528) Requires the Office of Management and Budget to direct departments, agencies, and instrumentalities funded by this bill to track undisbursed balances in expired grant accounts and include specified details in annual performance and accountability reports.
(Sec. 529) Prohibits NASA or the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from using funds provided by this bill to: (1) engage in bilateral activities with China or a Chinese-owned company unless the activities are authorized by a law enacted after enactment of this bill, or (2) host official Chinese visitors at NASA facilities. Includes an exception if NASA or OSTP have made a specified certification to Congress regarding an activity.
(Sec. 530) Prohibits funds from being used to deny or fail to act on application for the importation of any shotgun model if: (1) all other requirements of law with respect to the proposed importation are met, and (2) no application for the importation of models in the same configuration had been denied by DOJ prior to January 1, 2011, on the basis that the shotgun was not particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.
(Sec. 531) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used for a computer network that does not block pornography, except for law enforcement purposes.
(Sec. 532) Requires specified agencies funded by this bill to submit spending plans to Congress.
(Sec. 533) Prohibits the use of funds provided by this bill to implement the Arms Trade Treaty regulating international trade in conventional arms until it is ratified by the Senate.
(Sec. 534) Requires Commerce, NASA, NSF, and the OSTP to report monthly to Congress on official travel of employees to China.
(Sec. 535) Requires at least 10% of the funds provided by this bill for specified programs to be allocated for assistance in persistent poverty counties. Defines a “persistent poverty county” as county that has had at least 20% of its population living in poverty over the past 30 years, as measured by the 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and the most recent Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates.
(Sec. 536) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to approve the registration, renewal, or maintenance of the registration of a mark, trademark, trade name, or commercial name that is the same or substantially similar to a mark, trade name, or commercial name that was used in connection with a business or assets that were unlawfully confiscated in Cuba unless the original owner or a bona-fide successor-in-interest has expressly consented.
(Sec. 537) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to require a person licensed for importing, manufacturing, or dealing in firearms to report information to DOJ regarding the sale of multiple rifles or shotguns to the same person.
(Sec. 538) Permits a state to bring a civil action against the United States in a U.S. district court for declaratory and injunctive relief (including preliminary injunctive relief) as may be necessary to restore the sovereignty reserved to the states by the Constitution. Requires courts to advance on the docket and to expedite to the greatest possible extent the disposition of any such action.
(Sec. 539) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from be used to relocate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Canine Training Center or the ATF National Canine Division.
(Sec. 540) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to enter into a civil settlement agreement on behalf of the United States that requires any party-defendant to the agreement to make a donation to a non-party.
(Sec. 541) Prohibits funds provided by this bill from being used to implement or enforce the designation of any area of the Chesapeake Bay watershed as critical habitat for the Atlantic sturgeon pursuant to the proposed rule published by NOAA on June 3, 2016.
(Sec. 542) Prohibits the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from using funds provided by this bill for the collection of certain information from employers relating to employees’ earnings and hours worked, pursuant to the notice published by the EEOC in the Federal Register on July 14, 2016.
(Sec. 543) Establishes a spending reduction account for the amount by which spending proposed in this bill exceeds the subcommittee’s allocation under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Specifies that the amount is $0. (Under the Rules of the House of Representatives, any savings included in the spending reduction account are not available for further appropriation during consideration of the bill.)
(Full text of H.R. 3267 at congress.gov)
Sponsor: Rep. Culberson, John Abney [R-TX-7] (Introduced 07/17/2017)
VOTES and FLOOR ACTION
Motion to recommit:
Text of the motion:
COST AND IMPACT
Cost to the taxpayers: Data not available
Pay-as-you-go requirements: Data not available
Regulatory and Other Impact: Data not available
Dynamic Scoring: Data not available
Tax Complexity: Not applicable to this bill.
Earmark Certification: Data not available
Duplication of programs: Data not available
Direct Rule-Making: Data not available
Advisory Committee Statement: Data not available
Budget Authority: Data not available
Constitutional Authority: Assumed.
More Bill Information:
MINORITY VIEWS OF REP. NITA M. LOWEY AND REP. JOSE E. SERRANO
We commend Chairman Culberson for his efforts in assembling the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) bill. However, we remain deeply concerned about this year’s overall appropriations process and are resolutely opposed to the direction it appears to be headed. One feature of this flawed process is that the allocation for CJS is a programmatic cut of more than half a billion dollars below fiscal year 2017.
The agencies and programs funded under the CJS bill play key roles in securing our nation, promoting economic development, and ensuring our leadership in scientific endeavors. Yet the unacceptably low allocation has resulted in far too many critical priorities underfunded, many quite substantially, which would hurt hardworking American families.
The bill also lacks necessary oversight over the Trump Administration and contains several harmful riders.
