01.30.18

Statement Of Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On The Need For A Bipartisan Agreement

The Fiscal Year began on October 1st of last year.  Four months have passed—122 days—since the start of the Fiscal Year, and we still do not have a budget deal that will allow us to finish the FY 2018 Appropriations bills.

Recently, President Trump has taken to Twitter accusing Democrats of holding up funding for our troops.  The idea that Democrats are holding up defense spending does not pass the laugh test.  Last July—nearly seven months ago—I called for bipartisan budget negotiations.  I put forward a proposal to increase defense spending by $54 billion, and to increase non-defense spending by an equal amount, $54 billion.  This proposal was both reasonable and responsible, and it was based on parity.  It would have fully-funded President Trump’s budget request for our military.  It would also have provided much needed relief from the damaging effects of sequestration on both sides of the ledger. 

But, instead of trying to reach a bipartisan budget deal to allow us to finish our spending bills on time, the Republican leadership had other priorities.  They spent the last seven months trying to repeal healthcare for millions of Americans, rolling back important consumer protections, cutting environmental and workplace protections, and passing budget-busting tax cuts that primarily benefit big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.  As a result, funding for our troops, as well as for key domestic priorities, has been left limping along under four continuing resolutions.  

Yesterday, the Trump administration accused Democrats of holding defense spending “hostage” over “arbitrary demands for lower priority domestic programs.”  I would like to know which domestic programs the Trump administration deems a “lower” priority.  Services for our veterans? Funding to combat the opioid epidemic, which has impacted every state, every corner of our country? Investments in education for our Nation’s children?  Replacing our crumbling bridges? The President puts before us a false choice.  There is no reason that we cannot fight for, and fund, both our military and our domestic programs.  This is not an either-or choice.

Operating under four continuing resolutions is no way to govern.  It is time to get serious about reaching a deal.  Yet later today, the House is poised to pass another defense appropriations bill that exceeds the budget caps by $73 billion dollars.  Without a budget deal to raise the caps, this funding level would trigger sequester, and force a 13 percent across-the-board-cut on defense programs.  It is not a serious bill.  It is a messaging bill. 

We are past the time for messaging.  The budget and the Appropriations process are where we set our priorities as a Nation, and where we put those priorities into action.  But instead of doing this basic job, Congress and the President have put the federal budget on perpetual autopilot. The can has been kicked down the road over and over and over again.  This is “Groundhog Day,” plus a sequel, plus another sequel, plus another sequel, and now, yet ANOTHER sequel.  This is corrosive and damaging to our Nation and to the American people in countless ways.

We cannot govern by continuing resolution, and neither the military nor our country can properly function under sequestration.  The next continuing resolution expires on February 8th, just 9 days from today, and it is up to the Republican leadership – in both chambers – to get serious about striking a bipartisan budget deal that can get to 60 votes in the Senate.  

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