Ranking Member Garamendi Helps Guide Bipartisan Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Bill through House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5769, the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 413-3. The bipartisan, bicameral legislation reauthorizes funding for the United States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Federal Maritime Commission. It also provides policy direction and certainty for these entities and the entire maritime sector. As Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA-03) was a lead negotiator for this compromise, and he helped shepherd the bill through the House.

“This bipartisan legislation promotes a resurgence of our Coast Guard and maritime industries. The new policy direction, funding, and benefits will support the hardworking men and women who work in the field,” said Congressman Garamendi. “The bill requires the development of a new National Maritime Strategy to serve as a compass and guide us as we navigate the contemporary challenges of the maritime world. It reforms the Coast Guard so the service is more flexible and responsive to our nation’s economic and security needs. The bill also bolsters our strategically vital shipbuilding sector, including reauthorization of the small shipyard competitive grant program, new authority to expedite the procurement of Offshore Patrol Cutters, and enhanced enforcement of U.S. cargo preference requirements that support good paying jobs for U.S. seafarers. H.R. 5769 is a good bipartisan, bicameral compromise. I urge the Senate to pass the bill without delay, so that we can help move our country forward.”

H.R. 5769 was the result of an agreement from Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. With today’s passage in the House, the bill will now go to the Senate for its immediate consideration.

The Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (H.R. 5769) includes provisions that:

·         Authorize the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve for fiscal year 2015;

·         Support Coast Guard servicemembers and their families by providing new child care and family support programs;

·         Require development of a comprehensive National Maritime Strategy;

·         Support U.S. flagged and crewed vessels by directing the Transportation Department to enforce our cargo preference laws and regulations;

·         Reauthorize the small shipyard competitive grant program, which in 2011 awarded a $1.4 million grant to a facility in Alameda County;

·         Provide new guidance to the Coast Guard as it continues to rebuild its offshore fleet of cutters, including the granting of multi-year procurement authority for the new Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) which will help expedite the construction of this new class of cutter once a final design is selected next year;

·         Strengthen cooperation between the Coast Guard and State Maritime Academies, including California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, by codifying the Merchant Marine Personnel Advisory Committee;

·         Help replace and modernize aging Coast Guard assets in a cost-effective manner;

·         Provide new directives that the Coast Guard needs to prepare for full-time operations and for the safety of maritime transportation in the Arctic, including authority to reactivate the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea;

·         Provide explicit cooperative agreement authority to enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to develop beneficial partnerships with other maritime stakeholders, including private businesses, nonprofits, and foreign governments;

·         Improve Coast Guard acquisition activities;

·         Enhance Congressional oversight; and

·         Create opportunities for veterans to transition to careers in the Merchant Marine.

The legislation is named in honor of retiring Congressman and long-serving House Transportation Committee Member Howard Coble, the only current Member of Congress to have served in the Coast Guard and a strong supporter of the Service.

Click here for an overview and section-by-section summary of the bill.

Floor Statement of Ranking Member John Garamendi

Thank you, Mr. Rahall, for yielding me time. I rise in strong support of H.R. 5769, the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014.

As explained by the previous speakers, this bill is bipartisan, bicameral legislation to reauthorize funding for Fiscal Year 2015 for the United States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve, and the Federal Maritime Commission. 

This legislation includes many important provisions that were contained in H.R. 4005, Coast Guard authorization legislation that was passed and reported by voice vote by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 11, and passed overwhelmingly by the House on April 1 of this year. As such, I strongly support H.R. 5769 and urge members on both sides to support its passage.

Maintaining safe, reliable and efficient maritime commerce that enables our foreign and domestic trade to fuel the U.S. economy remains as important today as it was in 1790 when former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton established the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.

This legislation will provide our Coast Guard with the resources and policy tools they need to meet the challenges presented by the ever-evolving economic and security demands of our nation.

I want to express my genuine appreciation to Coast Guard Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter and his outstanding staff for their willingness to work with me and several other Democrat members to address many of the issues raised by us throughout the legislative process.

Additionally, enough cannot be said about the leadership and support of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, Bill Shuster, and Ranking Democrat Member, Nick Rahall, who created by their own bipartisan example the right circumstances that fostered good faith negotiations and fair compromise.

First and foremost, the bill includes several non-controversial administrative and management directives to better align the Coast Guard’s mission needs with its long-term capital planning and annual budget requests.     

Additionally, the bill would grant the Coast Guard with greater flexibility to augment active duty forces and provide explicit cooperative agreement authority to enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to develop beneficial partnerships with other maritime stakeholders.

The bill would also provide new guidance to the Coast Guard as it continues to re-build its offshore fleet of cutters, including the granting of multi-year procurement authority for the new Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) which will help expedite the construction of this new class of cutter once a final design is selected next year.

I am particularly pleased that this legislation would advance several positive policy initiatives to reinvigorate the U.S. merchant marine and improve maritime transportation. 

Most noteworthy, this legislation would direct the administration to enforce our cargo preference laws and regulations, a move which is long overdue and needed.

Additionally, this legislation would require the Department of Transportation to develop a new National Maritime Strategy and direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct an assessment of how the future export trade in liquefied natural gas would affect job creation in the maritime industry.  I also fully support language that would reauthorize the Small Shipyard Grant Program.

I welcome these opportunities to chart a new course forward to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. flag fleet on the high seas, to increase opportunities for short sea shipping, and to expand our commercial shipbuilding industrial base.

I am also pleased that this legislation will advance significant new policies to finally force the Federal Government – the Coast Guard especially -- to take constructive actions to address the implications of a thawing Arctic region and the imminent demands for commercial maritime transportation and resource development across this vast region.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5769 is responsible legislation that would provide budget stability for the Coast Guard, advance sensible policy reforms, and promote our merchant marine.  The bill deserves the support of members from both sides and I urge an “aye” vote. 

Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.