Mikulski Statement on Moving Forward on Appropriations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on moving forward on appropriations and negotiating a new budget deal to end sequester:
“Mr. President, This month, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed its work on 12 bills to fund the government for fiscal year 2016 which begins October 1, 2015.
“I congratulate Chairman Cochran and his Subcommittee Chairs for a full and open process.  They worked hand in hand with me and my Ranking Democratic members.  But their bills are based on the post-sequester levels of the Republican budget resolution.  The bills reported by the Committee are too spartan to meet the needs of the American people.
“The difference between the Republican budget and the President’s budget request is $74 billion.  That’s a lot. But even with that increase, the discretionary top line will be equal to what we spent in 2010, six years ago.
“I’d like to talk about one example of the real impact of the Republican sequester level budget – failing our veterans.
“Veterans deserve promises made and promises kept. 
“Instead, the Senate fiscal year 2016 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill is at least $857 million short of what is needed for Veteran Health Care.  And the House is even worse, at least $1.4 billion below what is needed.  At those levels, about 70,000 fewer veterans will receive medical care.
“Despite record demand for services, our veterans are still waiting to get appointments at hospitals and clinics.  In fact, the electronic wait list has grown by almost 10,000 over the past two months.  Sequester will result in waitlists growing exponentially.
“Sequester budgeting for veterans’ medical care means almost 150,000 veterans living with Hepatitis C will be in limbo not receiving new, life-saving drugs.
“It’s not just care that is shortchanged.  Sequester budgeting means hospitals and clinics continue to deteriorate.  The VA has identified between $10 billion and $12 billion of backlogged code violations and deficiencies at hospitals and clinics across the country.  In fiscal year 2013, the VA spent $1.3 billion repairing clinics,   but for fiscal year 2016 the Republican bills cut funding in half, even as the backlog grows.
“Yesterday, the Republican Leader stated that he did not want a government shutdown.  Encouragingly, he added, “At some point we’ll negotiate the way forward.”
“Democrats are ready.  Since May, we have been asking to negotiate to eliminate sequester with a sequel to Murray / Ryan.  The only way we will have shutdown, showdown, and government by self-made crisis is if the Republican majority refuses to send the President bills he can sign, and instead sends bills that are too spartan or contain poison pill riders like prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood or signature initiatives like the Affordable Care Act and climate pollution rules.
“Whether it is funding our troops or keeping our promises to veterans, we can’t do it without a new budget deal.  Freezing Federal spending doesn’t meet the growing, complex needs of the Nation.
“None of us were elected to make America weaker.  Yet sequester makes us weaker and sequester hollows out America.
“America deserves better.
“But we need a new budget deal to do it.  Democrats are ready to get serious and get to the table.  We need to end sequester for defense with no more gimmicks and end sequester for programs not funded in the defense bill that protect our country and make it great.”