NATIONAL URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE RESPONSE SYSTEM ACT OF 2016; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 176
(House of Representatives - December 07, 2016)

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      NATIONAL URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE RESPONSE SYSTEM ACT OF 2016

  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the 
bill (S. 2971) to authorize the National Urban Search and Rescue 
Response System, as amended.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                                S. 2971

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``National Urban Search and 
     Rescue Response System Act of 2016''.

     SEC. 2. NATIONAL URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE RESPONSE SYSTEM.

       (a) In General.--Title III of the Robert T. Stafford 
     Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5141 
     et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:

     ``SEC. 327. NATIONAL URBAN SEARCH AND RESCUE RESPONSE SYSTEM.

       ``(a) Definitions.--In this section, the following 
     definitions shall apply:
       ``(1) Administrator.--The term `Administrator' means the 
     Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
       ``(2) Agency.--The term `Agency' means the Federal 
     Emergency Management Agency.
       ``(3) Hazard.--The term `hazard' has the meaning given the 
     term in section 602.
       ``(4) Nonemployee system member.--The term `nonemployee 
     System member' means a System member not employed by a 
     sponsoring agency or participating agency.
       ``(5) Participating agency.--The term `participating 
     agency' means a State or local government, nonprofit 
     organization, or private organization that has executed an 
     agreement with a sponsoring agency to participate in the 
     System.
       ``(6) Sponsoring agency.--The term `sponsoring agency' 
     means a State or local government that is the sponsor of a 
     task force designated by the Administrator to participate in 
     the System.
       ``(7) System.--The term `System' means the National Urban 
     Search and Rescue Response System to be administered under 
     this section.
       ``(8) System member.--The term `System member' means an 
     individual who is not a full-time employee of the Federal 
     Government and who serves on a task force or on a System 
     management or other technical team.
       ``(9) Task force.--The term `task force' means an urban 
     search and rescue team designated by the Administrator to 
     participate in the System.
       ``(b) General Authority.--Subject to the requirements of 
     this section, the Administrator shall continue to administer 
     the emergency response system known as the National Urban 
     Search and Rescue Response System.
       ``(c) Functions.--In administering the System, the 
     Administrator shall provide for a national network of 
     standardized search and rescue resources to assist States and 
     local governments in responding to hazards.
       ``(d) Task Forces.--
       ``(1) Designation.--The Administrator shall designate task 
     forces to participate in the System. The Administration shall 
     determine the criteria for such participation.
       ``(2) Sponsoring agencies.--Each task force shall have a 
     sponsoring agency. The Administrator shall enter into an 
     agreement with the sponsoring agency with respect to the 
     participation of each task force in the System.
       ``(3) Composition.--
       ``(A) Participating agencies.--A task force may include, at 
     the discretion of the sponsoring agency, 1 or more 
     participating agencies. The sponsoring agency shall enter 
     into an agreement with each participating agency with respect 
     to the participation of the participating agency on the task 
     force.
       ``(B) Other individuals.--A task force may also include, at 
     the discretion of the sponsoring agency, other individuals 
     not otherwise associated with the sponsoring agency or a 
     participating agency. The sponsoring agency of a task force 
     may enter into a separate agreement with each such individual 
     with respect to the participation of the individual on the 
     task force.
       ``(e) Management and Technical Teams.--The Administrator 
     shall maintain such management teams and other technical 
     teams as the Administrator determines are necessary to 
     administer the System.
       ``(f) Appointment of System Members Into Federal Service.--
       ``(1) In general.--The Administrator may appoint a System 
     member into Federal service for a period of service to 
     provide for the participation of the System member in 
     exercises, preincident staging, major disaster and emergency 
     response activities, and training events sponsored or 
     sanctioned by the Administrator.
       ``(2) Nonapplicability of certain civil service laws.--The 
     Administrator may make appointments under paragraph (1) 
     without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States 
     Code, governing appointments in the competitive service.
       ``(3) Relationship to other authorities.--The authority of 
     the Administrator to make appointments under this subsection 
     shall not affect any other authority of the Administrator 
     under this Act.
       ``(4) Limitation.--A System member who is appointed into 
     Federal service under paragraph (1) shall not be considered 
     an employee of the United States for purposes other than 
     those specifically set forth in this section.
       ``(g) Compensation.--
       ``(1) Pay of system members.--Subject to such terms and 
     conditions as the Administrator may impose by regulation, the 
     Administrator shall make payments to the sponsoring agency of 
     a task force--
       ``(A) to reimburse each employer of a System member on the 
     task force for compensation paid by the employer to the 
     System member for any period during which the System member 
     is appointed into Federal service under subsection (f)(1); 
     and
       ``(B) to make payments directly to a nonemployee System 
     member on the task force for any period during which the 
     nonemployee System member is appointed into Federal service 
     under subsection (f)(1).
       ``(2) Reimbursement for employees filling positions of 
     system members.--
       ``(A) In general.--Subject to such terms and conditions as 
     the Administrator may impose by regulation, the Administrator 
     shall make payments to the sponsoring agency of a task force 
     to be used to reimburse each employer of a System member on 
     the task force for compensation paid by the employer to an 
     employee filling a position normally filled by the System 
     member for any period during which the System member is 
     appointed into Federal service under subsection (f)(1).
       ``(B) Limitation.--Costs incurred by an employer shall be 
     eligible for reimbursement under subparagraph (A) only to the 
     extent that the costs are in excess of the costs that would 
     have been incurred by the employer had the System member not 
     been appointed into Federal service under subsection (f)(1).
       ``(3) Method of payment.--A System member shall not be 
     entitled to pay directly from the Agency for a period during 
     which the System member is appointed into Federal Service 
     under subsection (f)(1).
       ``(h) Personal Injury, Illness, Disability, or Death.--
       ``(1) In general.--A System member who is appointed into 
     Federal service under subsection (f)(1) and who suffers 
     personal injury, illness, disability, or death as a result of 
     a personal injury sustained while acting in the scope of such 
     appointment, shall, for the purposes of subchapter I of 
     chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, be treated as 
     though the

