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Responsibly Funding the Government

December 22, 2015
Weekly Columns

Since this spring, lawmakers have been hard at work sharing ideas and crafting legislation to responsibly fund the government. In the House of Representatives, the process of fulfilling this critical function of government started with hearings and discussions in the 12 subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. And this year—for the first time since 2009—all 12 funding bills were written, considered and passed out of full committee and six passed the entire House.

However, lacking passage of the same bills in the Senate and the president’s signature to make those bills law, the issue of government funding for the fiscal year remained unresolved until last week. After a long negotiation that was guided by funding levels previously agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act and spending recommendations from the groundwork laid in the subcommittees, the “omnibus” legislation unveiled and passed by a strong majority in both chambers of Congress last week represents an acceptable compromise that keeps the government open. While I could offer a long list of the things I wish had been a part of the omnibus, there is also a lot in it to be proud of and claimed as conservative victories.  

With mounting crises overseas and national security concerns here at home, I am pleased that the funding bill provides for a strong defense and robust military well equipped to confront threats wherever they arise. Specifically in response to the escalating threat posed by ISIL, it is appropriate that the omnibus also includes changes recommended by the House to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program in order to prevent acts of terrorism by visitors to the United States. 

As many know firsthand, the call of duty to defend our country demands sacrifice both during and after service in the military. In addition to funding sufficient resources for those serving to ensure our safety, the omnibus reassures current and future veterans that the government will keep the promise of quality and accessible earned benefits and improve the process for doing so. 

After 40 long years, I am pleased that the omnibus included language that lifts the export ban on crude oil. This policy change unlocks tremendous potential not only for domestic energy production but American job creation and economic growth. And the permanent and temporary tax cuts will also help stimulate economic growth and job creation.  

As chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, I had the opportunity to be directly involved in the early stages of the appropriations process. I was pleased that the final compromise included several provisions recommended by my subcommittee. In particular, the funding bill invests more valuable dollars in the research capacity at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). With some of the boosted investment at NIH specifically targeting Alzheimer’s disease and cancer research, there is greater hope that we can find solutions and discover cures for very real and increasingly more prevalent health crises. Similarly, the CDC is given greater means for disease prevention and bio-defense research. Also recommended with my subcommittee the omnibus funds valuable education programs that benefit low-income children and their families—like Head Start, Gear Up and TRIO. 

As I’ve said before, divided government requires compromise. In the most recent negotiation, neither side got everything it wanted. But I believe the end product reflected as much common ground as possible, which rightly attracted a strong showing of support from both sides of the aisle. When we return in January, I believe the precedent set will help lawmakers to further restore much-needed regular order to the legislative process.