About Congressman Chaka Fattah

Congressman Chaka Fattah is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.  This committee is responsible for setting spending priorities for over $1 trillion in annual discretionary funds. Congressman Fattah is Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies (CJS).  The Subcommittee on CJS oversees close to $51 billion in discretionary spending including the Commerce and Justice Departments, NASA. NOAA and the National Science Foundation. Fattah is also Chair of the Congressional Urban Caucus, a bipartisan group of 47 Members representing America’s metropolitan centers.  These Members work collaboratively with other stakeholders to address the unique challenges facing America’s urban communities.

Major Achievements:

The American Opportunity Tax Credit Act – Chief sponsor of the $14 billion legislation to provide a $2,500 tax credit for tuition and other expenses for college students or their parents. To date 4.5 million students and their families have received a tax refund from the AOTC with an average value of $800. During the 111thCongress, the AOTC was extended for two years.  The success of the program and the number of students already helped has led the Administration to call on Congress to make the AOTC permanent.

Fattah Neuroscience Initiative – In December 2011 the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was directed by Congress to establish an Interagency Working Group on Neuroscience (IWGN).  The IWGN, housed at the White House, was chartered on June 20, 2012 and is currently convening representatives across the Federal government to make recommendations about the future of neuroscience research. The following departments and agencies are represented on the IWGN:

Department of Agriculture;

Department of Defense;

Department of Education;

Department of Energy;

Department of Health and Human Services (Co-chair);

Department of Homeland Security;

Department of Justice;

Department of Veterans Affairs;

Central Intelligence Agency;

Environmental Protection Agency;

National Aeronautics and Space Administration;

National Science Foundation (Co-chair); and

Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

This collaborative is significant both in its interdisciplinary nature and the precedence it stands to set in addressing broad national priorities. Congressman Fattah is also partnering with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to host a series of congressional briefings educating Members of Congress and their staff about current neuroscience research.  Topics presented thus far have included infant brain development and mental illness in young adults.

American Innovation and Mentorship Agreement (AIM) – Under the AIM Agreement, the knowledge of thousands of engineers, scientists and educators affiliated with FIRST, serving as mentors on robotics and other engineering topics, will be brought directly to Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) members to spark and maintain an interest in applied science. AIM is the first agreement of its kind to provide applied science for young people on this scale. BCGA, which serves some 4 million young people, plans to offer active mentoring on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math) operating the AIM Agreement in three fourths of its nearly 4,000 Clubs by 2015. The agreement between BGCA and FIRST Robotics builds on Fattah’s work throughout his career. In September 2011, he hosted a National Science Foundation Summit in Philadelphia highlighting the agency’s report, “Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics on best practices on STEM education.”

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) – Congressman Fattah is the architect of the nation’s largest and most successful college readiness and access program.Over the past 12 years, GEAR UP has received more than $4 billion in federal funds and currently serves some 12 million students from sixth to 12th grades in 49 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.  GEAR UP serves as an international model to aid underserved students in their preparation and pursuit of a college education.

College Savings Account Research Demonstration Project – Designed to help low-income students and their parents save for college, the test project will allot more than $8.5 million to establish and fund college savings accounts for 10,000 GEAR UP students to determine if dedicated savings will increase a student’s likelihood of college attendance. The important role GEAR UP has in the new venture is due to Fattah – who created the GEAR UP program – and his long held belief in the importance of innovative programs and projects designed to ensure students achieve academic success. Fattah understands the economic future of the country rests in the minds of American students many of whom are attending high-poverty middle and high schools.

Manufacturing – The Senior Democrat on Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies, Fattah has been the principal sponsor for federal seed money and technical support for manufacturing innovation.  He secured some $300 million for various programs to expand research and development and grow the manufacturing base through: the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the National Innovation Marketplace, Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia and the Advanced Manufacturing initiative.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) Program – Fattah is leading legislative advocate for the $3.2 billion program – with $39 million allocated to Philadelphia and its region. These block grants will assist over 1,041 local communities in the development of programs to implement various energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program – Applies over $1 billion in TARP funds to the threatened mortgages of millions of unemployed homeowners so they can remain in their homes.  The program traces its roots to a similar Pennsylvania program, the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, Fattah created as a Pennsylvania State Legislator that has provided over $236 million to tens of thousands in need.  The federal measure, which directed more than $100 million to Pennsylvania, was enacted as part of the Wall Street Reform Act.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – A leader of the legislative strategy that ultimately led to the bill’s signing into law. Health care reform now ensures affordable coverage will extend to more than 32 million more Americans; provide security and stability to those who have health insurance; and shift power from insurance companies to consumers.  Additionally, Congressman Fattah was an early supporter of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization.  The program currently provides health insurance for more than 7 million American children. This legislation protects coverage for those same children while expanding it to include an additional 4 million who would otherwise be uninsured.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – An early sponsor of the $787 billion stimulus package to create jobs, strengthen the economy, bring down the unemployment rate and restore American job security, Congressman Fattah saw close to $20 billion in federal stimulus funds directed to Pennsylvania including a significant amount to Philadelphians and local Philadelphia projects.

Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act – an early proponent and strong advocate for the greatest expansion in college access since the creation of the federal student loan and Pell Grant programs.  This law invests $36 billion over 10 years to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant to $5,975 by 2017, provide $2.5 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions and $2 billion for community colleges.  The bill also provides for loan forgiveness after 10 consecutive years in government or nonprofit work or after 20 years of payments, and it strengthens Income Based Repayment to reduce graduate debt loads and expand career options.  Additionally, the bill invests $750 million to promote support for students with college application, college retention and financial literacy programs in the College Access and Completion Grant Program, an initiative similar to GEAR UP.

College Opportunity Resources for Education (CORE) – Creator of this city-wide Philadelphia initiative providing almost $27 million in scholarships to over 14,500 students to help put college within reach of every Philadelphia high school student and build a more highly-educated workforce to attract desirable employers to the city.

Graduate Opportunity Initiative Conference – the mission of the conference, now in its 25thyear, is to significantly increase the enrollment of under-represented graduate students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Congressman Fattah, the founder of the annual three-day informational and scholarship conference in Philadelphia, designed it to encourage minority students’ interest in STEM graduate and professional schools.  For many years the conference attendees were either Pennsylvania residents or students attending Pennsylvania Institutions of higher learning.  As Congressman Fattah has ascended to the national stage and has become a recognized leader on educational issues, the conference has expanded with students attending from all over the United States. More than 12,000 students have been served and over $100 million in public/private partnership dollars have been invested in this effort.

Housing – as a State Senator, Fattah led the ground breaking effort to implode and replace decaying high-rises and provided a blueprint to improve living conditions for more than 3,400 Philadelphia families — moving them from crime ridden public housing towers, to single family homes.  Building on the Philadelphia model, Congressman Fattah led the way in providing tens of billions in federal dollars to cities nationwide under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI program.  The program revitalizes neighborhoods by razing high-rises, rehabilitating abandoned homes and building new dwellings. Fattah led the way to secure a $5 million technical assistance grant to help local housing authorities implement their HOPE VI projects.

Crime Prevention – Congressman Fattah is the creator of the ‘Goods for Guns’ program created to keep guns off of Philadelphia streets.  Over 5,000 firearms have been recovered since its inception. In exchange for relinquishing weapons, residents receive a $100 food voucher. A leading proponent of crime prevention and enforcement, Fattah secured $5 millionin federal funds for video surveillance equipment. With the advocacy of Congressman Fattah, the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership program in Philadelphia has received over $1 million in federal dollars to reduce the incidence of youth homicide. Fattah also fought for increased funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program which provides assistance to law enforcement agencies for activities including hiring and training law enforcement officers, and neighborhood policing programs. Fattah has partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, leading a campaign on the House Appropriations Committee to ensure law enforcement officials have the information they need to stop the flow of illegal guns.

Commuter Options – Facilitated a $1.4 million federal grant for the reverse commuting program of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project which provides daily transportation for city workers to suburban jobs. The Philadelphia Unemployment Project’s Commuter Options Program has 26 van and car pools transporting 106 Philadelphia workers to their jobs each day.

The Benefit Bank – TBB, for which Fattah has won appropriations as chief Congressional advocate, assists low and moderate income citizens learn about, apply for and “bank” the government benefits to which they are entitled. It is currently available in nine states with four more in development.  Since its inception, TBB helped approximately 85,860 households file their tax returns generating $128.1million in tax refunds and credits and assisted some 44,656 households receive more than $235 million in benefits.

Safe Blood for Africa – With funds that Congressman Fattah helped direct, the Safe Blood for Africa Foundation has trained thousands of African blood technicians, who test an average of 2.5 million units of blood and save hundreds of thousands of lives annually. Fattah has also been a staunch supporter of the Multi-Country Training Program, which has delivered training to blood service professionals and other health care workers. The training forum provides a rare opportunity for healthcare professionals from several countries to receive training and develop action plans relevant to each country or province’s needs. This format also fosters communication and collaboration, while promoting international best practices and an integrated approach to health systems strengthening.

Current Initiatives:

Fattah Neuroscience Initiative – In November 2011, President Obama signed into law the Fattah Neuroscience Initiative, the first ever federal inter-agency collaborative focused on neuroscience.  Currently, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and National Science Foundation all fund research on brain development, cognition, disease and injury.  While specific research or single-disease-focused projects are critical, the Congressman believes that the greatest impact from federal funding can be achieved by broad support and coordination at the highest levels of government for diverse research, addressing all areas of neuroscience. Neuroscience and brain disease affect every American family.  Whether a relative is afflicted by Alzheimer’s, stroke, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, depression or a traumatic brain injury, it is well understood that the incidence and national impact of these diseases is huge – and expected to grow tremendously as our population ages.  It is with this knowledge, and a fascination for scientific discovery, that Congressman Fattah began this effort to highlight the role of neuroscience research, and this important area of science.