[[Page H7311]]

     member were an employee (as defined by section 8101 of that 
     title) who had sustained the injury in the performance of 
     duty.
       ``(2) Election of benefits.--
       ``(A) In general.--A System member (or, in the case of the 
     death of the System member, the System member's dependent) 
     who is entitled under paragraph (1) to receive benefits under 
     subchapter I of chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, by 
     reason of personal injury, illness, disability, or death, and 
     to receive benefits from a State or local government by 
     reason of the same personal injury, illness, disability or 
     death shall elect to--
       ``(i) receive benefits under such subchapter; or
       ``(ii) receive benefits from the State or local government.
       ``(B) Deadline.--A System member or dependent shall make an 
     election of benefits under subparagraph (A) not later than 1 
     year after the date of the personal injury, illness, 
     disability, or death that is the reason for the benefits, or 
     until such later date as the Secretary of Labor may allow for 
     reasonable cause shown.
       ``(C) Effect of election.--An election of benefits made 
     under this paragraph is irrevocable unless otherwise provided 
     by law.
       ``(3) Reimbursement for state or local benefits.--Subject 
     to such terms and conditions as the Administrator may impose 
     by regulation, if a System member or dependent elects to 
     receive benefits from a State or local government under 
     paragraph (2)(A), the Administrator shall reimburse the State 
     or local government for the value of the benefits.
       ``(4) Public safety officer claims.--Nothing in this 
     subsection shall be construed to bar any claim by, or with 
     respect to, any System member who is a public safety officer, 
     as defined in section 1204 of title I of the Omnibus Crime 
     Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3796b), for 
     any benefits authorized under part L of title I of that Act 
     (42 U.S.C. 3796 et seq.).
       ``(i) Liability.--A System member appointed into Federal 
     service under subsection (f)(1), while acting within the 
     scope of the appointment, shall be considered to be an 
     employee of the Federal Government under section 1346(b) of 
     title 28, United States Code, and chapter 171 of that title, 
     relating to tort claims procedure.
       ``(j) Employment and Reemployment Rights.--With respect to 
     a System member who is not a regular full-time employee of a 
     sponsoring agency or participating agency, the following 
     terms and conditions apply:
       ``(1) Service.--Service as a System member shall be 
     considered to be `service in the uniformed services' for 
     purposes of chapter 43 of title 38, United States Code, 
     relating to employment and reemployment rights of individuals 
     who have performed service in the uniformed services 
     (regardless of whether the individual receives compensation 
     for such participation). All rights and obligations of such 
     persons and procedures for assistance, enforcement, and 
     investigation shall be as provided for in such chapter.
       ``(2) Preclusion.--Preclusion of giving notice of service 
     by necessity of appointment under this section shall be 
     considered to be preclusion by `military necessity' for 
     purposes of section 4312(b) of title 38, United States Code, 
     pertaining to giving notice of absence from a position of 
     employment. A determination of such necessity shall be made 
     by the Administrator and shall not be subject to judicial 
     review.
       ``(k) Licenses and Permits.--If a System member holds a 
     valid license, certificate, or other permit issued by any 
     State or other governmental jurisdiction evidencing the 
     member's qualifications in any professional, mechanical, or 
     other skill or type of assistance required by the System, the 
     System member is deemed to be performing a Federal activity 
     when rendering aid involving such skill or assistance during 
     a period of appointment into Federal service under subsection 
     (f)(1).
       ``(l) Preparedness Cooperative Agreements.--Subject to the 
