WASHINGTON, D.C. – With all eyes on deficit reduction and the “Fiscal Cliff,” nothing is sacred in Washington, including funding for the fire service.
That’s why the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) has sent out an urgent request for firefighters, officers and everyone connected with the emergency services to contact their United States senators to express support for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program and the United States Fire Administration.
“There are a lot of members of the Senate, with the deficit and large debt, who are looking for ways to bring the debt down,” said Bill Webb, the executive director of CFSI, in a telephone interview with Firehouse on Thursday afternoon. “Very few programs are sacred and nothing is off limits.”
The Congressional Fire Services Caucus, founded in 1987, unites Republicans and Democrats in support of fire service legislation that benefits all first responders.
Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that Webb said is one of the few that will move during the “lame duck” session of Congress this year.
Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), a long-time supporter of the fire service, and co-chairman of the Congressional Fire Service Caucus, is trying to include an amendment to the legislation reauthorizing the AFG and SAFER grant programs, as well as the USFA.
Webb said in the interview that while there are a number of senators working hard to get the amendment attached to the act, “there are no guarantees.”
“We have always said politics is local and the senators need to hear from their local fire departments that have benefited from the AFG and SAFER grant programs,” Webb said.
“…Without naming names, there are a number of folks in the senate who don’t consider these programs a priority. We need to make sure they understand that they are very important priorities.”
Because the National Defense Authorization Act is one of the few bills that will likely move before the end of the term, a number of “germane” amendments are being considered and it's important that Lieberman’s amendment is one of those included, Webb said.
“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” Webb said.
In its alert, CFSI issued some instructions on how fire and emergency services members should make their voices heard.
The organization is asking responders to contact both of their senators and encourage them to contact Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to express their support for the Lieberman amendment.
The CFSI offered several talking points for the calls to the senators as follows:
- I understand that Senator Joseph Lieberman has filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
- Amendment #3090 would reauthorize the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program and the United States Fire Administration.
- I strongly urge you to contact Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and ask for his support of Amendment #3090.
- AFG, SAFER and the United States Fire Administration are essential to enhancing the readiness and response capabilities of fire departments in (your state) and all other states. We need these programs reauthorized.
To make the call, constituents are encouraged to call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask that the call be transferred to the appropriate senators’ offices from the caller’s home state.
CFSI encourages everyone to make the calls today as the bill is under consideration.