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House Advances Rhode Island Priorities in Defense Bill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act, which now heads to the U.S. Senate for further consideration. The annual defense authorization proposal includes several priorities for Rhode Island, including paid family leave for federal workers, higher wages for servicemembers, and protections for Liberian nationals facing deportation (Rhode Island has the highest Liberian population per capita of any state).

“This bill is a big win for Rhode Island. I’m proud that we included several provisions important to Rhode Island. It’s critical that the Senate send this legislation to the President without further delay,” said Cicilline. “Creating a better Rhode Island for servicemembers, workers, and their families to call home is my top priority in Washington. That’s exactly what this bill does.”

The conference report included the following provisions directly impacting Rhode Islanders:

  • A long overdue 3.1% pay increase for servicemembers.
  • A priority of Cicilline’s to provide 12 weeks of paid parental leave for all federal employees.
  • A provision introduced by Cicilline in the House, by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) in the Senate, and backed by Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-02) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to allow Liberian refugees to apply for legal permanent residency. Cicilline introduced the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (H.R. 1169) with the support of 17 cosponsors. Senator Reed introduced a companion bill in the Senate with the support of 10 cosponsors.
  • A repeal of the «Widow’s Tax», which is an offset of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payments from Survivor Benefit Plan payments to surviving military spouses. Cicilline backed the bipartisan Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act (H.R. 553) to repeal the same provision.
  • A policy change allowing LGBT servicemembers who received a dishonorable or less than honorable discharge under «Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell» to apply to change their discharge status to honorable. Cicilline cosponsored the Restore Honor to Service Members Act (H.R. 3517) to allow LGBT veterans to change their discharge status.
  • $8.5 billion to fund construction of 2 Virginia Class Submarines in Fiscal Year 2020, and funding for the recently announced Block V group, which will produce up to 10 new Virginia Class Submarines. This includes $522 million to ensure that at least 9 of the Block V subs include the Virginia Payload Module, which is built and installed at Quonset. Cicilline advocated for funding for this program during the appropriations process.
  • $2.4 billion for the Columbia Class Submarine program, which are also built at Electric Boat’s facility at Quonset. Cicilline also advocated for funding for this program during the appropriations process.
  • An authorization of $11.6 million in military construction funds for a new fuel storage complex at Quonset Point.
  • Language that Cicilline included in the Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA encouraging DOD to work more cooperatively with certain Defense manufacturing programs, including the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program.
  • A two-year prohibition on U.S. refueling aircraft used in hostilities in Yemen included in the agreement because of an amendment authored by Cicilline.
  • A provision introduced by Cicilline to prohibit the transfer of F-35 aircrafts to Turkey and recommend that Turkey be sanctioned for purchasing Russian air defense systems. Cicilline introduced the Protecting NATO Skies Act (H.R. 3263), which would require this.
  • Cicilline-sponsored language to repeal of the Cyprus arms embargo that currently forces the nation to depend on other countries, including those that may pose challenges to U.S. national security interests around the world. Cicilline introduced the End the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act of 2019 (H.R. 4558) with the bipartisan support of 16 cosponsors.

“This is exactly how government is supposed to work for the people it serves,” added Cicilline. “I’m pleased that we sent the Senate a bill that is smart, effective, and responsive to the needs of our constituents.”