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HomeAg NewsSenate Passes Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Minibus; Senator Cramer Comments

Senate Passes Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations Minibus; Senator Cramer Comments

WASHINGTON – On Friday, the United States Senate passed H.R. 4366, a package of six Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills, by a vote of 75 to 22. The legislation, which previously passed the House of Representatives with broad support and a vote of 339 to 85, will continue funding for several government agencies, avoiding a partial government shutdown.

“Once again, we find ourselves dealing with the consequences of dysfunction. While the bills in this minibus should have been passed individually seven months ago, Leader Schumer put us down a path of large funding packages devoid of substantive amendments. However, Senate Appropriators cleared each bill with overwhelming support from both conservative Republicans and left-leaning Democrats. It’s refreshing to see some semblance of regular order and avoid a partial shutdown or another continuing resolution,” said Senator Cramer. “This bill is consistent with Fiscal Responsibility Act spending caps, resulting in the first cut to non-defense, non-VA spending in a decade. It also secures important conservative policy wins to protect Second Amendment liberties, block federal funding for abortions, prohibit DOJ from targeting parents or religious organizations, and slashes billions from the President’s budget request. This bill is not perfect, but from Fargo to Dickinson and everywhere in between, it has many wins for North Dakota.

The government funding package provides for several key agencies and programs pertaining to military construction, veterans’ affairs, agriculture, rural development, food and drug administration, commerce, justice, science, energy and water development, environment, transportation, housing, and urban development.

Below is a breakdown of toplines included in the six Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills, supporting both North Dakota and the country:

Energy and Water Development (Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation):

  • Increases Army Corps funding by $1.3 billion to $8.7 billion. Last week, Senator Cramer discussed plans to address the underlying maintenance issues at the Snake Creek Embankment in North Dakota with General Spellmon. This bill will fund the embankment’s initial structural designs.
  • Delivers $1.2 million for the Army Corps implementation of the Western Water Cooperative Committee. Senators Cramer and Merkley authorized this Committee in the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) to ensure the Army Corps flood control projects in Western States are consistent with congressional directives and adhere to state water rights and water laws. Senator Cramer recently discussed the status of the Committee with Assistant Secretary Connor. This appropriation provides the funding needed for its establishment.
  • Fully funds Army Corps Operation and Management activities across all North Dakota locations.
  • Provides $11 million for “multi-state environmental infrastructure program,” which includes North Dakota’s Section 594 Program. The program, which was reauthorized by Senator Cramer in WRDA, assists public entities in the state to design and construct water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • Includes report language to fund the research and development of the benefits of subsurface drainage for flood mitigation and coastal erosion. The study was authorized by Senator Cramer in WRDA.
  • Increases Bureau of Reclamation funding $450 million above the President’s budget request and fully funds the Dickinson Unit, P-SMBP, Garrison Diversion Unit, P-SMBP, and Heart Butte Unit, P-SMPB.
  • Provides $33 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which includes $19.1 billion for weapon activities—a 12% increase from FY23. NNSA is responsible for ensuring the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is safe and secure as Minot Air Force Base is home to two of three legs of the nuclear triad.
  • Includes $70 million for Nuclear-Armed Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM-N). This reverses President Biden’s plan to defund the program.
  • Contains $2.7 billion for domestic uranium enrichment capabilities, including high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU) availability, which is essential to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign sources to power current and future commercial nuclear reactors.
  • Authorizes funding for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. North Dakota is the national leader in carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) technology. Entities like the Energy, Environment and Research Center in Grand Forks partner with the Department of Energy to develop and deploy CCUS technology. The funds are distributed as follows:
    • $127.5 million for carbon capture projects.
    • $28 million for gas post-combustion capture projects.
    • $33 million for coal and gas pre-combustion capture.
    • $8 million for the Risk Based Data Management System.
    • $35 million for CarbonSAFE and $25 million for regional carbon sequestration partnerships.
    • $89 million for the Office of Clean Energy Demonstration Program, which awarded Minnkota’s Project Tundra with $350 million late last year.

