Mikulski Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY17 Agriculture & Legislative Branch Appropriations Bills


WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, participated in a Full Committee markup to consider the fiscal year 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Agriculture) and Legislative Branch Appropriations bills.


The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:


“Thank you, Chairman Cochran.  We share the same goal to enact 12 appropriations bills based on the Bipartisan Budget Agreement that can be signed by the President.


“Last week, the Senate passed the Energy and Water Development bill, 90-8.  We have two bills on the floor now, Transportation-Housing and VA-Military Construction, and two more bills before the Committee today, Agriculture and Legislative Branch.  All of these bills have avoided poison pill riders.  I hope that will continue.


“Let me take a minute to discuss the two bills before us today.  Working together, Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Merkley wrote an Agriculture bill that makes critical investments in America’s crops, nutrition and food safety.  The Agriculture bill is not just about farmers, it’s important to every American.


“Researchers funded by the bill are finding new ways to meet the growing demand for food while conserving natural resources.  At the Beltsville Agricultural Research Service, 1,800 people are improving vaccinations for poultry diseases, developing insect-repellant military clothing and analyzing dietary causes of obesity.


“The Agriculture bill funds infrastructure in rural America.  Improving housing, water and sewer infrastructure creates jobs, while also keeping people in their homes and drinking safe water.


“The bill also helps feed the most vulnerable people among us.  It feeds children in schools during the school year and through the summer.  It helps feed women, infants and children – in Maryland alone, 142,000 receive healthy food and prenatal education.  The bill helps feed low income senior citizens, including more than 2,400 in Maryland.  An increase in the bill will feed an additional 639,000 seniors nationwide.  And the bill also funds the Food for Peace program because needs will always outweigh the resources with events like the droughts in Ethiopia and South Africa, the Syrian refugee crisis and more.


“Finally, the bill protects food and drug safety by providing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with $2.8 billion in funding.  The FDA, which supports 10,000 Maryland jobs, is the gold standard for drug, device and food safety, implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, and enabling precision medicine.


“Now I’d like to turn from food safety to safety here at the Capitol.  Chairman Capito and Ranking Member Schatz crafted a good bill that prioritizes the most critical needs.  The Legislative Branch bill before us increases Capitol Police funding to protect all of us here on the Capitol campus.  We were reminded how important our security is when the Police intercepted a possible active shooter in March at the Capitol Visitor Center.


“This bill also prioritizes robust government oversight by supporting current staffing levels and critical information technology needs at the Government Accountability Office (GAO).  Keeping GAO going strong pays for itself many times over as it works to detect and fight waste, fraud and abuse.


“The Legislative Branch bill includes a small increase for the Library of Congress.  I hope the Senate will soon confirm the new Librarian, Carla Hayden – she will be a fabulous breath of fresh air.


“I’m glad we’re acting today on the Agriculture and Legislative Branch bills, but we also need to act without delay to fight three rapidly developing emergencies.  The opioids and heroin crisis knows no boundaries – geographic or economic.  Lead in our pipes is creating a generation of children with health and education challenges.  And the spread of the Zika virus – 1,200 Americans already have Zika, including over 110 pregnant women.  These challenges are urgent, temporary and unanticipated, meaning we should use emergency funding to fight them.


“We have worked together on a compromise $1.1 billion Zika emergency supplemental to provide $850 million for the Department of Health and Human Services and $258 million for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.  This is a bottom line, not a starting point for negotiations with the House.  We need to get the Zika bill over the finish line and make available the money needed to prevent the virus from spreading, protect the unborn, reduce fear through accurate testing and provide treatment.  We can’t wait until the fall.


“I hope we get Zika done and to the President soon, pass the Transportation-Housing and VA-Military Construction bills, and then turn to other reported bills, including Commerce-Justice-Science.


“But for this morning, I’m counting on a speedy markup for two good bills.  And I remind all my colleagues that the path forward is clear.  We can keep passing Appropriations bills on the Senate floor if we have fairness and parity based on the budget deal and no poison pill riders.”



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