WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Senate has approved, by a vote of 70 to 30, the Conference Report on H.R. 2112, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012. The legislation includes the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture/FDA, Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS), and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bills, as well as a short-term Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government through Friday, December 16.
Prior to the vote, Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) delivered the following floor statement:
"Mr. President, as we are all aware, the Congressional budget process has faced unprecedented obstacles over the past year. We have struggled to find common ground on one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress: funding the operations of the federal government. Earlier this year, we saw politically-charged threats of government shutdowns, culminating with an irresponsible debt ceiling standoff that brought our economy to the brink of disaster. The American people are deeply frustrated that many in Congress put partisanship ahead of the national interest.
"And yet despite these challenges, we now consider legislation that reflects the good-faith efforts and input of members on both sides of the aisle of both the House and Senate. Given current fiscal and political realities, this is no small accomplishment.
"The conference report before us today includes three fiscal year 2012 appropriations measures: Agriculture; Commerce, Justice, Science; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. This legislation also includes a Continuing Resolution that funds government operations through December 16, giving Congress time to finish its work on the remaining funding bills.
"These bills are focused on a number of basic priorities: job creation, public safety, science, nutrition, housing, and transportation. Due to the stringent funding limits included in the Budget Control Act, which established a discretionary spending level that is $7 billion below last year's level, many items in these bills are not funded to the levels that I would prefer. And as we all await the outcome of the Super Committee, I again remind my colleagues that we cannot balance the nation?s books on the back of non-defense discretionary spending.
"Despite our reduced spending levels, Mr. President, I am pleased that we have been able to maintain investments in several critical areas.
"Public safety is a top priority of this legislation. The conference report before us provides the resources necessary for the Food and Drug Administration to begin implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will better protect the American people from food-borne illnesses.
"The funding levels provided in the conference agreement for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service will prevent layoffs and furloughs of Federal agents, enabling the agencies to continue their critical missions with regard to public safety. The funds provided will also allow for increased law enforcement on the southwest border. I note that the bill maintains funding for COPS hiring grants, which were eliminated in the original House bill.
"The conference report before us funds an additional 11,000 new housing vouchers for homeless veterans. It includes $500 million for competitive TIGER surface transportation grants, as well as nearly $2 billion for new transit rail projects, and it maintains federal support for Amtrak.
"Mr. President, this bill includes more than $12 billion for basic research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. This research will plant the seeds for new discoveries that not only win Nobel prizes, but also earn profits and create American jobs in our highly competitive global economy.
"The Conference Report before us represents thousands of compromises on issues large and small. It represents, in no small measure, the way the Congress of the United States is meant to function.
"The credit for this accomplishment rests with the Members of the subcommittees and their staffs. I would like to thank the leadership of the three subcommittees, Senators Kohl, Mikulski, Murray, Blunt, Hutchison and Collins for their exceptional efforts in completing these three bills.
"We all recognize that we would not have been able to accomplish this task without the countless hours put in by the staff of the subcommittees, and I would like to take a moment to recognize them for their efforts. I thank Galen Fountain, Jessica Arden Frederick, Dianne Nellor, Bob Ross, Molly Barackman-Eder, Gabrielle Batkin, Jessica Berry, Jeremy Weirich, Jean Toal-Eisen, Molly O?Rourke, Alex Keenan, Meaghan McCarthy, Rachel Milberg, Dabney Hegg, Stacy McBride, Rachel Jones, James Christoferson, Allen Cutler, Goodloe Sutton, Courtney Stevens, Heideh Shahmoradi, Brooke Hayes Stringer, Carl Barrick, and Mike Clarke.
"Mr. President, this Conference Report is the culmination of a process that includes hearings, markups, debate, and negotiations, and posting online all of the hearing testimony and legislative text for any citizen to review. And finally, Mr. President, it represents the one essential ingredient to a functioning democracy that has been in short supply in recent months: compromise.
"I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this measure, and send it to the President for his signature."