 

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency):

  • Decreases Environmental Protection Agency funding from $10.1 billion to $9.2 billion.
  • Funds Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds with a slight increase in funding compared to FY23. In FY23, $2.76 billion was provided compared to this year, which secures $2.81 billion.
  • Restricts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Fully funds Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT). In FY23, North Dakota received over $2 million in PILT payments to counties encumbered by non-taxable federal land.
  • Provides consistent funding for Criminal Investigations and Police Services which includes the advanced training facility at Camp Grafton.
  • Includes $3 million to implement the NATIVE Act to improve Native tourism initiatives. As the former North Dakota Tourism Director, Senator Cramer met with the North Dakota Native Tourism Alliance, which reiterated its support for this program.
  • Provides $6.962 billion in FY24 for the Indian Health Service, which is $3.69 million above the comparable FY23 level.

 

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (Department of Transportation, Department of Housing & Urban Development):

  • Provides $106.4 billion in funding for Department of Transportation (DOT), an increase of $15 million from FY 23, including $62.9 billion to the Federal Highway Administration for formula programs consistent with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
  • Maintains $348 million in funding for Essential Air Service, which provides commercial air service to Devils Lake, Jamestown, and Dickinson airports.
  • Includes $3.8 billion for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants.
  • Provides $225 million for a new bridge funding program, which includes specific eligibility criteria met by 18 states, including North Dakota.
  • Delivers $1.8 billion for RAISE Grants. In FY23, North Dakota received $28.5 million in RAISE Grant funding.
  • Provides $25 million for the rural and Tribal infrastructure program as authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
  • Funds $150 million for the Tribal Transportation Program.
  • Secures $205 million for Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Contract Towers. Under the Contract Tower Program, the FAA contracts with private entities to provide air traffic control services at airports. Minot airport participates in the program.
  • Contains $20 million for FAA’s aviation workforce development programs. Recently, North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota received more than $300,000 in an aviation workforce development grant.
  • Includes language prohibiting DOT from using any federal funds to enforce mask mandates on passenger airlines, commuter rail, and transit.
  • Includes language preventing GAO from doing a study on highway funding formulas and how they align with states’ needs, geographies and populations. Senator Cramer’s top priority in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was to protect rural state formula funding.
  • Fully funds $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program. North Dakota received around $3.8 million through the CDBG formula. Communities with a population over 50,000 also received funds in FY23:
    • Fargo received $840,957
    • Bismarck received $376,290
    • Grand Forks received $460,333

 

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs (Department of Defense Construction, Department of Veterans Affairs):

  • Includes $18.7 billion for military construction projects. This is $2 billion above President Biden’s budget. Some of this funding will support the following projects in North Dakota:
    • Dickinson: More than $5.4 million to support the construction of the National Guard Readiness Center in Dickinson. In August, Senator Cramer participated in the groundbreaking of the North Dakota Army National Guard Readiness Center. The new facility will support the training and operations of the 816th Military Police Company, which was activated on September 1, 2017. The Dickinson National Guard Readiness Center cost to complete is authorized in the Senate passed version of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Senator Cramer helped pass in his role on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC).
    • Camp Grafton: Nearly $2 million to fund unaccompanied housing at Camp Grafton. The Camp Grafton Institutional Post-Initial Military Training, Unaccompanied Housing project is authorized in the Senate passed version of the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that Senator Cramer helped pass in his role on the SASC.
    • Minot: Language in the accompanying Senate Report direct the Air Force to: provide Congress with status updates on future weapons generation facilities and accelerate the facilities wherever possible; and prioritize plans to upgrade security gates at Global Strike Command bases, which could include Minot Air Force Base.
  • Protects the Second Amendment rights of veterans by preventing the VA from sending information to the FBI about veterans without a judge’s consent. Senator Cramer was an original cosponsor of this legislation.
  • Fully funds $60 million for the Veterans Cemeteries Construction Grants.
  • Provides $171 million—$7 million above the budget request, for Grants for Construction of State Extended Care Facilities. This increase will allow VA to provide more grants to assist States in constructing State home facilities, for furnishing domiciliary or nursing home care to veterans, and to expand, remodel, or alter existing buildings.
  • Includes language supporting the VA’s effort to provide comprehensive health care evaluations and non-drug treatment options for veterans.
  • Supports research of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) for the treatment traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Includes language encouraging the National Cemetery Administration to construct additional facilities at Rural Initiative (RI) Cemeteries with ample feedback from community.

