Chairman Leahy Opening Statement at the E&W, Agriculture, and MilCon VA Markup

I am glad to be here at the first markup of the Appropriations Committee for Fiscal Year 2022.  Today we will consider three Appropriations bills:  the Energy &Water Development bill; the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill; and the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill.  

Typically at the first mark up of a fiscal year, the Chairman would bring a recommended allocation for each of the 12 appropriations bills before the Committee, and seek a vote on that recommendation.  This year, however, we are operating without a discretionary spending topline.  The Budget Control Act has expired for Fiscal Year 2022, so there are no spending caps set in law, and the Senate has not yet passed a Budget Resolution establishing a 302(a) allocation for this Committee.  In the absence of a topline, I am not going to put forward an allocation at this time.  I believe that would only divide the Committee, and delay our typically bipartisan work.  I have been urging for months that we begin bipartisan, bicameral negotiations with the White House on spending toplines, and I continue to believe that is the right way to proceed. 

But I do not want the lack of a topline or an allocation to keep us from making at least some progress in advancing our bills.  The Committee should do its work, and the end of the fiscal year is rapidly approaching.  I am glad that we could reach agreement to consider these three important bills today.  I thank Vice Chairman Shelby for his partnership on this and his cooperation.  It is my expectation that each of these bills will be reported with bipartisan support, even in the absence of a complete allocation.  I hope that topline discussions advance during the August break, and that when we return, we will have a clearer path forward for considering the remaining nine bills.  Today, I am glad that we can at least begin our work, give members an opportunity to vote, and make some progress. 

I am also pleased to report that for the first time in over a decade, the bills we are considering contain congressionally directed spending requests identified by members of this Committee and of the full Senate.  The Constitution vests Congress with the power of the purse, and it is it this Committee that wields that power.  I believe we should use it responsibly and transparently to address the needs of our communities.  Senators know the needs of their states better than unelected bureaucrats, and these bills provide an opportunity to directly address those needs.  The Appropriations Committee has spent the last two months diligently reviewing and vetting member’s requests, all of which are available to the public, and I believe the projects included in these three bills will address critical needs across this nation. 

We will take up the Energy & Water bill first, followed by the Agriculture bill, and then the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs bill.  As is the tradition in this Committee, we will vote at the top to report the bills.  That means three individual roll call votes.  After that, we will consider them one by one and entertain amendments.  I remind members that we expect amendments offered in committee to be available in writing.  Amendments that increase spending will need to be offset.  I hope we can work efficiently, and thoroughly, today, given the activity on the Senate floor.

I thank each of the Chairs and Ranking Members of the three subcommittees for their hard work.  These are good bills that were drafted in a bipartisan manner, and I urge every member to vote “yes” on the motions to report. 

I now turn to Vice Chairman Shelby for any remarks he would like to give and to make the necessary motion.      

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