Sep 12 2018

Shelby Praises Final Passage of First Appropriations Minibus Conference Report

Package Provides Funding for VA MISSION Act, Nuclear Security, U.S. Capitol Safety

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today praised the Senate’s passage of the final conference agreement reached on H.R. 5895, the first of three Fiscal Year 2019 minibus appropriations packages, which includes appropriations bills for Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch.  The Conference Report and Joint Explanatory Statement are available online.  The House is expected to vote on the conference report later this week.

“Today I am proud to present my colleagues with the first dividends of their ongoing, bipartisan cooperation,” said Senator Shelby.  “This conference report contains critical funding to help transition our nation’s veterans to the new health care program they deserve and have earned under the VA Mission Act.  It funds nearly 200 construction projects that are very important to America’s military and provides resources to bolster American energy and secure our nuclear weapons stockpile.  The bill also provides funding to develop and maintain water infrastructure projects across the country.

“This is a far cry from where we were just a few months ago.  Along the way I have pointed out that we have steadily consolidated critical mass for a return to regular order in the appropriations process.  Both Republicans and Democrats agree that our partisan disputes on a given issue should not paralyze this institution’s ability to carry out its most fundamental Constitutional responsibility: funding the government.  Both parties see failure in this regard as harmful to our country as a whole – and both parties understand success in this regard benefits us all because it provides the stability and continuity that leads to security and prosperity.

“I thank my colleagues for their hard work in making this aspiration a reality.  If we continue to work together in a bipartisan manner we can successfully fund nearly 90 percent of the federal government on time through regular order – something Congress has not been able to do in many years,” concluded Senator Shelby.

The final conference report, which was passed by a vote of 92 – 5, provides $97.1 billion to take care of our nation’s veterans and fund military construction, $44.6 billion to support U.S. Department of Energy programs and critical infrastructure projects administered by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, and $4.8 billion to maintain essential operations and security of the U.S. Capitol, Congress and support agencies.

Senator Shelby’s full remarks prior to the vote on passage, as prepared, are as follows:

“A few months ago, I came to the floor and urged my colleagues set aside partisan disputes so we could focus on our most basic Constitutional responsibility: funding the government in a deliberate and timely manner.

“Most observers deemed the prospect dubious at best.

“And who could blame them?

“Like so much in Washington, the appropriations process was broken.  

“But at the urging of Leaders McConnell and Schumer, and with the help of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle – Vice Chairman Leahy, in particular - we began to piece it back together.

“Steadily, methodically we passed nine of the twelve annual appropriations bills in the Senate by overwhelming bipartisan margins.

“And today I am pleased to present my colleagues with the first dividends of their cooperation.

“The conference report before the Senate contains the fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills for Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch.

“It contains critical funding to help transition our nation’s veterans to the new health care program they deserve and have earned under the VA Mission Act.

“It funds nearly 200 construction projects that are very important to America’s military.

“It provides resources to bolster American energy and secure our nuclear weapons stockpile.

“And it includes funding to develop and maintain water infrastructure projects across the country.

“But just as important is what this package does NOT contain.  It contains no poison pills.

“None of the partisan riders that have taken down appropriations bills in recent years are in this package.

“As a result, the conference report looks a lot like the package that passed the Senate a few months ago by a vote of 86 – 5.

“I am proud to present it to my colleagues, and I recommend their full support.

“Despite the importance of this package and the strong bipartisan support I expect it to receive, its passage will be greeted by little fanfare.

“Unfortunately that’s the way it is today, where partisan clashes make better copy than bipartisan cooperation.  But so be it.

“My constituents and yours, Mr. President, get their work done every day without any fanfare either.  

“In fact, my constituents will likely say, ‘Good, that’s what you’re supposed to.  Now get back to work.’  And that’s just what we are doing.

“Tomorrow, Senate and House conferees will meet on the two additional appropriations packages that recently passed the Senate.

“I am pleased to report that we are very, very close to reaching agreements on those packages as well.

“And I am optimistic that I will return to my colleagues in short order with those agreements in hand.

“If we continue on our current trajectory, we are on pace to fund nearly 90 percent of the government on schedule.

“That is a far cry from where we were just a few months ago.

“Along the way I have pointed out that we have steadily consolidated critical mass for a return to regular order in the appropriations process.

“But talk of regular order is inside baseball that likely means little to my constituents or yours, Mr. President.

“What I hope it means in a larger sense is that the Senate is regaining its footing.

“That both parties agree our partisan disputes on a given issue should not paralyze this institution’s ability to carry out its most fundamental Constitutional responsibility: funding the government. 

“That both parties see failure in this regard as harmful to our country as a whole.

“And that both parties understand success in this regard benefits us all because it provides the stability and continuity that leads to security and prosperity.

“We have a long way to go, but getting this first batch of appropriations bills to the President’s desk with strong bipartisan support is a very important step in the right direction.

“Again, I want to thank the Leaders on both sides, Vice Chairman Leahy, the Members of the Appropriations Committee, and all my colleagues for their cooperation in this effort.

“I look forward to continuing to work together to get the job done.  Thank you.”

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