Before we detail our concerns, we do want to point out some of the positive investments this bill makes. The Committee bill rejects several of the Administration’s worst proposals, including its proposed cuts to National Science Foundation research, the Minority Business Development Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Sea Grant program. Increases are included for Federal law enforcement and immigration judges. The bill also largely rejects cuts to the educational efforts of both the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which help inspire and train our next generation of scientists. An increase is also provided for trade enforcement activities at the International Trade Administration.
However, we are deeply concerned that the bill cuts funding for so many other critical programs and public investments:
For instance, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is cut by $85 million below 2017. LSC grants help local providers assist veterans, domestic violence victims, the elderly, and many others to assert their rights. The LSC plays a crucial role in ensuring that our legal and constitutional rights are available to all Americans, not just those who can afford it.
We want to work together to increase the finding for LSC as this process moves forward.
Programs that conduct crucial climate change research are also reduced in this bill. There is a 19 percent cut to NOAA climate research, and NASA’s Earth Science program is cut by $217 million below current levels, and by $50.1 million below even what the Trump Administration requested. Such funding cuts would jeopardize our ability to improve the scientific understanding of our planet and its changes. This, in turn, would undermine our ability to protect the health and safety of our communities.
Elsewhere in NOAA, we are pleased the bill provides adequate funding levels for near-term weather satellites and for operating expenses of the National Weather Service, though we are disappointed that the bill approves of the Trump Administration proposal to cut and consolidate information technology support personnel based at local weather forecast offices. Furthermore, the bill severely cuts funding for the Polar Follow-on future weather satellite program, which if well-funded could serve as an important insurance policy against future gaps in weather satellite data. This is vitally important, as NOAA’s polar orbiting weather satellites do not have on-orbit backups as does the GOES weather satellite system.
Furthermore, the Committee bill contains a significant cut to NOAA’s overall operations, research, and facilities budget, including the elimination of the Regional Coastal Resilience Grant program and a very damaging cut to the Coastal Zone Management Grants program. These programs fund important work in coastal and Great Lakes areas, ensuring that states and communities are prepared to face challenges such as restoring coastal infrastructure and addressing problems like erosion, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and marine debris.
The Justice Department is also underfunded in a number of critical areas. While we appreciate the increase provided for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, overall DOJ grants are cut by more than $167 million below the comparable FY 2017 level. The bill eliminates funding for hiring in the COPS program, which supports important police reform and public safety initiatives.
We are also troubled by the proposed elimination of two crucial juvenile justice grant programs, the State Formula Grants and Delinquency Prevention Incentive Grants. These grant eliminations, among others unfunded in the bill, would harm efforts to reduce crime, promote police-community relations, and prevent recidivism.
The Census Bureau is also inadequately funded. Although the Periodic Censuses and Programs account is given the requested amount in FY 2018, the Trump Administration is proposing to greatly scale back the important 2020 Census planning and testing tools that are needed now to prevent higher costs in the next few years. Without this crucial testing now, in 2020 the initial response rates will drop and costs will rise. In addition, scaling back early testing greatly increases the risk of information technology failures like those in the last decennial census, which would cause significant future cost overruns. The appropriations bill must not rubber-stamp this penny-wise and pound-foolish approach; significantly more money is needed in the short-term for 2020 Census preparation. In addition, while we appreciate that the bill rejects the Trump Administration’s proposal to scale back the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we are concerned that the bill contains other survey budget cuts proposed by the Administration that will reduce the quality and reliability of certain surveys, such as the Small Area Health Insurance Estimates.
President Trump also proposed ending Federal support for Economic Development Administration programs and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. While the Committee bill maintained the programs, huge cuts to both would greatly reduce the tens of thousands of jobs created or retained each year throughout the country.
While the trade enforcement activities of the International Trade Administration (ITA) are provided an increase, the bill cuts funding for ITA overall, including completely eliminating the SelectUSA program. This program, initiated in the Obama Administration, is aimed at creating more American jobs by attracting and facilitating foreign direct investment.
Lastly, we are also troubled that this bill allows several of the Administration’s immigration enforcement priorities to go forward, including additional attorneys for criminal immigration prosecution efforts. At best, this is an unwise choice. Fifty-two percent of criminal prosecutions at DOJ are already immigration related–further efforts in this area will intrude upon the other important missions of the Department.
IRRESPONSIBLE GUN RIDERS
We continue to be extremely troubled by the inclusion of gun-related riders, including one that would effectively prevent the enforcement of an existing requirement that Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) in four southwest border states report to the National Tracing Center on the sale of certain kinds of semi-automatic rifles favored by the Mexican drug cartels. This reporting requirement is narrow and targeted, applying only to the four southwest border states (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California), and only when a dealer sells two or more qualifying long guns to a single individual within five business days. Qualifying guns are rifles that (1) are semi-automatic; (2) are greater than .22 caliber; and (3) can hold a detachable magazine. It does not apply to shotguns or the vast majority of rifles regularly used for hunting purposes.
