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Responsibly Funding American Priorities

October 1, 2018
Weekly Columns

Last week, Congress responsibly fulfilled its most fundamental duty to the American people by funding some of the nation’s most critical and pressing needs. The legislation signed into law by the president not only provides funding to strengthen and support our national defense, but it ensures vital programs and initiatives that serve all Americans can continue to do so effectively. While this recent action by Congress and the president is unquestionably good news for the country, I am proud that it also marks a historic and much-needed return to governing by regular order.

For some time, lawmakers have relied on various short-term and long-term solutions to fund the government, including omnibus appropriations bills and continuing resolutions. The legislation enacted last week, however, marks the first time in over 10 years that Congress has sent more than one final appropriations bill to the president's desk before the beginning of the fiscal year. Without question, this is a true testament to the hard work that has taken place over months on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers—culminating in the conference committee that put forth the final legislation. I was honored to be a part of those negotiations.

I am very proud that the resulting bipartisan, bicameral legislative package included two key appropriations bills—the Department of Defense (DOD) and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS). In fact, the two bills included in the conference report together comprise 65 percent of all government funding that is determined and considered on an annual basis.

Specific to the DOD portion of the legislation, I am pleased that lawmakers advanced funding that strengthens our military and equips our dedicated service members with the resources they need to forge confidently ahead in every mission. It is important to note that this marked the first time in more than 10 years that DOD has received full funding before the start of the fiscal year. Rightly so, the legislation reflects a much-needed increase in funding for our military, including the largest pay raise for our service members in nine years. Especially following years of underfunding for our troops and the associated and inevitable decline in readiness, the measure is a step in the right direction that ensures our service members are able to confront threats both at home and abroad.

Along with critical funding for our nation’s defense, I am also incredibly proud that the LHHS bill was included in the conference report and that it maintained many of the priorities first advanced by the appropriations subcommittee I chair. Even more remarkable, the inclusion of LHHS marks the first time in 22 years that the bill has been completed in full and on time. Following the work within my subcommittee earlier in the year, I was grateful to be part of the discussions that secured funding for several vital programs and initiatives—including a significant boost for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and focused funding for successful educational and workforce programs.

The increase in NIH funding ensures more attention can be paid to medical research in order to tackle vexing health problems like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and the opioid crisis. That same commitment to combating real health issues and concerns was similarly reflected in funding provided for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is the government's first line of defense in battling public health emergencies and fighting infectious diseases.

Along with resources for the nation’s health-related needs, the LHHS bill contained funding for proven programs that help develop students and workers, setting many Americans up for better opportunities and lifelong success. For example, the bill contained worthwhile increases for Impact Aid, Head Start, TRIO, Gear Up and early childhood education programs. The bill also devoted funding for workforce development programs as well as career and technical training. Without question, this legislation helps ensure Americans are healthier, better educated and trained for our collective future.

Combined with other appropriations bills recently signed into law, the latest action by Congress means that more than 75 percent of annual funding has now been provided for fiscal year 2019. As negotiations for the remaining bills continue in the days ahead, the legislative package passed last week responsibly includes a short-term solution as well. While not ideal, the extension gives lawmakers in both chambers more time for a thoughtful agreement on funding and to ultimately achieve the best result for the country. More importantly though, the continuing resolution prevents the damaging consequences of a partial shutdown in the interim and ensures the government remains fully funded, open and operational.

Without question, lawmakers voted in support of priorities we all share for a safe, secure and thriving country. The monumental legislation passed last week not only provided for services across broad areas of the government, but it fulfilled our promises to the American people: to patients, to communities, to business owners, to the military and to Americans of all stripes.