Mikulski Floor Statement on FY16 Energy & Water Development Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the fiscal year 2016 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill and urged her colleagues to support ongoing budget negotiations to cancel sequester.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“I rise as Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee to urge my colleagues to vote ‘no’ on the motion to proceed to Energy and Water Development appropriations bill. 
“First, I want to take a moment to speak about the gentleman from Tennessee, Senator Alexander.  I have such admiration for him – for both his advocacy for Tennessee and for the skilled legislator he is.  He has been an advocate for both Tennessee and for the United States of America.  He’s an outstanding Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and I know he and my colleague, the Ranking Member, Senator Feinstein, have worked very well together.
“But for the fourth time, the Senate is considering a motion to proceed to an appropriations bill.  This time it’s Energy and Water Development.
“Democrats have been clear.  We will not agree to moving bills with inadequate resources that hollow out America.  We need a bipartisan budget deal.
“The Republican Leader knows this.  He heard me say it at Appropriations Committee markups and here on the floor.  We have been asking for budget negotiations since May – five months ago.
“Finally, leadership on both sides of the aisle and dome are working on a new budget deal to raise the topline.  Yet, here we are with another maneuver, wasting time instead of meeting the needs of America.
“I am Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee.  We put funds in the federal checkbook to meet the needs of the country.  The budget tells us a topline, which is the total of how much we can spend.  It is called our 302(a) allocation.
“This year, that topline is too low.  That means there’s not enough money to protect our country, invest in infrastructure and jobs, meet compelling human needs, and keep our promises to our veterans.  We need a new topline so we can have a better bottom line for our national security and our economic security.  I want to stop hollowing out America.
“I voted ‘aye’ on this bill in Committee to move the process forward.  But I said at the time that we would oppose the motion to proceed until there was a budget deal.  So, I am voting ‘no’ on this motion so we can get to ‘yes’ on a budget deal that cancels sequester equally for defense and non-defense more quickly.
“The President has said he will veto any bill with spartan sequester-level funding.  So how much more is the President asking for?  He is asking for $74 billion more, which would make the budget equal to fiscal year 2010 – SIX years ago.  In six years, our challenges have grown, our population has grown and the cost to provide services has grown, but our budget topline has not.
“The Energy and Water Development bill before us includes an increase of $1.2 billion from the fiscal year 2015 levels.  But nearly all of that increase is on the defense side of the bill.  On the non-defense side, the bill is only $8 million higher than fiscal year 2015.
“The bill is short on infrastructure and research funding by a total of more than $1 billion.  Additional funds are needed to fight drought with water reuse and infrastructure projects, maintain our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, build and maintain Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects, upgrade our electrical grid to make it more reliable and resilient, and spur innovation through basic and applied research funding.  Research funding leads to innovations, such as energy efficient buildings and better solar panels and wind farms, that help consumers save money and build U.S. industries.
“Army Corps of Engineers projects provide jobs today that enable jobs tomorrow at harbors, waterways and flood control facilities.  The Corps has a $60 billion backlog, but their funding is flat this year and $128 million of prior year projects were cancelled in this bill.
“The bill also has inadequate funding for the cleanup of a uranium enrichment plant in Portsmouth, Ohio, which means 500 workers will lose their jobs.
“The nation is facing great challenges: flooding in the South, drought and fires in the West, terrorists abroad looking to come to America, and refugees marching for a better life.
“The Senate is wasting time with procedural maneuvers on sequester-level funding bills, and not addressing problems head on.
“Last week, we passed a continuing funding resolution to avoid a shutdown.  It bought us ten weeks to forge a new path.  Let’s change the tone to change the tide.  Let’s make a budget deal to cancel sequester and invest in America.”