This reporting requirement is identical to one that has existed for decades for handguns, and in no way does it hinder the ability of any law-abiding person to purchase as many rifles as he or she desires. It is not an undue burden on FFLs, with the time to complete a multiple sales form estimated at 12 minutes and an estimated annual cost in employee time of only $16.
This very limited reporting requirement has proven to be an important tool for Federal law enforcement in the effort to uncover illegal trafficking operations intended to supply semiautomatic weapons to violent drug gangs across the border.
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), these multiple sales reports have thus far led to more than 300 defendants recommended for prosecution, including both alleged straw purchasers and others farther up the firearms trafficking chain. Also according to ATF, the reporting requirement is forcing firearms traffickers to change tactics, making straw purchases more difficult and serving as a deterrent for many people who might have engaged in straw purchasing in the past.
This is not about restricting gun ownership or compiling a registry of long gun owners. Information that does not become part of a trafficking investigation is purged from ATF records within two years. This is a law enforcement response to the evidence from successful tracings of weapons recovered in Mexico. These tracings show that a large number of these weapons were initially sold by licensed gun dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas.
In 2013, a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed an earlier court finding that Federal law “unambiguously authorizes” this reporting requirement. This Committee simply has no business tying the hands of law enforcement agencies as they attempt to rein in crime.
OTHER IRRESPONSIBLE RIDERS
We are concerned about other inappropriate riders that do not belong in this bill, including a rider that places restrictions on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO)’s ability to issue trademarks to Cuban nationals, even in cases in which a specific license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has been issued. Aside from meddling in foreign policy and harming our diplomatic efforts with Cuba, the provision would create a significant administrative burden on PTO, setting an impossible standard that PTO itself reports it cannot meet.
We are disappointed that the majority rejected a number of amendments made by our side in order to improve the bill. The Committee did not adopt the Serrano Amendment, which would have increased funding in a number of critical areas mentioned above. The investments are necessary for these programs to effectively help American citizens and businesses.
We are also disappointed that the Committee did not adopt the Lowey Amendment to allow the Department of Justice to block the sales of firearms to persons known or suspected to be engaged in conduct related to terrorism. Currently, Federal law prohibits nine categories of dangerous people from purchasing or owning firearms. However, Federal law does not allow the Attorney General the discretion to block a firearms purchase to an individual on a terror watch list. There have been consequences. For example, on November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood 13 people were shot and killed and 30 others wounded by Nidal Hasan, who passed a background check and bought a handgun even though he was under investigation by the FBI for links to terrorism. Allowing the Attorney General the discretion to block these purchases is a commonsense approach that should be widely supported.
We are pleased that the amendment to provide additional funding in DOJ grants and the Crime Victims Fund for tribal purposes was adopted. The Federal Government has provided significant support to criminal justice and victim services programs across the country. However, as is too often the case, Indian Country has largely been left out of this effort.
Unfortunately, a number of problematic amendments were adopted in Committee as well. A troubling Republican amendment was adopted prohibiting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from moving forward with a policy change aimed at collecting gender and race information from employers. This data, combined with other information available to the agency, would help fill a significant void in the information we need to ensure that American workers are paid fairly for their hard work, and it would help employers evaluate their own pay practices so that they can prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces.
The Committee also adopted an amendment that would undermine the Endangered Species Act with respect to certain endangered fish in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This is a bad precedent that does not belong on an appropriations bill.
Lastly, we are troubled that the Majority rejected a number of amendments to ensure accountability in the Executive Branch and to prevent further interference in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election (and related matters). For instance, we are disappointed that two amendments were not adopted that would have prevented individuals employed by the White House from holding security clearances if they are under criminal investigation by Federal law enforcement or if they have deliberately omitted a required disclosure of a meeting with a foreign national on their Standard Form 86.
Similarly, the Committee did not adopt the Lowey Amendment to prohibit the use of funds to obstruct, hinder, frustrate, impede, or prevent any investigative work conducted by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller. It is imperative that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation be conducted completely free of meddling from the White House, the Department of Justice, or anyone else. The Lowey amendment would have made it clear that it is unlawful for employees of the Department of Justice or any other Federal entity to meddle in an investigation that is critical for Americans’ confidence in our democracy and the institutions of our government.
In spite of all our concerns, we would like to reiterate our appreciation for Chairman Culberson’s work with us on a number of issues. Within the constraints facing the bill, it funds several of the Minority’s priorities. However, the shortcomings in this and other appropriations bills are many and very real. We simply cannot support the CJS appropriations bill in its current form. In addition to our desire to rid the bill of its harmful riders, it is our firm hope that we will establish a bipartisan budget framework to increase funding for domestic investments, including those funded in this bill to help better secure our communities, create jobs, and support scientific research that is vital to our economy and quality of life.
Nita M. Lowey.
Jose E. Serrano.
Copyright 2017 Legislation News & Report, LLC
All Rights Reserved