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House Approves Commerce-Justice-State Spending Bill

After two days of consideration, the House on July 18 approved, 408-19, the FY2002 Commerce, Justice, State, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 2500). The House defeated a number of controversial amendments prior to passing the bill.

One of those amendments, offered by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), would have repealed the prohibition on the use of federal funds to provide abortion services to women in federal prisons. Arguing in support of her amendment, Rep. DeGette said, “Unlike other American women who are denied Federal coverage of abortion services, most women in prison are indigent. They have little access to outside financial help, and they earn extremely low wages in prison jobs….Congress’s continued denial of coverage of abortion services for Federal inmates has effectively shut down the only avenue these women have to pursue their constitutional right to choose.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) opposed the amendment, saying, “The House has consistently, year after year, rejected this amendment….Time and again the Congress has debated this issue of whether Federal tax dollars should be used for abortion, and the answer has been no.” The amendment was defeated, 169-253.

Another amendment would have required the Justice Department to store records on background checks for 90 days. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently recommended that the records be destroyed after a 24-hour waiting period. Offered by Rep. James Moran (D-VA), the amendment was defeated, 161-268.

Explaining the purpose of the amendment, Rep. Moran stated, “For the last 3 years, the FBI has kept records of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for 6 months. Last month, the FBI reduced this retention period to 90 days. What this amendment would do is to simply keep that 90-day retention period in place for the length of this appropriations period.”

Rep. Wolf responded, “The FBI can perform the quality control within 24 hours.” He called the amendment “unnecessary” and “highly controversial,” adding that it was not an issue that should be addressed in an appropriations bill.

The House approved, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that would prohibit funding to disallow states from participating in voluntary child safety gun lock programs. “By offering this amendment,” she stated, “I want to make sure that there is no other ‘back door’ legislation that will act to discourage states from participating in this or any other federally funded program that provides gun safety locks.”

Overall, the bill would provide $75 million for Project ChildSafe, which is dedicated to providing safety locks for every handgun in the United States.

A point of order was sustained against an amendment by Rep. Jackson Lee that would have made $7.8 million available to the State Department for legal representation for parents who are seeking the return of children abducted to or from the United States under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

The bill would appropriate $770,000 for the Justice Department to enforce the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (P.L. 106-386). The committee report accompanying the bill “applauds” the Justice Department for its effort to investigate and prosecute individuals accused of trafficking. The increase will provide additional resources to increase the prosecution of violators and support outreach to communities.

Additionally, the missing children program and Boys and Girls Clubs would be level-funded at $22.997 million and $60 million respectively. The President requested level funding for both programs.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs would receive an $103 million increase to $391 million in FY2002, the same amount requested by the President. Of that amount, the money would be appropriated as follows:

  • $5.2 million for research at the National Institute of Justice;
  • $10 million for the Safe Start program;
  • $1 million for a domestic violence federal case processing study;
  • $1 million for research on family violence;
  • $11.975 million for Court Appointed Special Advocates;
  • $2.296 million for training for judicial personnel;
  • $998,000 for grants for televised testimony;
  • $64.925 million for grants to encourage arrests policies;
  • $39.935 million for rural domestic violence assistance grants;
  • $4.989 million for training programs;
  • $3 million for the establishment of a national stalking database;
  • $10 million to combat violence on college campuses;
  • $40 million for civil legal assistance;
  • $5 million for an elder abuse grant program;
  • $15 million for a Safe Haven Project;
  • $200,000 for a study on the effects of parental kidnapping;
  • $200,000 for a study on domestic violence forensic exams; and
  • $7.5 million for education and training for disabled female victims.

 

The bill also includes $10 million for victim services programs administered by the Justice Department and authorized last year by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (P.L. 106-386).

Juvenile justice programs would be level-funded at $297.94 million, the same amount requested by the President. The Victims of Child Abuse Act also would be level-funded at $8.481 million, the amount requested by the President.

H.R. 2550 would provide $2 million for the Department of State to operate an office within the department to monitor and combat trafficking in persons. An additional $1.8 million would be provided for the costs of an international conference on sex trafficking, which will be held in Washington, DC.

The Commission on Civil Rights would receive a $216,000 increase to $9.096 million, the same amount requested by the President.

Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Legal Services Corporation would be level-funded at $310 million and $330 million, respectively. The President requested level funding for both programs.

Several programs important to women-owned businesses would be level-funded under the bill: Women’s Business Centers, operated through the Small Business Administration, would receive $12 million; the National Women’s Business Council would receive $750,000; and the Survey of Women-Owned Businesses would receive $694,000.

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