Senator Murray Remarks as Senate Begins Consideration of First Appropriations Bills

“Thank you, Mr. President.


“You know, at the start of the year, when Vice Chair Collins and I took over as leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee, we announced something ambitious: we were going to return the Committee to regular order.


“The first thing everyone told us was, ‘That’s great, we all want to return to regular order.’

“We all want to show the American people that Congress can actually function, that we can work together, and solve problems, and pass bills to make their lives better.”


“But the second thing they told us was, essentially, ‘Good luck, you’re going to need it.’


“Well—Vice Chair Collins and I got to work.


“We said, look—if this is going to happen, we have to show we are serious about writing bills that can actually be signed into law.


“That meant a few things.


“First of all, it meant we had to work with the funding levels in the debt ceiling deal struck by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy.


“A deal that I had—and I still have—concerns about, and which required tough funding decisions, across each of our 12 bills—but the President and Speaker shook hands, and that is the agreement that Congress passed into law.


“And we can’t produce serious bills if we start by throwing that framework out the window.


“Secondly, it meant we had to work together to find common ground—including on tough and thorny issues—and compromise where necessary to produce spending bills that can make it through both chambers and to the President’s desk.


“That meant avoiding poison pills that could sink these bills.


“And third—we wanted to make sure that we had an open, bipartisan process.


“We wanted to give each and every one of our colleagues the chance to weigh in on these bills, and the American public the chance to see our work on them.


“So we held over 40 hearings this spring to assess our nation’s needs for the year ahead.


“We sought input from all of our colleagues, we wrote these bills together, and then, we held markups for the first time in two years.


“We televised the markups—for the first time ever—so people could follow this debate from home.


“And at those markups, we discussed the draft legislation, considered amendments, and voted on our bills. The result?


“For the first time in five years, we passed all 12 of our funding bills out of our Committee—and we did it with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“Nine of the twelve bills passed unanimously or had just a single ‘no’ vote.


“In total, 97 percent of the votes on our bills in Committee were ‘yes’ votes.


“Mr. President, these are not the bills I would have written on my own, they are not what Vice Chair Collins would have written on her own. They are bills we wrote together—along with all of our colleagues on the Committee and with input from nearly every Senator on both sides of the aisle.


“And they are serious bills that can be signed into law.


“Which is how this process should work.


“We should come together, look for common ground and build on it to write bills that solve problems, and make people’s lives better, and give our nation and our communities the resources they need to stay safe and competitive—and to grow and thrive.


“That’s exactly what the three bills in this package do.


[Milcon-VA bill]

“As chair of the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans’ Affairs, and Related Agencies, I’m pleased to say I was able to work with Senator Boozman to put together a bill that gets our military and our veterans the support we owe them—the support that they need.


“This is essential to keeping our nation safe because our ships, and submarines, and aircrafts are only as good as the infrastructure they rely on, and the troops who operate them.


“So, this bill provides DOD with $19.1 billion for military construction—that is an increase over FY23 levels.


“This funding will help with construction needs across our country at base installations—for projects like child care development centers to make sure our servicemembers and their spouses can go to work knowing that their children are safe, housing, like the barracks project at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in my home state, and other facilities across the country to support our troops.


“It will help make sure that our shipyards—like the Naval Base in Kitsap, and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard—are up-to-date and up to the challenges of this moment.


“These investments will build our presence around the world—especially in the Indo-Pacific regions—and strengthen our military infrastructure to keep it resilient in the face of threats like severe weather, and earthquakes.


“And I’m really glad we included funds to address harmful PFAS chemicals and other toxins at former installations that could put our communities in harm’s way.


“I’m also proud of all the work we have done in this bill to support veterans and their families.

“As the daughter of a World War II veteran—I take the promises we made to those who fought for our country very seriously.


“And this bill ensures that we keep those promises—by fully funding VA’s budget request.


“We’re talking increased funding for mental health and suicide prevention programs, the caregivers program, expanding the child care pilot program—that continues to be such a huge priority for me across all of our appropriations bills, funding for homelessness prevention programs for our veterans, rural health programs, and of course—women veterans’ health care—by the way, women are the fastest growing demographic of veterans overall.


