I have been calling for Congress to break the cycle of continuing resolutions and omnibus spending deals for quite some time. For too long, we have relied on these short-sighted solutions to fund the government rather than approving the 12 individual appropriations bills. I am pleased to see that there is a renewed commitment to return to this regular process.
In his announcement canceling the August in-state work period, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his “goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year.” As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I believe this is a worthwhile and attainable goal.
Continuing resolutions prevent Congress from reining in spending and wasting taxpayer dollars, because they maintain current funding levels for outdated and inefficient programs and restrict agencies from launching new initiatives since they are required to operate under last year’s priorities.
For months, the Senate Appropriations Committee has held hearings with agency officials about the funding needs for the next fiscal year which starts in October. My colleagues and I have spent countless hours crafting appropriations bills that reflect today’s priorities and return predictability to agency leaders.
In early June, committee members advanced funding bills for transportation infrastructure development, housing assistance and community development as well as military construction and veterans’ programs.
As chairman of the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee, I am proud of the bill we crafted that supports critical housing, infrastructure and facilities for U.S. military forces and their families and provides increased funding for veterans’ health care and benefits.
Keeping the promise we made to our veterans is an important responsibility of the federal government. Just as essential is that we ensure our military has the infrastructure it needs to defend our nation and its allies. This bill reflects these priorities by increasing resources to prevent veteran suicide, increasing rural access to healthcare, supporting critical mental health programs, preventing veterans homelessness and providing robust funding for innovative medical research.
This is particularly important as it also initiates funding to support reforms to the VA’s healthcare delivery system that was signed into law by President Trump this month. This will provide our veterans with more choices and fewer barriers to care.
Four appropriations bills, including those that support federal agriculture and nutrition programs and our energy and water infrastructure, have been approved by the committee and are ready to be considered on the Senate floor. I am pleased that Leader McConnell intends to put the appropriations bills at the top of the Senate’s to-do list for the summer. I look forward to debating the MilCon-VA bill and other appropriations bills in the coming weeks.
Debating and passing these funding bills is a basic responsibility of the federal government that provides accountability and transparency. Having the ability to amend these bills before the full chamber allows all senators a voice in the spending process, regardless of whether or not they serve on the Appropriations Committee.
Before signing the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill in March, President Trump made it clear that he would not approve another last-minute funding package. Having more time this summer to advance appropriations bills will ease that concern.