 

Commerce, Justice, Science (Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

  • Provides $3 million for the Rural Export Center headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota. At least $1.5 million must be spent for operations in Fargo with the remainder available for centers around the country.
    • The bill also requires the Department of Commerce to brief Congress before funds are disbursed for additional regional Rural Export Centers or personnel hires.
  • Prohibits the Department of Justice (DOJ) to pay for an abortion, except where the life of the mother would be endangered or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Prohibits funds appropriated by this bill to be used to require any person to perform or facilitate an abortion in any way.
  • Prohibits the DOJ from targeting or investigating parents who lawfully and peacefully exercise their constitutional right to free speech at local school board meetings.
    • Senator Cramer joined his colleagues in demanding answers from the Biden administration on a scheme to label parents as “domestic terrorists.”
  • Prohibits the DOJ from investigating or prosecuting churches on the basis of their religious beliefs.
  • Provides $713 million for the Office on Violence Against Women, which is more than the FY23 enacted level.
  • Expands law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking, focusing on rural communities, and directs the FBI to allocate additional staff dedicated to human trafficking at its field offices with the largest geographic areas of responsibility.
  • Maintains prohibitions on certain firearms export licenses.
  • Provides significant support for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) and COPS Hiring grants, ensuring local law enforcement agencies have the necessary resources for public safety and crime prevention​​.
  • Allocates $34 million to assist tribal law enforcement and help fund the hiring, equipment, training, anti-methamphetamine activities, and anti-opioid initiatives.
  • Increases funding for the Drug Enforcement Agency to combat the fentanyl crisis.

 

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration)

  • Provides $15 million for electronic identification tags needed by ranchers to comply with federal Animal Disease Traceability rules.
  • Makes the Secretary of Agriculture a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to review foreign agricultural and biotechnology purchases of national concern and provides a $2.5 million increase to the Office of Homeland Security for CFIUS reviews. This language is similar to the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act, which Senator Cramer cosponsored. Last year, Senator Cramer penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner regarding American land acquisitions by foreign adversaries.
  • Rejects President Biden’s proposal for 4,700 new full-time equivalents (FTE) at the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and instead encourages the hiring of staff in the county offices who work directly with producers and rural communities.
    • Directs USDA to submit a report to the Committees no later than 90 days after enactment describing a plan for improving staffing at the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Rural Development mission area at the county and area levels, including recommendations for actions that Congress may take.
  • Eliminates funding for conservation equity initiatives at Natural Resources Conservation Service.
  • Provides $1.21 billion for Farm Service Agency (FSA) staffing to ensure that our nation’s farmers and ranchers have effective delivery of USDA’s farm support programs.
  • Prohibits the closure of FSA county offices and provides $10.7 billion for Farm Loan Programs to fully fund anticipated loan demand needs and protect producers’ access to capital.
  • Provides $90 million in ReConnect broadband funding to meet continued demand.
  • Reimburses the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for Net Realized Losses in FY24.
  • Includes provisions to require the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a detailed spending plan to the Appropriations Committee prior to the transfer of CCC funds to other agencies under its discretionary authority.
  • Provides $1.79 billion for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is $44 million more than the FY23 level. Maintains funding levels for important ARS initiatives such as the Barley Pest Initiative, Wheat Resilience Initiative, Onion Breeding, Pulse Crop Quality, and Agricultural Data Security.
  • Provides $1.076 billion to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which allocates $445 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).
  • Funds the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Circuit Rider Technical Assistance at $21.8 million, which is over $600,000 more than the FY23 level.
  • Provides $17.5 million to APHIS to implement the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Research and Management Act. $12.5 million of that would be allocated directly to State departments of wildlife, State departments of agriculture, Native American tribes, and research institutions and universities.
  • Fully funds anticipated nutrition assistance needs to ensure that low-income Americans have access to important nutrition programs. Includes a $32 billion decrease in mandatory SNAP spending from FY 2023 due to the end of pandemic-era benefits and decreases in participation rates.

Notable Healthcare Provisions:

  • Provides a 1.68% boost in Medicare payments for physicians, partially addressing the 3.4% cut which went into effect in January.
  • Extends funding for community health centers through December 31, 2024 at an annualized rate of $4.27 billion a year. This is a $270 million increase from the previous year.
  • Extends funding for the National Health Service Corps, Special Diabetes Program, and Special Diabetes Program for Indians through December 31, 2024.
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