     availability of appropriations for such purpose, the 
     Administrator shall enter into an annual preparedness 
     cooperative agreement with each sponsoring agency. Amounts 
     made available to a sponsoring agency under such a 
     preparedness cooperative agreement shall be for the following 
     purposes:
       ``(1) Training and exercises, including training and 
     exercises with other Federal, State, and local government 
     response entities.
       ``(2) Acquisition and maintenance of equipment, including 
     interoperable communications and personal protective 
     equipment.
       ``(3) Medical monitoring required for responder safety and 
     health in anticipation of and following a major disaster, 
     emergency, or other hazard, as determined by the 
     Administrator.
       ``(m) Response Cooperative Agreements.--The Administrator 
     shall enter into a response cooperative agreement with each 
     sponsoring agency, as appropriate, under which the 
     Administrator agrees to reimburse the sponsoring agency for 
     costs incurred by the sponsoring agency in responding to a 
     major disaster or emergency.
       ``(n) Obligations.--The Administrator may incur all 
     necessary obligations consistent with this section in order 
     to ensure the effectiveness of the System.
       ``(o) Equipment Maintenance and Replacement.--Not later 
     than 180 days after the date of enactment of this section, 
     the Administrator shall submit to the appropriate 
     congressional committees (as defined in section 2 of the 
     Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 101)) a report on the 
     development of a plan, including implementation steps and 
     timeframes, to finance, maintain, and replace System 
     equipment.''.
       (b) Conforming Amendments.--
       (1) Applicability of title 5, united states code.--Section 
     8101(1) of title 5, United States Code, is amended--
       (A) in subparagraph (D), by striking ``and'' at the end;
       (B) by transferring subparagraph (F) to between 
     subparagraph (E) and the matter following subparagraph (E);
       (C) in subparagraph (F)--
       (i) by striking ``United States Code,''; and
       (ii) by adding ``and'' at the end; and
       (D) by inserting after subparagraph (F) the following:
       ``(G) an individual who is a System member of the National 
     Urban Search and Rescue Response System during a period of 
     appointment into Federal service pursuant to section 327 of 
     the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency 
     Assistance Act;''.
       (2) Inclusion as part of uniformed services for purposes of 
     userra.--Section 4303 of title 38, United States Code, is 
     amended--
       (A) in paragraph (13), by inserting ``, a period for which 
     a System member of the National Urban Search and Rescue 
     Response System is absent from a position of employment due 
     to an appointment into Federal service under section 327 of 
     the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency 
     Assistance Act'' before ``, and a period''; and
       (B) in paragraph (16), by inserting ``System members of the 
     National Urban Search and Rescue Response System during a 
     period of appointment into Federal service under section 327 
     of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency 
     Assistance Act,'' after ``Public Health Service,''.
       (c) Technical Amendment.--Section 1086(d) of the National 
     Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 is amended as 
     follows (which amendments shall take effect as if enacted on 
     January 2, 2013)--
       (1) in paragraph (1)--
       (A) by striking ``paragraph (1)'' and inserting ``paragraph 
     (2)''; and
       (B) in subparagraph (B) by striking ``filed or'' and 
     inserting ``filed (consistent with pre-existing effective 
     dates) or''; and
       (2) in paragraph (2)(A), by striking ``amendments made by 
     this Act'' and inserting ``amendments made to section 1204 of 
     the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 
     U.S.C. 3796b) by this Act''.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) and the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. 
Cohen) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.


