Chairman Leahy Statement on the FY 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Earlier this week, and after months of negotiations, the Committees on Appropriations introduced the $1.5 trillion Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  This is the consolidation of 12 annual Appropriations bills to fund the Federal Government for the remainder of this Fiscal Year.  Last night the House passed it on a bipartisan basis.  We need to act on it quickly.

Our annual Appropriations bills are where we reflect and act on our national priorities.  In total, this bill includes $730 billion in non-defense funding, which is a $46 billion increase over Fiscal Year 2021.  This 6.7 percent increase is the largest in four years for non-defense programs, and it allows for significant investments in the American people that will expand the middle class.  This bill also provides urgent funding for the people of Ukraine as they battle Putin’s immoral, unprovoked, and brutal invasion.  It is unquestionably in the interest of the American people that the Senate act quickly to pass this bill and send it to President Biden.

Here is why passing this bill is so important. 

In the wake of the pandemic, children in schools across the country are falling behind in math and reading, and children in low-income and minority communities are falling even further behind their peers.  One study found that third-graders attending school in low-income communities tested 17 points lower in math than they did in 2019.  We cannot allow a global pandemic to set these children further back on the path to a bright future. 

The bill includes $17.5 billion – the largest increase in more than a decade – for Title I-A grants.  These grants provide funding for more than half of our nation’s public schools to help students, particularly in low-income communities, meet college and career-ready academic standards.  And to help these children succeed before they even step foot in the classroom, the bill includes more than $11 billion for Head Start.  The bill also increases the maximum Pell Grant award by $400 – also the largest increase in more than a decade – so that as these students succeed they can go on to pursue a college education.  Pell Grants help more than 7 million students pursue a postsecondary education every year.

Not only are we investing in these children, we are investing in their families.  Ask any young family and they will tell you that the pandemic exacerbated the child care crisis.  Parents, and particularly women, are being forced out of the labor market because they cannot afford the high cost of child care.  The bill provides more than $6 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants, which is a 4.4 percent increase over last year.  These grants assist low-income families in accessing quality child care that fits their needs and prepares their children to succeed in school.

Across this country, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, are food insecure.  Many of us in this room cannot even imagine the heart break and pain a parent must feel when they cannot put enough food on the table for their child.  This bill increases support for nutrition programs that are a lifeline to these families.  It also ensures that over 4 million low-income women and children do not see their benefits reduced at the end of April by extending the WIC Cash Value Voucher program – a special $35 monthly benefit for purchasing fruits and vegetables.  It fully funds $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to help support 6.2 million low-income women, infants and children younger than five years old every month.  It also includes more than $140 billion, which is a 23 percent increase, for SNAP.  SNAP provides assistance to more than 40 million people every year in this country.   

The bill also helps to keep families in their homes by providing billions of dollars to build and support public housing.  This includes a 75 percent increase for Choice Neighborhoods, which helps to transform communities by revitalizing public and assisted housing.  It provides an 11 percent increase to build new affordable housing through the HOME program.  And it includes $4.8 billion for community and economic development.

In this bill, we also understand that hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless.  The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that on a single night more than 580,000 people experienced homelessness.  People who are struggling with homelessness have been robbed of a central pillar of the American Dream – having a place that they can call their own.  This bill provides more than $3 billion – a 6.6 percent increase – for Homeless Assistance Grants to provide shelter, resources, and assistance to the homeless community.

In Congress, it is a bipartisan priority to keep our communities safe, and this bill provides a 15 percent increase for Department of Justice grants to state and local law enforcement and communities to prevent and respond to crime.  It provides COPS Hiring grant funding to place more than 1,700 officers on the streets to keep our communities safe.  But as a country, we have collectively grieved the loss of life that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.  So this bill provides new resources to fund de-escalation training, implicit bias training, training that emphasizes the duty of fellow officers to intervene, and providing crisis intervention teams.  

The bill is also a commitment to the future of scientific research, development, and innovation in this country.  It provides the largest increase in 12 years for the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The NSF funds a quarter of all federally supported basic research conducted by colleges and universities in this country.  It provides a 6 percent increase for the Department of Energy Office of Science, and a 5.3 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health to speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics, and preventative measures.  Importantly, it includes $1 billion to launch the Advanced Research Projects for Health (ARPA-H), President Biden’s bold and promising proposal to revolutionize how we prevent, treat, and cure devastating diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.  

This bill also closes the chapter on four years of denying the existence of the climate crisis by the previous administration.  It provides billions of dollars to support climate research, mitigation, and adaptation, and to preserve and protect the environment.  This includes $900 million in NSF funding to support climate and clean energy research, $40 million for NOAA climate-related projects, $425 million for clean air programs, and an historic investment in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).  We also provide hundreds of millions dollars to support international climate change adaptation and mitigation programs.  The scientific community is in agreement that we are running out of time to act before the damage to our planet is irreversible.  In this bill we are taking a small but long overdue step forward to confront that reality.

This bill also backs up our commitment to our veterans by providing $97.5 billion, an 8.7 percent increase, for VA Medical Care.  These funds provide essential health services for 9.2 million veterans.  This includes funding for rural health programs, veterans’ homelessness prevention, and mental health resources. 

Consistent with long tradition, the bill includes billions of dollars for food and other humanitarian aid for victims of war and natural disasters.  It includes $700 million to support global health security programs, to prevent and prepare for future pandemics, and it provides the funds to support PEPFAR’s global HIV/AIDS programs. 

It provides the funds to support our embassies and other foreign missions around the world.  And it supports organizations like the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the International Development Finance Corporation.

It includes a $13.6 billion bipartisan agreement to provide emergency assistance to Ukraine and our NATO allies.   This includes the necessary resources to bolster the defense capabilities of the Ukrainian military and our regional allies and partners.  It supports the implementation of economic sanctions and export restrictions on Russia.  And importantly it addresses the evolving humanitarian crisis resulting from President Putin’s unprovoked attack on the Ukrainian people.  The escalating crisis President Putin has inflicted on Europe poses the greatest threat to democracy and national sovereignty in a generation.  The American people overwhelmingly support the people of Ukraine. 

Finally, I am proud to note that the bill reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  VAWA continues to be one of the most consequential laws addressing the scourge of violence against women and domestic violence in our country.  It provides crucial support for programs and initiatives designed to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.   The bill includes the highest funding level ever for grants to support these programs.  Of note, this bill also reforms and reauthorizes the EB-5 Visa program, which has been abused by corrupt actors for too long. I have championed these bipartisan reforms for many years, and I am proud that we are finally going to enact them. 

In total, this bill includes $730 billion in non-defense funding, a 6.7 percent increase, and $782 billion in defense funding, a 5.6 percent increase, over fiscal year 2021.  It is the product of months of negotiations between myself and my dear friends Vice Chairman Shelby, Chair DeLauro, and Ranking Member Granger.  I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work to complete this process. 

I also want to thank our staffs who spent countless late nights working through the details of this bill.  Specifically, Charles Kieffer, Chanda Betourney, Jessica Berry, and Jay Tilton on my staff, Bill Duhnke and David Adkins on Vice Chairman Shelby’s staff.  There are so many, many more who worked tireless days and nights – far too many names to say right now.  I would like to submit a list of these staff into the record.  

This bill invests in future prosperity, in our health, and reduces everyday costs for millions of Americans, such as child care, a college education, and heating and cooling costs.  This is a bill that invests in us – the American people. 

A government shutdown on Saturday would be senseless.  Delay would be senseless.  I strongly urge all members to vote “aye.” 

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