Statement Of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), On 302(b) Allocations, the FY 2020 Energy & Water Appropriations Bill, and the FY 2020 Defense Appropriations Bill

I am glad to be here at the first markup for the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations bills.  I know the Chairman and I both wish we could have begun this process sooner, but I hope we can make good progress over the next few weeks and put ourselves on the path to enacting all twelve appropriations bills as soon as possible.

Today we will consider the Committee 302(b) allocations, the Fiscal Year 2020 Defense Appropriations Bill, and the Fiscal Year 2020 Energy & Water bill.  Chairman Shelby and I are good friends, and we have worked hard to make this as much of a bipartisan process as possible, which is often a challenge in the political environment we operate in. 

I appreciate his hard work and that of his staff to draft bipartisan bills where possible, and I am confident that the Committee will be proud of those bills as they come before us.  I am also confident that for the bills on which we disagree, we will do so respectfully, and with an eye toward finding a path forward and getting all of our appropriations bills across the finish line expeditiously. 

I will have more to say about the individual bills when we turn to each matter. 

At this time, I would like to offer an alternative allocation to the one just offered by my friend, Chairman Shelby.  

I appreciate the difficult balancing act it requires to divide up our limited federal dollars among the twelve bills, all of which have important and competing priorities. 

We worked hard to get a bipartisan budget agreement that included an increase for both defense and non-defense programs, and it is our job to ensure we allocate that that money appropriately. 

Unfortunately the allocation offered by the Chairman provides a significant increase for the Homeland Security bill in order to fund the President’s request for $5 billion for the wall.  Given the limited federal dollars we have to invest in education, health, the economy, and our real national security needs, we should not be allocating $5 billion for an ineffective wall that was based on a cynical campaign promise, and bears no relation to the real national security issues this country faces. A wall that he repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for.  

My alternative allocation takes $3.6 billion from the Homeland Security bill that would otherwise be spent on the wall and I provide most of it to the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which has been short-changed in order to pay for the wall.  Under the majority’s proposal, the Labor-HHS bill gets less than a 1 percent increase.  This is unacceptable. 

The budget deal provided a roughly 3 percent increase to non-defense programs, and Labor-HHS is our largest non-defense bill.  We cannot and should not shortchange it.  With the extra money in my allocation provided to Labor-HHS, we can invest in important health, education and child care programs that mean so much to working families. 

I also adjust the Chairman’s allocation to provide a significant increase, over a billion dollars for the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Bill, so that we can meet the housing and infrastructure needs of this country, which we all know need increased investment.  And smaller increases to several other of our domestic bills. 

I leave a small portion of the $5 billion the majority allocated for the wall in the Homeland bill to be spent on REAL national security investments, such as increases for our nation’s Coast Guard, who we all saw perform so admirably just this week in a daring rescue of four crew members from the capsized cargo ship near the coast of Georgia. 

This allocation invests in our people and in infrastructure that will make our economy grow, not in a wall that does nothing to secure our nation.  This allocation is responsible, it invests American’s hard-earned tax dollars thoughtfully, and I urge all members to support it.