                             General Leave

  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks 
and include extraneous material on S. 2971, as amended.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, let me begin by thanking Chairman Shuster for his 
tremendous support and leadership on this issue. For over 8 years, the 
bipartisan leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure 
Committee has been the driving force behind trying to get these reforms 
through Congress, and, today, we are closer than ever.
  I also want to thank Ranking Member DeFazio and Ranking Member Carson 
for their bipartisan support.
  The House unanimously passed a nearly identical measure earlier this 
year as part of the FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act, H.R. 1471.
  Today, when members of the search and rescue teams are federalized 
and sent across State lines, they don't know who, if anyone, will pay 
for their injuries, disabilities, or death. So S. 2971 addresses that 
issue and clarifies that longstanding concern which has hindered the 
deployment of critical search and rescue teams between States.
  Currently, there are 28 USAR teams across the Nation. Members of 
these teams are cross-trained in areas such as search, rescue, medical, 
hazardous materials, and logistics. The teams include firefighters, 
physicians, structural engineers, and first responders, and they are 
trained and equipped with help from FEMA. While the members of these 
teams are not Federal, they do not hesitate to respond to disasters in 
other States.
  These teams have been deployed over the years to numerous disasters, 
including the Pentagon and World Trade Center on 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, 
and, most recently, Hurricane Matthew. The challenge has been that when 
these team members are federalized,

[[Page H7312]]

they do not have clarity on who would be responsible if they were 
injured or even killed while performing their jobs.
  It is amazing that we ask these men and women to go into collapsed 
structures to search for trapped survivors, risking life and limb, 
without providing them with clarity when it comes to liability and 
injuries.
  The stories of the selfless heroism of these men and women are 
numerous and humbling. Their work is tireless, physically and 
emotionally demanding, and nerve-racking.
  In Hurricane Matthew, one team helped make more than 100 rescues in 
North Carolina alone, including the rescue of a 98-year-old hospice 
patient, when they had to go into areas where the water was 5 to 7 feet 
above street level, and they could only see the tops of the street 
signs.
  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a single task force rescued more 
than 850 individuals in 17 hours from a flooded area overwhelmed by a 
tidal surge. And there are hundreds more such as these accounts.
  These heroes play an essential role in the Federal response to 
national disasters and catastrophes. In addition, the National USAR 
system benefits our State, local, and regional emergency managers and 
first responders through training, equipment, and preparedness.
  The local government and other entities that sponsor the members of 
the teams should not have to worry about being left vulnerable or 
exposed by allowing their employees to participate in such a critical 
national asset.
  After 8 years, it is time to give men and women who put their lives 
at risk the liability protections they and their families need and 
deserve. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
  I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. COHEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  First, I would like to compliment the Senate on passing the bill we 
passed last week, the 21st Century Cures Act, which will help research 
and save the lives of many Americans, something we did in a bipartisan 
fashion. I am pleased that that happened.
  I rise in support of S. 2971, the National Urban Search and Rescue 
Response System Act of 2016, as amended, which codifies the Urban 
Search and Rescue Response System.
  Authorizing the urban search and rescue teams, better known as USAR 
teams, and codifying protections for team members, such as workers' 
comp and liability protections, have been a top priority of mine since 
I first introduced a bill to do so in 2007, my first year in Congress.
  I was pleased that the late former Democratic Transportation and 
Infrastructure Chairman, an outstanding Member, Mr. Oberstar, now 
deceased, included my USAR language in a bill that was reported from 
the committee in 2010. Since then, legislation authorizing USAR teams 
has passed the House several times, and now the Senate has passed one 
as well.

