WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today issued the following statement after the House of Representatives voted 256-167 on an omnibus package to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2018.
“At the Energy and Commerce Committee, we pride ourselves on our ability to work across the aisle and explore every avenue to get our bills signed into law. This omnibus package is no different,” said Chairman Walden. “I’d like to thank our members on both sides for their hard work on an array of policies from funding to help combat the opioid crisis to the RAY BAUM’S Act and Brownfields reauthorization. Individually, each of these bills are important, but collectively we’ve passed a package of bills that will empower consumers and benefit patients and families across the country. However, I am disappointed the Democrats would not agree to include commonsense provisions to help stabilize the individual health care insurance market and lower premiums for Americans all across the country.”
The omnibus package contains several Energy and Commerce Committee priorities, including:
Combating the Opioid Crisis:
- To boost our response to the opioid crisis, the bill provides $4 billion, the largest investment to date, to help address prevention, treatment, and enforcement issues.
- $130 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response program, striving to reach rural communities that have been hit especially hard by the opioid crisis.
- $1 billion in new grants to be dispatched to the states and Indian tribes.
Funding Critical Mental Health Programs:
- The bill appropriates more than $2.3 billion in new funding billion for mental health programs and other training.
- Nearly 30 sections of mental health provisions within the landmark 21st Century Cures Act will receive funding, including the Mental Health Block Grant seeing a $160 million increase. Other items include: the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative, Mental and Behavioral Health Training Grants, Assisted Outpatient Treatment, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Continuing our Efforts to Deliver New Cures and Treatments:
- The bill boosts vital funding for the National Institutes of Health, providing $37 billion for NIH, a $3 billion increase over FY17 to fund additional research and development of cures for major diseases.
RAY BAUM’S Act:
- The Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act, or RAY BAUM’S Act is named for the former committee Staff Director, and long-time friend of Chairman Walden’s, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this year. This bill, which is the result of a bipartisan, bicameral agreement among House and Senate leaders, passed the U.S. House by voice vote on March 6, 2018.
- The bill reauthorizes the FCC for the first time since 1990, and includes reforms to ensure the commission continues to improve its efficiency and transparency, while also making improvements to services for rural residents, veterans, Native Americans, and public safety.
- It includes the critical spectrum auction deposit “fix” which allows the FCC to deposit upfront payments from spectrum bidders directly with the U.S. Treasury, enabling future auctions to take place.
- Enacts key provisions from the Senate-approved MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19) to boost the development of next-generation 5G wireless broadband by identifying more spectrum – both licensed and unlicensed – for private sector use and reducing the red tape associated with building wireless networks.
Spectrum Repack Allocation:
- The omnibus authorizes a repack fund to address the shortfall in funding available to relocate broadcasters being displaced following the successful Incentive Auction, and set up new relocation funds for translators, low-power television, and radio stations that will be impacted by the repack – supplemented by a consumer education fund.
- The new relocation funds will be allocated over two years, and includes $600 million for the first year and $400 million for the second.
Broadband Internet Expansion:
- The omnibus appropriates $7.5 million to NTIA to coordinate broadband mapping across the Federal government and reconstitutes mapping coordination at NTIA.
- It also includes provisions to expand broadband internet by streamlining the regulatory and permit process for broadband infrastructure deployment.
- The omnibus contains compromise text based on H.R. 3017 that has been agreed to by all the authorizing committees and that makes several additional improvements to the brownfields law to ensure more sites are cleaned up.
- Brownfields sites are often abandoned, closed or under-utilized industrial or commercial facilities such as an abandoned factory, a closed commercial building or warehouse, or a former dry-cleaning establishment or gas station.
- EPA estimates that more than 450,000 brownfields exist across the United States, each of which has the capability to be remediated through the Brownfields Program which in turn will encourage economic development in the local community.
- The committee has been hard at work to reauthorize EPA’s Brownfields Program. In November 2017, the House of Representatives passed committee-led legislation – H.R. 3017, the Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Redevelopment Act of 2017 – by a vote of 409-8.
- The omnibus contains an amendment to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) that will provide certainty for farming and ranching operations by exempting them from certain reporting requirements that were not intended to apply to normal agricultural operations.