Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), On The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015

For months, Democrats have called on Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House to work with us to avert the economic crisis that default would have wrought on this country.  With our backs against the wall, congressional leaders and the White House have reached an agreement to not only raise the debt ceiling – ensuring that our government can pay its bills – but to limit the devastating impacts of sequestration for the next two years.

This agreement is far from perfect. This deal uses funding identified and supported by the Senate to extend the critical Highway Trust Fund.  The Trust Fund has limped along, one short-term extension after another, for far too long.  Despite the progress made on advancing a six-year authorization, we will now have to move back to square one to find a way to pay for it.  I am as concerned now as I was in July that we are stealing from ourselves by selling off strategic oil preserves at a time of low prices, when we purchased at a time of high prices. And I am deeply concerned that this deal raids the Crime Victims Fund of $1.5 billion dollars.  Democrats and Republicans alike have long supported the Crime Victims Fund – unique in that it comes not from taxpayer dollars, but from penalties and fines paid by the criminals themselves.  This fund was set up to be a dedicated resource to help victims of crime.  Given the ongoing level of unmet need in that community, it is simply unacceptable that this Fund was raided to pay for unrelated things. This one-time rescission must not become a new precedent.  We cannot turn our back on the victims of crime.

Nonetheless, I support the Bipartisan Budget Act.  It is the product of compromise that will offer a measure of stability and help pave the way for an omnibus appropriations bill to keep our government open past December 11.  But this is only the first step.  While we will avert a calamitous default next week, we now must undertake the difficult process of crafting an omnibus spending bill that will meet our financial obligations and properly invest our resources.  We have come together – across the aisle and across Congress – to support this budget deal.  Let’s not squander those bipartisan efforts in the next phase by derailing the appropriations process with needless partisan policy riders intended to do nothing more than score political points.

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