Shelby Statement on FY15 Appropriations Markup for State and Foreign Operations and Legislative Branch

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Vice-Chairman of the Appropriations Committee delivered the following opening statement at the markup of the Fiscal Year 2015 bills for State and Foreign Operations and for the Legislative Branch.


Thank you, Madam Chair.

As the full Senate begins consideration of the first appropriations measures for Fiscal Year 2015, we were prepared to mark up three additional bills.

I now understand that we will not be marking up the Energy and Water bill.  This is unfortunate because it left the subcommittee without any opposition.

Regular order sometimes means taking tough votes.  Though I disagree with some of the choices made in the bill, I was prepared to support it and would hope our Chair would revisit her decision to withdraw it from consideration.

I am also prepared to support the Legislative Branch bill which provides funding for the United States Congress.

The Legislative Branch bill freezes Members’ pay and personal office expenses, and increases funding for oversight of Executive Branch operations.

Madam Chair, my main concern lies with the State and Foreign Operations bill.

On May 21, all the Republicans on this Committee signed a letter objecting to the use of questionable methods to expand discretionary spending.

Chief among these methods was the decision to cut base funding for the State and Foreign Operations bill by nearly $3 billion dollars, while using “overseas contingency operations” – or “OCO [Oh-koh]” – funding to cover these costs in a way that is exempt from the caps.

This move shifts much of the bill out from under the Murray-Ryan caps.  It does so, moreover, in a way that frees up capped non-defense funding to be spent elsewhere, such as on Obamacare.

All of this is accomplished at the expense of  defense needs because the amount of defense OCO has been reduced by an amount equal to the OCO increase in the State and Foreign Operations bill.

This is a troubled time around the world.  Russia has been invading neighboring countries.  China continues to bully its own neighbors and threaten our allies in the Pacific.

Civil war continues to rage in Syria.  North Korea continues to develop nuclear weaponry and long-range missiles.  Iran continues to enrich uranium, and large parts of Iraq are being taken over by Islamic extremists.

This is definitely not the time for creative accounting that restricts money for U.S. defense needs in order to free up non-defense dollars for things like Obamacare.

These kinds of questionable measures are not what the American people wanted to see from us in the wake of the Murray-Ryan budget deal.  They expect us to work within the spending caps, not find ways to work around them.

Finally, I should note that this bill includes $100 million in new spending on foreign assistance for the countries from which thousands of unaccompanied alien children have been surging across our southwestern border.

This is clearly a serious problem. I am not convinced, however, that this crisis can be addressed by spending money in this way.

This crisis is one that President Obama has exacerbated by administratively chipping away at U.S. immigration law.

The result of his lax and confusing immigration enforcement policies has been predictable, and hardly humanitarian.

In FY 2011, before the President’s announcement that he would defer actions to deport those who come to the United States as children, U.S. officials took custody of about 6,500 unaccompanied children on the border.

After his announcement, however, the numbers skyrocketed.

This year, the government projects having to care for more than 67,000.  That’s a ten-fold increase within three years.

Thanks to the President’s actions, human traffickers are endangering children more than ever by sending them across the hostile deserts of our southwest border on their own.

Madam Chair, I am confident we can find a way to address this crisis and help these children in a fiscally responsible way and I look forward to working with you to do so.

Thank you.