                              {time}  1515

  The 28 urban search and rescue teams that are strategically located 
across the United States provide timely response when needed in the 
aftermath of a disaster. In fact, USAR teams can be ready for 
deployment within 6 hours of being called up.
  These specialized teams of first responders provide search and rescue 
services, extraction from structural collapses, and swift, rapid 
rescue, among other activities, after disaster strikes. Their 
dedication is truly commendable, as they drop everything in their busy 
daily lives to come to the prompt assistance of others when needed.
  It should be noted that USAR teams even respond internationally when 
assistance is requested. In fact, two USAR teams deployed in the 
aftermath of Nepal's earthquakes in 2015 and were responsible for many 
rescues from structural collapses.
  It is only appropriate that we ensure that they have the protection 
they need to perform their jobs as well as the peace of mind that will 
come from clarity in compensation and liability issues.
  USAR teams may be composed of firefighters, law enforcement officers, 
paramedics, engineers, medical professionals, and canine handlers. 
Often, these team members are civil servants. By extending job 
protection benefits when activated for Federal service, team members 
know that their jobs will be waiting at home for them. In addition, it 
helps USAR teams recruit and retain new members.
  Tennessee's USAR, known as Tennessee Task Force One, has a strong 
commitment to their jobs, and they do an extraordinarily good job. 
Tennessee Task Force One is based in Memphis, Tennessee, and consists 
of firefighters, police officers, and civilians; and they responded 
when called to assist in the aftermath of disasters, such as Hurricane 
Matthew in South Carolina and, most recently, for the tragic wildfires 
in our Smoky Mountains. They did so despite the uncertainty of whether 
they would be covered for any injuries.
  Their actions are truly heroic, and I applaud them and their 
dedication. The protections in today's bill are long overdue, and team 
members can now rest assured that they will be taken care of if they 
are injured when performing Federal duties.
  I am sadly disappointed, though, that the Republican leadership is 
once again selectively choosing when and when not to enforce its budget 
rules. The underlying Senate bill we are considering authorized ``such 
sums as necessary'' to carry out the USAR system. Despite the House 
having passed a bill authorizing ``such sums as necessary'' for the 
Integrated Public Alert and Warning System earlier this year, we are 
now told that this authorization violates budget rules and an amendment 
and further consideration by the Senate is required.
  As a result, USAR team members must wait another day before we afford 
them the protections that they deserve. They deserve better, and they 
deserve laws that will ensure that Congress will appropriate adequate 
funds to support them and their activities.
  I thank all the USAR teams for their service, and I thank Mr. 
Barletta for working on this bill as well. I urge my colleagues to 
support our USAR teams by supporting the legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I again urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' 
on S. 2971.
  I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta) that the House suspend the 
rules and pass the bill, S. 2971, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this motion will be postponed.

                          ____________________