Statement of Chairman Leahy Objecting to Unanimous Consent To Take Up And Pass The Republican Substitute For The FY 2022 Continuing Resolution

I rise to object.  The substitute offered by my friend and the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Shelby, does not solve the problem in front of us.  It fails to address the looming debt crisis facing our nation, choosing instead to pretend it doesn’t exist. 


While my colleagues on the other side of the aisle may want to wash their hands of this, they cannot.  Much of this debt was incurred under a Republican President, and under a Republican controlled-Senate.  Debt racked up by irresponsible tax cuts championed by the Republican Party for the wealthiest Americans.  And yes, debt also incurred in a bipartisan fashion to deal with multiple crises that faced a nation – disaster assistance in the wake of hurricanes and wildfires that keep getting worse every year as a result of our failure to aggressively combat climate change; COVID relief to help keep this country from careening head first into economic disaster in the wake of a worldwide pandemic; and historic levels of support and investment in our nation’s military and our men and women in uniform. 


To try to put this at the feet of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, a yet-unpassed reconciliation bill is ridiculous.  This is about debt we already incurred, not spending in the future.  And as my Republican colleagues well know, we expect to fully pay for these investments.  They may not like how we plan to offset the spending, but that is what the legislative process is for – to debate these issues.  At least the Democrats are planning to pay for bills they incur, which is more than I can say for the Republicans when they pushed through a massive tax cut for the wealthy that was not paid for.   So let’s stop with the political brinkmanship and secure the fair faith and credit of the United States by passing an increase to the debt limit.  To do otherwise, to continue to delay, puts our country and our economy at risk. 


The substitute also scales back the assistance provided to Afghan refugees that was included in the House-passed bill.  I was pleased that we reached bipartisan and bicameral agreement on $6.3 billion in the House-passed bill for much needed assistance for the brave Afghans who supported our mission through two decades of war.  It is our duty and our obligation to support those who supported us.  


But the substitute bill the Minority Leader is seeking to take up and pass would shorten the length of time that we provide assistance to the thousands of Afghan men and women who fled to the U.S. to escape the wrath of the Taliban—food, medical care, housing, the basic things that they desperately need to begin their lives in the U.S.  We cannot short-change them now.  The bill also eliminates their right to obtain a REAL ID compliant U.S. driver’s license.  How can we expect them to fully integrate into our society, secure jobs, and educate their children, if they cannot drive?  This should not even be a debate.  


So I object to the Unanimous Consent to take up and pass the Republican substitute bill.