This was an exciting week in the U.S. House as we passed legislation to support and rebuild our military, to fuel the continued growth of our booming economy, and to improve the health and safety of our communities.
The House passed H.R. 302, the Federal Aviation Reauthorization Act (FAA) of 2018 & the Disaster Recovery Reform Act. This is a five-year reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration and includes the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA).
Passage of this bill is a giant step forward to continue making Houston, and every other community across the nation, more resilient to future natural disasters. Reforming the Stafford Act and putting aside a percentage of federal relief dollars will help us build better and plan smarter so that when the next inevitable disaster strikes, our communities will be ready and will recover faster.
I’m very pleased that the Disaster Recovery Reform Act includes a legislative fix I spearheaded in the House-passed version of the disaster relief bill. This provision would allow Governor Greg Abbott to request a waiver so that Harvey survivors who took out SBA loans to repair their homes will no longer be prohibited from using HUD grant funding to repay these loans later. I urge Governor Abbott to request this waiver as soon as this bill is signed into law.
For every dollar spent on better pre-disaster mitigation, we can save anywhere from $4 to $8 in the cost of future recovery. This bill is a bipartisan compromise, and I am urging the Senate to pass it as quickly as possible.
We also passed the 2019 Department of Defense, Labor Health and Human Services Appropriations Package. The Constitution outlines our national defense as the federal government’s top priority. My colleagues and I on the House Appropriations Committee have fulfilled this commitment with the fiscal year 2019 Defense Appropriations bill, which provides $674.4 billion to rebuild our armed forces, restore military readiness, and support our warfighters.
This bill also provides a 2.6 percent pay raise for our servicemembers, the largest pay raise in nine years, including $143.2 billion for military personnel and pay. The Defense Health Program is funded at $34.4 billion to make certain that our troops, military families, and retirees receive the best health care possible and have access to cutting-edge medical treatments. This funding also supports research into developing treatment and finding cures for cancers, rare and orphan diseases including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, traumatic brain injury, and other psychological conditions. It also provides funding for sexual assault prevention and response.
Additionally, the bill invests in homeland missile defense and procures new ships, aircraft, and land vehicles. It also invests in cutting-edge research that will ensure our technology is always two steps ahead of our adversaries in the conventional, outer-space, and cyber warfighting domains.
The United States is also facing growing threats from adversaries such as North Korea, China, and Russia. Our allies are critical in defending against these threats, and we included funding for our European partners and Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. This bill also provides over $500 million for one of our greatest allies, Israel, to continue to develop and procure missile defense systems that benefit them as well as the United States.
My highest priority in the Labor-HHS bill is funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for scientific and medical research – both of which received significant funding increases in the bill. It’s critical that we support the researchers, scientists, and physicians in their vital work to fight and cure diseases.
We have also included more than $6.6 billion to fight the devastating opioid epidemic, which has touched every community in our nation, including Houston. This Congress is committed to fighting the epidemic on all fronts and has undertaken a comprehensive bipartisan effort to combat opioid abuse. This bill will fund treatment, recovery, and addiction prevention. I look forward to President Trump signing these bills into law.
Our economy continues to break new records, thanks to tax reform. New data shows consumer confidence hit its highest level in nearly 18 years this month and jobless claims are at a 49-year low. Tax reform has created more jobs, bigger paychecks, and better benefits for everyday Texans and Americans alike.
To keep this momentum going and to ensure that our historic tax cuts are permanent, this week the House also passed Tax Reform 2.0. Tax Reform 2.0 is a package of three bills that lock in the historic reforms of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act to protect middle-class and small business tax cuts, promote family savings, and advance the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Tax Reform 2.0 would permanently double the Child Tax Credit, lower individual income tax rates and thresholds, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax for nearly 96 percent of those who paid it last year, and double the exemption from the estate tax. The next stop for this bill is the Senate.
To let me know your thoughts on these or any other issues, you can email me here.
It is an honor and privilege to represent you and Texas in the United States House.