Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On The Release Of The Nine Remaining Appropriations Bills

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee released nine appropriations bills that allocate important resources to help address the pressing priorities of America’s families and communities, and promote U.S. national security. 

The appropriations bills made public include the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies bill; the Department of Defense bill; the Financial Services and General Government bill; the Department of Homeland Security bill; the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill; the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies bill; the Legislative Branch bill; the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill.

For more than a decade, this country has underinvested in our children, in our infrastructure, in science, in public health.  Frankly, we have underinvested in our future. 

These bills include historic increases to educate our nation’s children, combat climate change, promote affordable housing, and improve healthcare.  And I am proud of the work of the Committee in producing these bills.  I commend each of our subcommittee chairs for their commitment to America’s future. 

The bills comply with the topline spending allocation contained in the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Resolution passed by the House and the Senate earlier this year.  Combined with the three bills reported from the Appropriations Committee in August, the bills provide a 13 percent increase for non-defense discretionary programs and a 5 percent increase for defense programs compared with fiscal year 2021 enacted. 

The five percent increase for defense programs is consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reported from the Senate Armed Services Committee on a bipartisan vote, and that passed the House last month with bipartisan support.     

The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill makes long overdue investments to help care for and educate our nation’s children, including doubling the funding for Title I-A Grants to Local Educational Agencies; this program is the foundation of federal support to schools across this country.  It also increases funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant by 23 percent, and Head Start by 11 percent, helping to provide high quality child care and education to working families across this nation.   

It provides a 24 percent increase over last year for the Centers for Disease Control to strengthen U.S. public health infrastructure which is desperately needed in the wake of a global pandemic, and a 38 percent increase for the Strategic National Stockpile, which was not able to meet the needs of the nation when COVID struck.

The Commerce, Justice, Science bill provides historic funding levels for Department of Justice Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs, a 48 percent increase over last fiscal year.  This is the largest appropriation for VAWA since its creation.  It also provides an 84 percent increase from last fiscal year for programs to strengthen police-community relations, including grants for training, de-escalation, implicit bias, and crisis intervention.  These funds are critical to promoting racial justice and improving law enforcement throughout the nation. 

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill includes significant increases to reduce homelessness, improve housing conditions, and increase affordability.  Too many families are struggling these days to make ends meet and these funds will go far to easing their burden.

The Interior bill includes unprecedented investments in tribal communities to improve healthcare, education, social services, water resources, and law enforcement for Native Americans.  And for the first time ever, the bill also provides a level of budgetary certainty in Indian Country by providing advance appropriations for the Indian Health Service, providing peace of mind to patients and health providers.

The Interior bill also includes significant resources to promote conservation, preserve our natural infrastructure, and protect our federal lands.  

We made climate change front and center when drafting these bills, and each contains new and critical funding to help combat this challenge.  For example, for the first time ever, we invest $54 million in a new Climate Conservation Corps, and we provide historic increases (46 percent over last year) for EPA’s air and climate program. 

We invest in transitioning the federal fleet to zero-emission vehicles, providing first-ever funds to the General Services Administration ($200 million), the Department of Interior ($73 million), the Department of Homeland ($76 million), and the Department of Transportation ($11 million), to advance these goals. 

For the first time in four years, the U.S. will contribute to the Green Climate Fund ($1.45 billion), and the Clean Technology Fund ($450 million), rejoining the international fight against climate change after global retreat under President Trump. 

We also make historic investments in medical research to ensure America remains on the cutting edge of advanced medical science and research, including a 6 percent increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and $2.4 billion to create the first ever Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), the President’s bold and promising proposal to accelerate the pace of breakthroughs in medicine. 

Finally, the bills contain critical funding increases for mental and behavioral health services and to combat substance abuse, including the doubling the Mental Health Block Grant program, doubling funding for suicide prevention, and increasing State Opioid Response grants by 33 percent.  These funds are desperately needed as rates of anxiety and depression have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, and drug overdose deaths are expected to reach their highest levels to date.  

These are just some of the highlights of the important programs funded in the nine bills we released yesterday that will make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans, especially after the tough year and a half we have all faced with COVID-19.  These bills demonstrate the good work we can do with a topline in the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Resolution, passed by both the House and the Senate earlier this year. 

I would have preferred that we followed regular order and considered these bills in Committee.  Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have made clear they will prevent any additional consideration of bills until we have a negotiated topline.  But I cannot and will not allow that to stop our work.  We need to move the ball forward, and in posting these bills we are able to show the American people what we are for.   

While some on the other side of the aisle may characterize these bills as partisan, that is simply not true.  In a spirit of comity, and in bipartisanship which is the tradition of the Committee, we worked hard to accommodate the funding priorities of all members, both Democrats and Republicans, and the posted bills reflect that effort. 

I am proud of the work of this Committee in producing these bills, but our job is not done.  The federal government is operating under a continuing resolution until December 3rd.  Between now and then it is imperative that we make progress on negotiating a topline that is bipartisan and bicameral, so that we can enact these bills into law.  I believe we have struck the right balance with the bills we have produced and made public this week.  But as with everything in Congress, we rarely end where we begin.   

I look forward to working with Chair DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, and Vice Chairman Shelby, to move this process forward, with the goal of enacting all 12 bills by December 3rd.  Failure to do that will lead to a long-term continuing resolution, which locks in outdated spending priorities that will not meet the challenges of today and will not serve the American people.  As Senators, and Members of Congress, we should do our job, make the hard choices, and complete our work on behalf of the American people.