Leahy Statement On Final Passage of the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

This week, after months of bipartisan and bicameral negotiations, the Committees on Appropriations introduced a $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023.  With only days remaining on current government funding, we must act quickly before we precipitate yet another unnecessary, made-in-Washington crisis.  The bill we are about to vote on is a strong, bicameral, and bipartisan bill; and it adheres to the framework announced by Vice Chairman Shelby, Chair DeLauro, and myself last week. 

From funding for nutrition programs and housing assistance, to reducing home energy costs and increasing college affordability, this bill is a direct investment into the American people and our national security, which we cannot delay further.  The pain of inflation is real, and it is being felt by families across the country and in every corner of the federal government.

Not only does this bill provide real relief from inflation, it is this bill where we fund the promises of the landmark, bipartisan legislation that we passed in the 117th Congress.

The bill provides $1.8 billion in new funding to implement the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.  This will help drive our innovative and competitive edge on the global stage.  We included $9.9 billion – an historic level of funding – for the National Science Foundation, which will support 2,300 more research and education grants and 35,000 more scientists, technicians, teachers, and students.

In the bipartisan PACT Act, we made a commitment to countless veterans across the country to ensure that they receive health care and benefits related to exposure to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances.  This appropriations bill makes good on that promise by providing $5 billion to implement the PACT Act.  It provides $118.7 billion – a 22 percent increase – for VA Medical Care.  These benefits are deserved.  They were earned, and they are owed. 

In the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we finally made a significant investment in addressing our nation’s crumbling bridges, roads, and infrastructure.  This appropriations bill puts tens of billions of real dollars behind those investments to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century. 

Last week, we passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with overwhelming bipartisan support, but that legislation did not contain a single penny in funding.  The bill we consider today does, and it fully funds the NDAA. 

But the investments in this bill will go far beyond the bipartisan priorities of this year.  It makes real investments that will directly improve the lives of the American people.  It includes a $500 increase to the maximum Pell Grant award, which helps more than 7 million students across the country pursue a post-secondary education and further their careers every year.  It invests billions of dollars in our nation’s public schools by providing a 5 percent increase for Title I-A grants.

It helps to address the crisis of child care access and affordability by providing $8 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants and nearly $12 billion for Head Start.  These programs directly help parents access quality child care and promote children’s healthy development, learning, and well-being. 

It continues our efforts to confront the opioid crisis.  I’m sure every member of this chamber knows someone who struggles with substance misuse or someone who advocates on their behalf.  I know Marcelle and I do.  Communities across the country host grieving families and people struggling with addiction from all walks of life who need new resources now, and this bill provides them.  This includes a more than $345 million increase to address this crisis. 

Across this country there are more than 34 million people who are food insecure, including 9 million children.  This should not happen in the wealthiest country in the world, and with the cost of groceries up more than 10 percent this crisis could only get worse.  Our bill provides a $13.4 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Program and funds Child Nutrition Programs, WIC, and other programs to improve nutrition.

This is just scratching the surface of what this appropriations bill will mean for the American people, our national security, and how we project our influence abroad.  Our bill invests billions of dollars to help to make housing more affordable and help those in this country who are experiencing homelessness.  We provide $5 billion for LIHEAP, and we provide funding to support local law enforcement and place more than 1,800 additional police officers on the streets of our communities. 

The bill includes over $42 billion in aid to Ukraine and over $27 billion for the victims of natural disasters. 

The real good this bill does is too long to list now.  But:

If you voted for the bipartisan PACT Act, CHIPS Act, Infrastructure Law, or the NDAA you should vote for this bill to actually fund them.

If you want to help families deal with the cost of heating, child care, college, food, and housing, you should vote for this bill.

If you want to support law enforcement, you should vote for this bill.

The choice is clear: We can either do our jobs and fund the federal government – which is undoubtedly in the interest of the American people – or we can abandon our responsibilities without a real path forward.  The alternative, a continuing resolution into the New Year, is short-sighted and wholly unnecessary.  It imperils our national security, and it ignores the real pain and consequences of inflation.  Without a clear path forward based on a bipartisan framework, punting on our responsibility to fund the federal government risks a full-year continuing resolution.  Under a continuing resolution, America gets left behind. 

I strongly urge the support of this omnibus appropriations bill.  I want to thank my dear friend Vice Chairman Shelby for his partnership in this process, and I want to thank Chair DeLauro for her diligent work.  Without their work and cooperation, we would not be where we are today. 

I also want to thank our staffs who spent countless, sleepless nights working through the details of this bill.  Specifically, I want to thank Charles Kieffer, Chanda Betourney, Jay Tilton, and Maria Calderon on my staff.  There are so many, many more who worked tireless days and nights – far too many names to say now – so I would like to submit a list of these staff into the record. 

This is a bill that invests in us – the American people.

I yield the floor.

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