Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Statement On Senate Passage Of The Defense, LHHS “Minibus” Appropriations Bill

The Senate, and Congress as a whole, best serves the American people when we reach real, bipartisan solutions.  Today, the Senate will pass its third bipartisan appropriations package, completing Senate consideration of nine of the 12 appropriations bills reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee and accounting for 87 percent of all discretionary spending. 

We are proving that when we put partisan politics aside, we can do the work of the American people.  This progress would not have been possible without my dear friend, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Richard Shelby.  Senator Shelby and I made a commitment, along with Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer, to only move forward on appropriations bills that have bipartisan support, are at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, and that reject poison pill riders and controversial authorizing language.  This allowed us to complete our bills in Committee and pass three appropriations packages on the Senate Floor.

I am disappointed that House Republicans have thus far rejected this reasonable path in favor of partisan grandstanding by producing bills that have no chance of passing the Senate.  But I remain hopeful that, once they return from their five week recess, they will be ready to work with the Senate on real solutions for the American people, and to pass these bills before the end of the fiscal year. 

The Senate approach is what this bill represents: real, bipartisan solutions for the American people.  We adopted 52 amendments in a bipartisan managers’ package, allowing input on the floor from members outside of the Appropriations Committee on matters that are important to them and to their constituents.  We adhered to the bipartisan budget agreement and turned those priorities into policy solutions.

We make good on our promise to families to invest in access to higher education and child care.  We make a second major investment in addressing the opioid crisis.  Everyone in this chamber has experienced the opioid crisis firsthand.  Whether it is a friend, a family member or a loved one, no one has escaped the grips of this scourge. And we put the force of the United States Government behind the search for cures to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and diabetes by increasing funding for the National Institutes of Health.  

This bill invests in our military and their families, allowing the men and women in our Armed Forces to carry out their missions safely and effectively.  By investing in both our immediate national security needs and our long term domestic needs, like education and health care, this package recognizes the deep ties that run between defense and non-defense priorities. 

Ask any military leader, and they will tell you an investment in education is an investment in national security. 

By combining these bills in one package, we increase the certainty that they will be enacted into law, on time, avoiding the waste and inefficiency produced by long-term continuing resolutions.  I urge our House counterparts to commit, as we have, to producing a conference report that contains both bills, so we can move swiftly toward final passage and address the devastating consequences of sequestration on both sides of the ledger.  

I remain hopeful that we can continue the bipartisan momentum we have built in the Senate into our conference negotiations with the House. 

I want to thank Senators Blunt, Durbin and Murray for their hard work on these bills, and, of course, Senator Shelby. 

I also want to thank the Majority staff, Shannon Hines, David Adkins, and Jonathan Graffeo, as well as the Defense and Labor-HHS subcommittee staffs, for their hard work and cooperation on this bill.

And I want to thank my staff for their long hours over the last few weeks, Charles Kieffer, Chanda Betourney, Jessica Berry, Erik Raven and Alex Keenan and all of the Defense and Labor-HHS subcommittee staff. 

I have a list of all Appropriations Committee staff whose hard work made this bill happen, and I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.

This package, which represents 65 percent of all discretionary spending, will improve lives in every state, and I urge an “aye” vote.

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