Rep. Cuellar Votes to Pass the National Defense Authorization Act
Washington | Tony Wen, Press Secretary (202-856-8750), December 14, 2023
U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, Ph.D. (TX-28), a senior member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, issued the following statement after voting to pass H.R. 2670, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year (FY) 2024.
“Today, I voted to pass critical legislation that prioritizes American national security while providing historic funding for our troops and their families,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar, a senior member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “I am pleased to have helped secure language in the 2024 NDAA that will address the needs of South Texas communities. Our Border Patrol Agents continue to work in unprecedented situations at the Southern border, and this bill will ensure they receive proper and fair compensation for all hours worked. Additionally, Laredo is the nation’s busiest port of entry, and language I helped secure with Senator Ted Cruz will expedite the Presidential permitting for select border bridges and ensure projects like the proposed World Trade Bridge expansion avoid any unnecessary construction delays.”
“We appreciate Congressman Cuellar’s steadfast support for Border Patrol agents, said Hector Garza, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council. “Through his efforts, we were able to secure this important pay reform that will allow us to better recruit and retain future personnel.”
The 2024 NDAA guarantees that Border Patrol agents will be fairly compensated for every hour worked, including overtime. This change in overtime pay policies aligns Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with other federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to the agencies, officers are oftentimes expected to work overtime without receiving overtime pay for those hours, a significant problem with hiring and retaining employees. The change in overtime policies will apply to CBP employees classified at GS-12 or above.
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Appropriations, Dr. Cuellar has consistently supported and fought for border law enforcement personnel. In the FY23 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, Dr. Cuellar secured funding for 300 new Border Patrol Agents and 300 new Border Patrol Processing Coordinators, along with $120.2 million for an additional 250 Customs Officers, 500 technicians, and 500 mission support staff. Dr. Cuellar also secured pay increases over several years, including a 4.6% pay increase to be considered in FY23.
Presidential permits are required for construction projects at border crossings. Obtaining a permit currently requires an environmental review, which often takes years to complete. Dr. Cuellar’s language would direct the President to issue conditional permits for projects while environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are ongoing.
Dr. Cuellar has long worked to streamline the Presidential permitting process for border bridges. As a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, Dr. Cuellar secured language to reform the Presidential permit process for border bridges in the Fiscal Year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs House appropriations bill, which would expedite the World Trade Bridge expansion project in Laredo. Laredo is the nation’s largest port of entry, with 7.6 million total vehicle crossings in FY23. The city’s World Trade Bridge has experienced significant increases in commercial traffic since opening in 2000 and saw 2.5 million commercial crossings in FY23. The proposed World Trade Bridge expansion project will add ten lanes to the World Trade Bridge, bringing the total to 18 lanes and enabling more trade with Mexico.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual law specifying the budget and expenditures for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The FY24 NDAA includes a discretionary topline budget of approximately $876.8 billion.