“Our Milcon-VA funding bill also increases VA infrastructure funding so we can begin to address the challenges related to VA’s aging medical facilities.


“And it reflects the much-needed pause and reset happening with the electronic health record modernization program.


“I was raising the alarm from day one about how the unacceptable, botched rollout of that program hurt veterans in my home state, and I am watching closely to make sure we see changes that provide real results for our veterans and our VA providers.


“Because at the end of the day, these investments are not just about programs and contracts—this is about our promise to get veterans the benefits they earned and need to stay healthy. Like prescriptions, mental health care, cancer screenings, and more.


“So, the stakes could not be higher for those families—and we owe them that much.


“Which is why I’m proud that this bill sends a clear, bipartisan message: we are not going to shortchange our veterans and our servicemembers, and we will live up to our obligation to provide them with the resources that they need.


[AG-FDA bill]


“The next bill in this package—from the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies—makes sure we are living up to another crucial obligation, and that is to keep our food supply safe and secure and support rural communities across our country.


“Because, at the most basic level, we can’t have strong communities if people can’t put food on the table!


“That means making sure the food that is sold in our country is safe.


“It means protecting families from shortages—so avoiding and mitigating supply chain disruptions, addressing climate crises—like droughts—which can threaten crops that we all rely on.


“It means addressing food insecurity so people can afford—and access—the food they need to keep their families healthy and fed.


“And it means supporting our nation’s farmers—who are such a huge part of our economy. For example, every day in my home state of Washington, we ship apples, cherries, wheat, potatoes, pulse crops, and many other commodities across the country, and across the world!


“So I want to thank Senators Heinrich and Hoeven for their very hard work to craft a bipartisan bill that delivers on these crucial issues.


“This bill will make sure FDA has the resources it needs to keep grocery stores and dinner tables safe, and to implement the bipartisan cosmetics legislation that we negotiated last year and that many of us worked very hard to pass.


“It also includes crucial funding to support our farmers, for example, increased investments in agricultural research. Just last month, I was home and visited my alma mater, Washington State University, which is home to world-class agricultural research programs.


“This funding will help universities like WSU to tackle problems that our farmers are facing like, in my state, smoke exposure to wine grapes, herbicide resistance, and little cherry disease.


“Not to mention efforts we need to make to address water shortages, improve our yields, reduce inputs, and more.


“The bill also funds absolutely critical nutrition programs like WIC, which is a lifeline that keeps so many families from going hungry.


“This bill fully funds WIC at the level included in the President’s budget request, and we know that participation and costs for the program are changing.


“So as we work to get final appropriations bills signed into law, I will keep working around the clock to ensure that no one loses their WIC benefits and no one is forced to be on a waitlist.


“We’ve got to maintain the strong bipartisan support for that program going forward and continue to fully fund it—and that is a top priority for me.


“Mr. President, my family had to rely on food stamps for a short time—and thanks to that help that we got when I was young, every one of my six brothers and sisters and I have been able now to grow up and give back to our communities because our country had our back when we needed it.


“So make no mistake that our investments in WIC are not just the right thing, the moral thing—it is an investment in the future of America. 


“So if I haven’t painted a picture yet, investments like this which maintain our nutrition programs, support our famers, and keep our food supply safe and secure are truly mission-critical to our nation’s future, but they are also bipartisan—they are things we can all agree on that are important for America.


[THUD bill]


“Finally, this package includes the funding bill from the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee.


“I previously led this subcommittee along with Vice Chair Collins as the Chair and Ranking Member.


“And I can tell you: the investments here are critical to help prevent people from living on the streets or being out in the cold, and to get people and goods where they need to go in a safe and timely way.


“Washington state, like so many other states in our country, has really been grappling with our nation’s housing and homelessness crisis for years.


“So I’m glad we are able to maintain and build on some key investments in this bill that provide rental assistance to families in need, increase our housing supply, support maintenance for distressed properties, and connect people with health care, financial education, employment programs, and other support services.


“And I hope we can come together in a bipartisan way to do more to tackle those challenges in a serious way in the future.


“Because while this bill does take important steps and includes necessary investments, our housing and homelessness crisis will take a lot more than flat funding in most areas and modest funding increases in some programs, which is what was possible to negotiate under the tough budget caps in this debt ceiling deal.


