07.24.18

Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Leahy Statement On The FY 2019 Interior, FSGG, and Agriculture "Minibus" Appropriations Bill

I am pleased to join Chairman Shelby as we prepare to debate the second set of appropriations bills to reach the Senate floor this session.  This “minibus” contains four important bills for Fiscal Year 2019: the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill, the Financial Services and General Government bill, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill, and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies bill. 

Each of these bills was reported by the Appropriations Committee unanimously, and each of these bills funds programs that provide important services to the American people and help invest in the future of this country – every corner of our country. 

The Agriculture Appropriations bill is a win for farmers, families, and rural communities through its investments in rural development and housing, food and nutrition, agricultural research, and clean water programs.  Every state in this Nation, including my home state of Vermont, have rural communities and farm economies that benefit by these important programs.   

The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill makes critical infrastructure investments in Vermont and across the Nation.  It includes $10 billion in new funds to help address our crumbling bridges, railways, and roads.  In Vermont, for example, the bill would help invest in safety improvements on Amtrak’s Vermonter and Ethan Allen lines, and make much-needed upgrades to railroad bridges.  These increases are a direct result of the bipartisan budget deal reached earlier this year and are critically needed. 

Improving the Nation’s infrastructure was one of President Trump’s key campaign promises, but instead of proposing realistic solutions, he has criticized the very budget deal that made these increases possible, and proposed cutting – not increasing – funding for infrastructure programs that this bill supports.  I am glad to report the Appropriations Committee took a different path.  This bill also protects key investments in affordable housing and community development programs, such as HOME and CDBG.  These provide crucial funding that communities leverage to construct, rehabilitate and maintain affordable housing – housing we desperately need in Vermont and across the Nation to shelter families and promote economic mobility.

The Interior bill makes critical investments in programs that help ensure we have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.  It also supports important conservation programs, including support for our National Parks, which attract millions of visitors each year, as well as the Forest Legacy program, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  For Vermont, New York, and truly the northeast region, the bill also continues our commitment to regional efforts to protect, restore, and preserve our great Lake Champlain.  I am pleased to report that the Committee rejected the misguided cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency proposed by the Trump administration that would set back the progress we have made in recent decades to preserve our environment for future generations.

Finally, the Financial Services bill helps support small businesses and local economies through the Small Business Development Center Program, and other related programs.  It also funds regulatory agencies that U.S. citizens rely on to protect them from unfair, unsafe, or fraudulent business practices, like the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers.  

That we were able to reach consent to consider such a broad package of bills in the Senate is a direct result of the Shelby, Leahy, McConnell, Schumer commitment to move forward on a bipartisan basis, at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, while rejecting new poison pill riders or controversial authorizing legislation.  We all have issues about which we care deeply. Achieving this goal of reporting strong, bipartisan bills took considerable restraint on both sides of the aisle, but restraint is what is required to get these bills through the Senate.  Unfortunately, the House is proceeding on a different path. 

They have passed partisan bills filled with poison pills riders that cannot and will not pass the Senate.  Funding the government is one of our most basic constitutional responsibilities, and Americans expect us to work together and across the aisle to reach agreement on these bills.  The programs funded in these bills make a real difference in people’s lives and they should not be held hostage to unrelated partisan policy fights.  I hope when we get to conference on these bills the House will reverse course and do their work in a bipartisan fashion for the benefit of all Americans.    

I want to thank Chairman Shelby for his partnership on these bills.  I also want to thank the Chairs and Ranking Members of each of the Subcommittees for their hard work and cooperation in putting together the four excellent appropriations bills before us today.

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