Vice Chairwoman Mikulski Floor Statement on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“I rise to speak on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, otherwise known as the omnibus. Three months ago, it was unclear if we would get a budget deal to lift the caps for both defense and non-defense spending and cancel sequester.
“As Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, I am proud to say we completed our work. Chairman Cochran and I worked across the aisle and we worked across the dome. For the third year in a row, we left no Appropriations bill behind. We negotiated and compromised – a strong tradition of the Appropriations Committee. I urge all my colleagues to vote for this bill.
“I first want to tell you about what this bill does to protect us here at home. Americans are on edge and need clarity, consistency and specificity. We have $606 billion in here for national defense to support, train and equip our troops, protect America and defeat and destroy ISIL. ‘Must Do’ investments are continued to make sure our troops have the best weapons, but also that our troops and their families are supported, including through access to Commissaries.
“But funding to protect America and its borders is not just for Defense. It is also, $8.8 billion for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to find and prosecute terrorists, $10.9 billion for the Coast Guard to protect our ports and waterways, $50 million in new grants to counter violent extremism. And we give the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) the equipment and staff it needs to protect our own travelers with 602 more airport screeners than requested.
“Thanks to my colleagues who stuck with me this year, we got a budget deal that provides $65 billion more to meet America’s defense and support compelling human needs that promote the middle class.
“We have robust funding for veterans’ health care, $1.3 billion more than last year. This bill also looks to the future. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received a $2 billion increase for a total of $32 billion in funding for fiscal year 2016. Head Start got a $570 million increase to total $9.1 billion. Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding was increased by $26 million for a total of $2.8 billion. And FIRE Grants were provided with $690 million, which is $10 million more than fiscal year 2015. We make the first payment to fund the programs for elementary, middle and high schools that were passed as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), earlier this month.
“We also meet America’s physical infrastructure needs. We have strong funding for the Transit New starts program – an increase of $50 million to $2.2 billion, instead of the $500 million cut in the Senate Committee mark for creating jobs by helping commuters get to their jobs. The HOME program was increased $50 million to $950 million, instead of being cut by 90 percent to only $66 million, for building, buying, or fixing housing for 35,000 families. We maintain our ports, creating jobs by keeping goods moving. The full amount for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is $1.2 billion, while the Army Corps of Engineers received nearly $6 billion in funding. Every dollar spent on Corps projects brings $16 of net economic benefits. These investments equal jobs.
“I know many of my colleagues want to know about riders. We faced hundreds of policy riders, some of which were highly controversial. We did the best we could with them, but while everybody talks about one item or another, I want to talk about some of these important issues. The Republicans wanted seven new riders but the bill keeps current law on guns. It prevents double trailer trucks from taking over our highways. It does not include the Hobby Lobby rider that threatened women’s health. It rejects a 236-page banking bill as well as other riders that would have undermined Dodd-Frank. It stops clean air, clean water and endangered species protections from being undermined permanently.
“The Appropriations bills are good bills. We considered thousands of items, and it took a lot of hard work and collegiality to get to where we are today.
“I want to thank Chairmen Cochran and Rogers, and Ranking Member Lowey as well as Senator Reid and his team. I also thank my entire staff, especially Charles Kieffer and Jean Toal Eisen, my staff director and deputy staff director. They are exemplary public servants with years of talent and know-how. I also want to recognize Shannon Kula and Rachel MacKnight, my Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff; Brigid Houton, my Maryland catchers’ mitt; Mara Stark-Alcalá and Jean Kwon.
“I urge a YES vote.”
Contact: Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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