Leahy Statement On the Continuing Appropriations and Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023

Today, the Senate will vote to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 6833, and take up a substitute amendment containing a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 16.  I will vote to invoke cloture and move the process forward.  I urge my colleagues to do the same.

Funding the federal government is the most basic responsibility of Congress.  The continuing resolution before the Senate today will keep vital services running for the American people through December 16, provide critical support for Ukraine, secure the LIHEAP safety net ahead of winter, and provide emergency relief to communities recovering from natural disasters around the country.

However, let me be clear, this is only a temporary measure.  As the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am committed to completing the work of the Appropriations Committee before the end of this Congress.  In a time of rising inflation, when everything costs more – energy, food, fuel, housing – we must respond accordingly.  Running on autopilot after December would be irresponsible, and the American people deserve more. 

Our federal agencies run thousands of programs every day that benefit working families.  From nutrition programs to small business loans and grants; from affordable housing to health care for our nation’s veterans; from childcare services to our nation’s schools, the federal government provides services that impact nearly every aspect of Americans’ lives.  At a time of rising inflation, we cannot fund these critical programs at last year’s levels without cutting services or underfunding needs.  It’s simple math.  Enacting full year appropriations bills into law must be our top priority.  We owe it to the American people who sent us here. 

This bill addresses several urgent and pressing issues that cannot wait.  The third hottest summer on record has strained one of our most successful safety nets – the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – as families’ energy costs went up with the record setting temperatures.  This bill contains $1 billion to bolster LIHEAP ahead of the winter, where Putin’s war on Ukraine and inflation are expected to drive energy costs even higher.  No family should have to choose between heating their home or buying food, not in Vermont, and not in any community across the country.  I am glad that we were able to secure these needed resources. 

The bill includes $12.35 billion dollars in emergency assistance for Ukraine, further demonstrating our resolve to stand with the people of Ukraine against President Putin’s illegal, brutal war on their country. 

These funds will provide much-needed training, equipment, logistical support, supplies, and weapons to the military and national security forces of Ukraine at this pivotal point in the war.  These funds will also be used to provide direct assistance to Ukraine to help its government maintain day-to-day operations while it fights to repel Russia’s invasion.  And it provides funding to replenish U.S. stocks of equipment that have been provided to the government of Ukraine and to other countries in support of the cause.

The bill provides $2.5 billion to support recovery efforts following the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire in New Mexico.  The largest fire in New Mexico’s history has scorched hundreds of thousands of acres, destroyed homes, displaced thousands, and sparked a fresh water crisis in the community of Las Vegas, New Mexico.  This is not an issue of Red States or Blue States, we are the United States, and we must stand with communities in crisis wherever they may be.

The bill also includes $2 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help address unmet recovery needs in communities experiencing major disasters in 2021 and 2022, such as Kentucky, Missouri, and Puerto Rico.  And with Hurricane Ian advancing in the Gulf, the CR also includes an additional $18.8 billion for the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.  We must ensure FEMA has the resources to meet this challenge, and this bill provides those resources.

I am disappointed that due to Republican opposition, there is no additional funding to combat COVID-19 or Monkeypox.  Reductions in the current infection levels for COVID-19 are a direct result of the investments we have made in vaccines, therapeutics, and testing over the past two years.  If we hope to avoid a surge this winter, we need the resources to continue that effort.  And we should be investing now to get ahead of Monkeypox before it continues to spread both in the United States and overseas. Not providing these resources is short-sighted, and I will continue to fight for the necessary funding to continue to combat these terrible diseases. 

Now Congress must do its job and complete the appropriations process before the end of the year.  I look forward to working with Vice Chairman Shelby, Chair DeLauro and Ranking Member Granger to get this done.

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