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Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I am rising to speak on the continuing resolution to keep government funded for the rest of the year.

    I chair the full committee of the Appropriations Committee. My very able and esteemed colleague, Senator Shelby, is the vice chairman. We come to the floor to talk about our legislation, which is an amendment to the House CR to fund the Federal Government for the rest of the fiscal year. It continues the bipartisan tradition of the Appropriations Committee working closely with both sides of the aisle, and I wish to thank Senator Shelby for his excellent cooperation and his wise counsel in doing this and actually cosponsoring this.

    Our leadership, Senators Reid and McConnell, has been critical to allowing us to come to the floor and have our bill be debated openly, to have appropriate amendments, and then to have it voted on by the full Senate. In today's toxic environment in Washington, I must say our conversations have been characterized by civility, collegiality, and absolute candor--what we can do; what we can't do, not what we would like to do but what we must do to keep the government's doors open.

    I also want to comment on the excellent tone and conversation we have had with the House, specifically our House counterparts, Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Congresswoman Nita Lowey. We have talked with each other and worked together, and if we continue to do that without other intervening dynamics, we can get this bill done.

    Before I go into our bill to offer its content, I want everybody to understand there are three things at play in Washington this week. We use arcane language, so nobody knows what is going on. There is the sequester, there is the continuing resolution, and there is the Budget Committee. Everybody is going to get confused because everybody is getting it commingled. All of it is getting press and the American people don't understand there are three separate solutions to three separate problems.

    Let me go to the Budget Committee, which will be on the floor next week, and Senator Murray is vociferously and persistently working on that bill. That is for fiscal year 2014. That is the framework on how we are going to approach our overall budget: What are we going to spend, what revenues we are going to have to raise, if any, and also a review of mandatory spending. That is going on over there. That is for fiscal year 2014.

    The Mikulski-Shelby continuing resolution is the appropriations bill--not a personality bill--that will fund the government through 2013. The American people might say: Didn't you do that in October? Isn't our fiscal New Year's Eve October 1? Well, not really. What happened is we were going into the heat and passion and prickliness of an election year, so the wise heads thought it best to extend it where cooler heads would prevail in March. So here we are. We are the cooler heads, and we are ready to prevail. What we have here now is that legislation.

    Everybody needs to understand this: On March 27, that continuing resolution expires. If we do not pass our bill and then have an agreement between the House and the Senate that is signed by the President, we could face a government showdown. There is no will on either side of this institution that wants to do that. We are absolutely committed to no shutdown, no showdown, no lockdown, no slamdown. We want to do the job, and that is why we have been working very carefully to do that.

    What we will offer today is funding through the fiscal year, which will take us to October 1, and that meets the mandatory cap assigned to us by the Budget Committee of $1.4 trillion. That is a lot of money, but it is a big government with big responsibilities. It includes everything from defense--defending us over there--to the border control--defending us here--to meeting compelling human need and making investments in science and technology while ensuring we do what we need to do.

    Our legislation is quite simple and straightforward. It includes five appropriations bills. Two are already in it from the House--defense, military construction, and veterans. It will also include agriculture, homeland security, and a subcommittee that Senator Shelby and I are chair and vice chair of that funds the entire Justice Department. That means FBI, Federal law enforcement, and science and commerce. So we have Ag, CJS, homeland security and defense. Defense and military construction are identical to the House. Agriculture, CJS and homeland security are consistent with bipartisan and bicameral agreements negotiated last fall.

    Remember, we are reaching across the aisle, we are reaching across the dome. That is how we are trying to do it. However, there are seven remaining bills in the continuing resolution, and they are energy and water--money for things such as the Corps of Engineers--interior and environment, financial services, transportation, Labor-HHS, state and foreign ops, and the legislative branch. That means they are provided current funding levels and policies with some very limited changes to fix present problems. These are called anomalies.

    The Senate version, as I said, totals $1.43 trillion, which is equal to the House CR. So the top line is the same; the difference is how we achieve national goals. It is equal to the House continuing resolution, and it is the same as required by the Budget Control Act. We are absolutely in compliance with the Budget Control Act.

    Sequester mandates another $86 billion in cuts. That comes over what we do, and that solution is to be negotiated by the President and the leadership with the concurrence of both bodies. That is part of the charm offensive that is going on now. OK. Sequester needs a balanced solution, and we will be listening and awaiting their ideas, but right now we are looking at our bill that includes bipartisan amendments, minimizing the problems of operating and returning to a regular order for fiscal year 2014.

    The amendment we offer is much better than an extension of the current continuing resolution. Why don't we take a date and just change 2012 to 2013? We don't do that because our bill makes reforms. We actually get more value for the dollar. If we just extended it, we would sometimes be spending money on unneeded programs, one of which would be--in our bill, CJS--$500 million for a space shuttle that doesn't exist. We want to change that and put it where it belongs, into the proper defending of our Nation and investing in science and technology. So a date change in a continuing resolution is not workable.

    The Senate amendment improves the House CR by adding those three domestic bills and, as I said, includes a number of changes. I could go through each and every one of those changes, such as in agriculture, but what I wish to do is explain the process now. I do want to explain the content of my bill; however, I am going to take 1 minute now and yield to Senator Shelby for his opening statement and then I will come back and explain the details of our actual funding.

    I must say again, I have appreciated not only the civility and the collegiality but the candor. We had to look at not what we would like to do and not even what we should do but what we must do to keep government operating, to achieve the national goals America wants: our national security, both those who wear the uniform of the U.S. military as well as others who defend the Nation, such as border control, Federal law enforcement, law enforcement at the local [[Page S1677]] level, food safety and drug safety inspectors, to make sure we meet compelling human need in the fields of education, biomedical research. This is what we are trying to do--weather satellites that predict future natural disasters.

    Again, we don't have a bill that is what we would like to do, what we have is a bill that is what we must do. If we all work together--and we ask those who have amendments to be working with our leadership--we believe we can move this bill by the middle of this week; that by the week's end, the certainty of government funding will have been established and we will have shown we can govern.

    I yield the floor so my vice chairman can say what he wishes to say to add to the debate.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.

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