Town Hall

Rep. Peter DeFazio addresses a Brookings Town Hall in August.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) released the following statement on the FY2020 spending agreement:

“Yesterday the House passed two bills that will fund the federal government through Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. The first package, for which I voted in support, includes a number of provisions that will have a positive impact on Oregonians’ lives.

First, I am proud to have worked in conjunction with Senators Merkley and Wyden as well as Rep. Schrader to ensure that this package forgives a multi-million dollar interest burden owed by Oregon’s Pacific groundfish fisheries. This burden was created solely by bureaucratic incompetence, and the inclusion of this provision is a huge win.

The bill also increases funding for programs that hundreds of Oregonians depend upon, such as YouthBuild, JobCorps, and Senior Corps. I led the charge to secure an additional $13 million above FY 2019 levels for the Senior Corps program, ensuring volunteers earn an increased stipend. It also increases funding for Pell Grants, easing the way for more people to afford an education, as well as a reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program through 2020. In addition, it includes strong funding for environmental protection—including the highest funding level for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 15 years.

The bill also makes robust investments to support our nation’s veterans, including funding for suicide prevention, homeless assistance programs, rural health initiatives, opioid abuse prevention, and funding for the VA’s electronic health record initiative to ensure our veterans get the care they have earned and deserve.

The package also includes $25 million for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH)—the first time in more than 20 years.

The second appropriations bill also includes a number of provisions that I strongly support, including a 3.1 percent pay raise for servicemembers and federal civilian employees, as well as robust funding for the STOP School Violence Act, legislation that would give students and teachers the tools they need to help prevent school shootings.

Unfortunately, despite the inclusion of these provisions, I was forced to vote against this bill.

This bill once again increases funding for an already-bloated Pentagon budget, including a massive increase to the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account—a fiscally irresponsible slush fund that is not counted in the budget, has no congressional oversight, and gives a blank check to fund endless wars that Congress hasn’t authorized. For years, Congress has continued to increase the Pentagon’s budget despite overwhelming evidence of its waste and abuse of taxpayer money. I believe this legislation could have made responsible cuts to our defense budget without jeopardizing the safety of our troops, preventing a pay increase, or undermining our national security.

I am also extremely disappointed that this final bill stripped out a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force and a provision to block funding for the U.S.’s involvement in the Saudi-led coalition’s involvement in Yemen’s civil war—both of which were included in the House-passed defense appropriations bill earlier this year. This is yet another example of Congress abandoning its constitutional authority to finally put a stop to the endless wars that have cost countless lives and taxpayer dollars.

This legislation also fails to effectively rein in the Department of Homeland Security’s border policies and spending. The bill includes funding for President Trump’s wasteful and ineffective border wall, lacks appropriate restrictions to prevent the Trump Administration from raiding funds from other agencies to spend on immigration detention and the wall, and does virtually nothing to provide necessary oversight against enforcement-only policies. Congress needs to be a check against the executive branch’s authority, not perpetuate the status quo.

For these reasons, I opposed this second appropriations package. I will continue to fight against Republican efforts to hand billions of dollars in taxpayer money to a bloated and wasteful Pentagon and work to rein in the Trump administration’s cruel enforcement-only immigration agenda.”

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