“Now, when it comes to our nation’s transportation infrastructure, the investments in this bill are especially important in light of some of the derailments, and disasters, and disturbing close calls we saw this year.


“I’m very pleased we were able to increase funding for the Federal Aviation Administration so it can address the shortage of air traffic controllers, reduce flight delays, increase efficiency, and modernize technology, and—critically—improve safety, which is so important given the concerning number of near-misses we have seen recently.


“This bill also increases the Federal Railroad Administration’s funding for its safety work to make sure we have enough inspectors to keep our rails safe and that we can research important questions to improve rail safety and efficiency.


“So I really want to thank Senator Schatz and Senator Hyde-Smith for their excellent work putting that bill together.


[Next steps]


“Mr. President, each and every one of the Appropriations bills in the package before us today is the result of an open, bipartisan process that invited input from every single Senator.


“In fact, that is true for all of the 12 bills the Committee passed—all in overwhelming, bipartisan votes.

“And, as my colleagues know, the Senate Appropriations Committee has plenty of members on opposite ends of the political spectrum—strongly progressive Democrats, and deeply conservative Republicans.


“In other words—getting here took a lot of hard work, late nights, and early mornings.


“We had to really set politics aside, listen to each other, focus on the problems, and find common ground.


“I think I speak for everyone when I say, this work has not been easy.


“And of course, I know as well as anyone—our work is not done.


“I think we all understand a CR will be necessary to see this process through and we all understand supplemental funding is absolutely essential to respond to some of the urgent challenges our states are facing, like delivering disaster relief communities really desperately need today, and paying our wildland firefighters, continuing to have our Ukrainian allies’ back, and addressing the fentanyl crisis.


“Not to mention the need, as I have spoken, of addressing the child care funding cliff that threatens to put child care further out of reach for too many families.


“And, of course, even after we pass this funding package before us today—we need to get all the rest of our Appropriations bills across the finish line.


“But by passing this package, and the rest of our Appropriations bills, we are showing the American people that there is a clear, bipartisan path for us to do our jobs and fund the government.


“There is absolutely no reason for chaos or a shutdown—and I will continue working nonstop with my colleagues to make sure we get that job done.


“This was never going to be easy—but none of us came here because we thought it was easy; we came here because we wanted to make life better for folks back home.


“Helping people, solving problems—I’ve said that a lot during my time here in the Senate.


“And I’ve brokered a lot of bipartisan deals—always in service to the people I represent back home, the friends and neighbors that I grew up with.


“Helping people and solving problems—that is our job. And I’d like to see us do a lot more of that, together—Democrats and Republicans.


“So I urge all of my colleagues, let’s keep the momentum going, let’s show the American people that Congress can work for them—there doesn’t have to be a calamity over funding the government.


“Let’s show that there can, and will, be major policy disagreements on any number of issues, but their elected leaders can come together on what we do agree on—and we will fund the government responsibly so they don’t have to worry about chaos or shutdowns. 

“And on that note—I’d like to encourage my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to come to the floor and talk about these bills: what they mean for your state, what they mean for your constituents, what your priorities here are, and to talk to me and to talk to Senator Collins if you have amendments and ideas for how we can make these bills better.

“Because Senator Collins and I are working now to clear a managers’ package, and set up votes.


“Our staffs are still working hard too, and we are happy to work with your teams so we can pass the strongest bills possible.

“We have been working closely from day one to run an open, bipartisan process, to get input from all of our colleagues, and to make sure everyone can make their constituents’ voices heard.


“One issue Vice Chair Collins and I have heard about from many of our colleagues, is the need to support communities rebuilding after recent disasters.


“I will have more to say on that in the days ahead, but it is front of mind for both of us, and the Appropriations Committee as a whole, to take care of our communities who are working so hard to rebuild after the recent horrible disasters. 


“Which includes, as we know, the wildfires in Hawaii, areas in Washington state, flooding in Vermont, California, as well as damage caused by Hurricane Idalia.


“So as we get started on this bill, I say to all of my colleagues: come to the floor, talk to us, work with us so we can get this funding package passed, help people, and solve problems.”