Fort Report: Getting It Done
I believe most Americans want Congress to work hard, think smart, and get things done. While the stop-start, meandering, twisting, halting process of government can be frustrating, these last few weeks have been important for Nebraska, and for America. From flood relief to Chief Standing Bear, below is an overview of the various pieces of legislative activity underway.
Flood Recovery: Offutt
Last week, in the House Appropriations Committee, we were able to pass my amendment to fund $230 million for RC-135 surveillance aircraft infrastructure destroyed in recent floods. The RC-135 aircraft collects electronic data around the world and invaluable intelligence. This amendment builds upon previous work to provide $120 million for expedited recovery and another $300 million for reconstruction at Offutt Air Force Base. Please review my remarks on getting the 55th Wing back to full mission readiness here.
Flood Recovery: Farms, Roads, Levees
The House and Senate have passed a disaster assistance bill, which should be signed into law soon. This bill includes our work to add $310 million to the Emergency Watershed Program, which is important for rebuilding eroded stream banks, among other activities. Some of this money will flow to our state’s Natural Resource Districts (NRDs), who play an important role in managing our land and waterways.
The bill also includes $558M for the Emergency Conservation Program to help our farmers clear fields; resources for lost grain stored on farms; about $1.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers for levees; and $1.6 billion for the Federal-Aid Highways Emergency Relief Program.
At the encouragement of many Nebraskans, I recently wrote to President Trump asking him to award the Presidential Citizens Medal to Mr. James Wilke. Mr. Wilke was a farmer in Platte County who gave his life to help another stranded in the flood. I remain hopeful that the White House will give this request due consideration. I recently spoke of Mr. Wilke before the House of Representatives.
Agriculture in America
I hold the position of Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Last week, we began the process on the appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020. The legislation reflects a commitment to rural development programs, rural broadband, and livable communities. It provides additional resources for our farmers, who provide food security here and around the world; it helps accelerate generic drug approvals to bring down costs; and, unfortunately, it also sparked a major controversy around the ethics and science of genetic modification of human beings. This provision will be vigorously debated as the process goes on. I invite you to view my statement on the opening debate here.
For Our Veterans
After many years of effort, we recently broke ground on the Lincoln VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. This new clinic on the grounds of the beautiful Veterans Affairs campus upholds our historic past while innovating for our future. Nebraska continues to lead the nation in partnerships to help our veterans.
Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail
Ponca Chief Standing Bear was arrested in 1879 after trying to bury his son on the Ponca ancestral homeland along the Niobrara River. His subsequent trial is one of the most important civil rights stories in American history. I have reintroduced a bill to mark the pathway of the forced relocation of the Ponca tribe to Oklahoma.
I believe we must continue to retell the story of this great Native American and great Nebraskan. Here is a link to the congressional proceedings and an additional interview I did back home.
Soon a new statue of Chief Standing Bear will have an honored place in the United States Capitol. We are working with the Speaker of the House to secure a date for the ceremonial unveiling.
It's easy to define problems; it's hard to solve them. Often, the day in, day out work of government is not glamorous––it's just the steady work of making things happen, helping people out, getting it done.