Senate Appropriations Committee Democrats Offer Alternative Allocation To Invest In The American People

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 20, 2017) – Senate Appropriations Committee Democrats Thursday demanded an increased investment in the American people and an increase in defense spending by rejecting topline spending numbers offered by Committee Republicans and putting forward their own detailed proposal. 

Offered by Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Democrats’ proposal would increase defense spending in fiscal year 2018 by $54 billion above post-sequester spending caps, mandated by the Budget Control Act, and provide an equal increase in non-defense programs – a budget and policy approach known as “parity.”  Committee Democrats will offer a series of funding amendments to each appropriations bill to spotlight the investments in the American people that could and should be made under this proposal.  Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) offered the first of these amendments to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill last week.  Unfortunately, $1.6 billion for improved health care for veterans was rejected by Committee Republicans on a party-line vote.

Leahy said:  “Sequestration has had a devastating effect on our domestic priorities and military readiness.  Increasing non-defense programs by $54 billion may sound like a lot of money, but even if this Committee were to agree to the allocation I propose today, some of these bills will still only be at, or even lower than, the funding levels they had in fiscal year 2010 – eight years ago.  Think about that.  The allocation I propose would allow us to invest in our nation’s security, our infrastructure, our children’s education and our environment.  But I want to make one thing crystal clear.  We cannot finish the appropriations process without a budget deal in place.  It won’t happen.”

You can read Leahy’s full statement HERE.

A breakdown of the different allocations is available HERE.

In the five years since the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), discretionary programs have been recklessly slashed by $2 trillion under post-sequestration budget cuts.  The resulting cuts have taken their toll on everything from the readiness of U.S. armed forces, to millions of families not receiving heating assistance, and drastic cuts to federal investment in job training and employment programs.  The consequences of these cuts will be felt for a generation or more.   

Unless a budget deal is reached, the BCA would demand another $5 billion in cuts from fiscal year 2017 funding levels -- $2 billion from defense and $3 billion from non-defense discretionary funding.  If the caps are not met and without a bipartisan budget agreement, the House Republican’s irresponsible proposal will result in a $72 billion (13.2 percent) sequester across all defense accounts in January.

Committee Republicans rejected the funding amendment offered by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would have bolstered infrastructure investments in rural America by $1.715 billion, which are not being adequately funded under the current, arbitrary funding caps set by the BCA. 

Rural investment highlights in the Merkley Amendment rejected by Committee Republicans included:

  • $150 million for clean drinking water and sanitary waste disposal systems, that would have funded over $2 billion in loans and $106 million in grants and assisted 2.5 million rural residents.
  • $1 billion in available loans would have provided nearly 7,000 low income rural households with the opportunity for home ownership.
  • $950 million in loans and $107 million in grants that would have enhanced access to high speed broadband service in rural areas.

The Committee’s Democratic members made clear that the nation’s infrastructure is in desperate need of assistance, and that these investments are long overdue.  Their proposal includes priorities both for Rural America and urban cities and regions.  Each element would have helped to make rural communities and urban areas more competitive, creating jobs and growing their economies. 

Committee Republicans also rejected the funding amendment offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to the Energy and Water appropriations bill that would have increased non-defense spending by $1.87 billion, supporting scientific research and investing in communities.

Highlights in the Feinstein Amendment rejected by Committee Republicans included:

  • $530 million increase to bolster the Army Corps of Engineers’ that would invest in environmental infrastructure projects that can advance water quality improvements across the country, like those needed in Lake Champlain and along the Connecticut River.
  • $50 million increase in critical funding for the Weatherization Program, which is sorely needed in northern states, like Vermont, where high home heating costs result in difficult decisions for families struggling to pay the bills.
  • Increased investment in scientific research; restoration of the loan program for innovative renewable energy technologies, technologies that can lower energy bills for businesses and consumers; and support for a clean energy economy that can create millions of good jobs in rural communities across the country.

# # # # # 

CONTACT: Jay Tilton – 202-224-2667