Equity and Excellence Commission – At the direction of Congressman Fattah and Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), Secretary of Education Arne Duncan established the Equity and Excellence Commission to recommend appropriate policies at all levels of government to ensure all children have access to a high-quality education.  The Commission, comprised of experts from across the country, is currently preparing a report to the Secretary.

ESEA Fiscal Fairness Act (H.R. 1294) – Addresses the “comparability” provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require that federal Title I dollars in high-poverty schools, cover some of the additional cost of educating children in concentrated poverty and do not subsidize the inequitable allocation of state and local dollars within school districts.  Currently, real dollars spent at the school level are not taken into account, so federal funds are used to fill gaps instead of provide additional resources.

Student Bill of Rights (H.R. 1295) – Calls for States to provide highly effective teachers, early childhood education, college prep curricula and equitable instructional resources to all students who attend public schools. By requiring the reporting of high-impact resource allocation, and requiring remediation plans to address inequities, this legislation aims to close the significant resource gaps between school districts.

Communities Committed To College Tax Credit Act (H.R. 4349) – Provides a 50% tax credit to donors who contribute to “qualifying scholarship trusts,” which are partnerships between local school districts and community based organizations. The legislation will encourage communities all across the nation to provide a pathway and an incentive for pumping local capital directly toward the education of local students.

American Dream Accounts Act (H.R. 4207)  – Under Dream Accounts, low income students would establish secure Web-based accounts that track their college readiness, contain information about academic preparedness, financial literacy and high-impact mentoring and would be tied to a college savings account. Instead of approaching these threads independently, this bill connects students, parents and teachers across silos, and takes a small but significant step toward helping more under-served students of all income levels access, afford and complete a college education. The Dream Accounts Act authorizes the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants to encourage innovative and comprehensive partnerships supporting low-income students in preparation for a college education.

American Discoveries and American Jobs Commission Act of 2011 (H.R. 2015) Establishes a commission to study and recommend improvements to the existing system of federally funded research. H.R. 2015 requires the commission to assess the benefits of collecting royalties from government subsidized research that leads to the commercialization of products. The fees would be reinvested in the federal agencies for future discoveries. The commission is further directed to make certain that products developed with federal research funds are manufactured in the United States. This would not only produce jobs but guarantee broader benefits from initial investments.  The bill also provides for increased transparency about the many technologies Americans use on a daily basis that were developed from research they, as taxpayers, funded.

The Debt Free America Act (H.R. 1125) – Proposes to eliminate the national debt, reduce the national deficit and reform the current tax system. The measure calls for a dedicated penny fee on every dollar transacted in the United States, with the exception of stock transactions and transactions involving personal bank accounts.  In addition to eliminating the national debt, the bill provides the framework for fundamental federal tax reform by eliminating the federal personal income tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) 10 years after the bill’s implementation.  The Debt Free America Act is the only legislation before the Congress that would pay down the federal debt within a decade.  Other debt and deficit reduction proposals either take too long or don’t go far enough to address the problem.

National Cooperative Development Act (H.R. 3677) – Cooperatives are owned and controlled by the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods. They range in size from the local corner store to Fortune 500 companies, and can include insurance, healthcare, housing, recreation materials and equipment as well as more traditional uses such as rural electricity. This legislation creates a National Cooperative Development Center that will: (1) award grants to nonprofit organizations, colleges, and universities so that they can provide technical assistance to operating cooperatives or groups that are attempting to form cooperatives;  (2) provide guidance, information on best practices and technical assistance to communities seeking to establish cooperatives; (3) create a revolving loan fund to provide loans and seed capital to groups who are attempting to form cooperative; and (4) establish cooperative development centers in areas that currently do not have them.

Chaka Fattah is serving in his 10th term in the U. S. House of Representatives.  Before his election to United States Congress in 1994, Fattah served six years as a Representative in the State House followed by six years as a State Senator.

In May of 1986, Congressman Fattah earned a Master’s degree in Governmental Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels Institute of Government.

Fattah is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including 10 honorary doctorates and the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.  Time Magazine named Fattah one of the 50 most promising leaders in the country.

In 1984 Fattah attended Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where he received a certificate in the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government.

The Congressman is married to Renee’ Chenault-Fattah and has four children. Mrs. Fattah is a lawyer and TV News Anchor.  Congressman Fattah and his family are long-time members of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.  An avid golfer, Congressman Fattah is also a bike enthusiast.