Omnibus Legislation Including Provisions Important to Pennsylvania’s Sixth District Passes the House
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06) today voted for H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which will fund the federal government through September 2018. The legislation, which is referred to as the Omnibus bill as it combines all 12 annual appropriations bills into one bill, included multiple provisions supported by Rep. Costello and important to Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“This legislation delivers on my commitment to build safe, healthy communities for Pennsylvania families by bolstering the federal background check process, providing resources to strengthen our schools and protect children from violence, and designating funding to combat the opioid epidemic,” said Rep. Costello. “The bill also addresses a number of priorities for Southeastern Pennsylvania, including maintenance and rehabilitation of passenger rail along the Northeast Corridor, the restoration of the Delaware River Basin, and efforts to mitigate and control the Spotted Lanterfly, a pest affecting each county in Pennsylvania’s Sixth District. While I am disappointed my legislation to lower health insurance premiums for low and middle income families was not included in today’s bill, I will continue working to bring premium relief to hardworking families.”
Background on PA-6 Provisions in the Omnibus
Northeast Corridor: $250 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program to fund capital repair and replacement projects along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Rep. Costello led the effort to request a substantial increase for this account for FY2018, and the funding level in H.R. 1625 represents a ten-fold increase from the amount appropriated last year. In total, the Omnibus contains $650 million for NEC improvement projects - $250 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grant program, and $400 million in other NEC-related accounts. Click here for information on Rep. Costello’s work to secure NEC funding.
Delaware River Basin Restoration Program: $5 million for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBCA). Click here for information on Rep. Costello’s work to pass legislation to fund this program.
Spotted Lanternfly Funding: Funds the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program by a total of $63.5 million, which will be used in part to address the Spotted Lanternfly. Rep. Costello previously announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) $17.5 million to help address the Spotted Lanternfly, a pest that is native to Southeastern Asia and first appeared in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In January, Rep. Costello joined Reps. Smucker, Dent, and Meehan in writing to the House Committee on Agriculture to request a funding increase of $20 million to $40 million each year to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)’s Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Protection Program.
Broadband Access: The Universal Service Fund (USF) helps support telephone and broadband networks in order to further the Commission’s goal of achieving reliable communications access at reasonable charges to all Americans. Included in the Omnibus was Rep. Costello’s legislation, the Rural Wireless Access Act, which would create standards for data collection for mobile coverage so that USF funding can be targeted to the areas that need it the most. Click here for more information on this issue.
Background on Omnibus Provisions
Fix NICS Act: Last year, Rep. Costello helped introduce the Fix NICS Act, legislation to ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Rep. Costello previously voted against legislation in the House that combined Fix NICS with concealed carry reciprocity because it included provisions that would allow gun owners from other states to conceal carry in Pennsylvania - even if the permitting process in that state is weaker than that required of Pennsylvanians. Today’s legislation only included Fix NICS provisions. Click here for more information.
Research on Gun Violence: The Omnibus included language to clarify the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may conduct research on gun violence data and trends – another effort Rep. Costello has been working to pass.
Opioid Epidemic: Nearly $4 billion was included in the Omnibus to address the opioid epidemic through grants, funding for addiction treatment and prevention, and providing law enforcement with the necessary tools to stop the distribution of prescription opioids and other illicit drugs. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, Rep. Costello has been working on many efforts to curtail this epidemic, including, for example, his support for the STOP Act, which would prevent synthetic drugs, like fentanyl, from being shipped to the U.S. by drug traffickers through the U.S. Postal Service from countries like China and India.
The Omnibus also provided funding for addiction treatment, such as Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which has been recognized by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Gottlieb and the FDA as having an imperative role in combatting the opioid epidemic. Rep. Costello recently introduced legislation to improve access to innovative MAT technologies. Click here for more on Rep. Costello’s work to combat the epidemic.
Education: The Omnibus increased funding for STEM education programs, needs-specific services rendered in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), after-school enrichment programs, and Career and Technical Education (CTE), and it provided strong continued funding for teachers’ professional development opportunities. Rep. Costello has supported each of these efforts. Click here for more on Rep. Costello’s work on education.
In addition, provisions from Rep. Costello’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Technical Corrections Act were included in the Omnibus. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Education is directed to grant loan forgiveness to PSLF applicants – including teachers, law enforcement officers, military servicemembers and first responders – who made good-faith payments at or above the amount they would have paid under an eligible plan but were unknowingly enrolled in a non-conforming plan. Click here to learn more about Rep. Costello’s PSLF bill.
School Safety: Rep. Costello recently voted for the STOP School Violence Act, legislation he cosponsors. Today, it passed again as part of the Omnibus. The STOP School Violence Act would allow local law enforcement agencies to apply for Department of Justice (DOJ) grant funding for programs and technologies designed to prevent students from committing acts of violence against themselves and others. Eligible programs include those that train students, school personnel, and local law enforcement officers how to recognize and quickly respond to school violence, threats of violence, or initial warning signs.
Veterans and Servicemembers: $512 million for women veterans’ healthcare at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and directs the VA to ensure its facilities have the necessary equipment and staff to accommodate the needs of women veterans. Rep. Costello has been working to support women veterans since coming to Congress in 2015. The legislation also funded the 2.4 percent pay raise for servicemembers.
Health Initiatives: Increased funding for Alzheimer’s disease research. Approximately 270,000 Pennsylvania seniors are diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s disease each year, and in just over a decade, in the year 2025, this number is expected to jump by nearly 18 percent to 320,000. Since coming to Congress, Rep. Costello has served as a Member of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease.
The Omnibus also provided nearly $500 million in funding for National Institutes of Health (NIH) Innovation Projects through the 21st Century Cures Act. Both the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, an effort to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain, and cancer research efforts are funded by the bill. Rep. Costello has been very supportive of funding research programs – click here for more information.