Leahy Floor Statement On The Path Forward For The Omnibus

Today, we are careening toward another unnecessary, manufactured crisis with current government funding set to expire in 8 days.  I want to take a moment to talk about how we got here and the path forward.

In fiscal year 2022, Leader McConnell required parity between defense and non-defense funding.  This was a requirement that we met, and it provided the commonsense framework that allowed us to complete our work.  Now, the Republicans have abandoned this framework, demanding steep cuts to programs the American people rely on.  These cuts will be more painful as inflation continues to squeeze pocketbooks as heating and cooling, food, and housing become more expensive.

Republicans have justified this change of tactic by claiming that Democrats spent $700 billion in reconciliation bills that should negate the need to provide parity to non-defense programs.  The flaw in this reasoning is that this spending was to meet an unprecedented crisis that killed more than 1 million Americans and threatened to collapse the global economy.  Those bills were meant to get us out of the pandemic, get the nation healthy, and get our economy back on track, and I believe they are accomplishing that goal.  They were not meant to fund the basic functions of the American government in fiscal year 2023.

Democrats agree with our Republican colleagues that inflation threatens our national security.  However, non-defense programs face an equal threat and demand an equal response, and Republican inaction threatens bipartisan priorities and programs.  Without an omnibus, the bipartisan CHIPS law, which will help our country compete with China, will languish.  Our promise to our veterans will be broken as the bipartisan PACT Act would go underfunded and VA medical care would fall at least $7.5 billion short. 

Without an omnibus, it will be Republican inaction that defunds the police by slashing assistance to local law enforcement – keeping 1,500 police officers off the streets and out of our communities.  In the face of a surge in domestic violence, it will be their inaction that leaves the bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act without the new funding it needs.

As Republicans blame Democrats for stifling the economy, it will be their untenable posture that shortchanges funding at our ports of entry and strangles the flow of commerce and the economy’s ability to grow.  It will be Republicans who turn their backs on small businesses by not providing the SBA with the resources they need to help small businesses thrive.  Sending men and women to the moon will be delayed. 

For months, Democrats have asked our Republican colleagues to join us at the negotiating table.  For months we have been met with silence. 

At this very moment, my door and the doors of my staff are open to join us in our work at any time.  But time is running out, and we must move forward.   On Monday, Chair DeLauro and I will introduce an omnibus bill that we believe is fair and bipartisan.  It will fully fund defense at the NDAA level and provide the needed increase to non-defense programs to stave off inflation and serve the American people.  In an effort to reach bipartisan agreement, we eliminated the so-called poison pill riders that Republicans have objected too.  We firmly believe that this bill can and should earn the votes of at least 10 Republican Senators.  As the clock ticks toward December 16, this is a reasonable path forward, and I suggest my Republican friends take it. 

The alternative will be a continuing resolution, at last year’s levels, with no adjustments for inflation and the real life consequences that entails.  They will have no one to blame but themselves. 

I yield the floor.

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