A picture of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Barbara M.
Democrat MD

About Sen. Barbara
  • Omnibus Legislation

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, otherwise known as the omnibus. Three months ago, it was unclear if we would get a budget deal that would lift the caps for both defense and nondefense spending. It was unclear if we could really not head to a showdown. It was not clear if were heading to a shutdown, and we were not clear if we could cancel sequester.

    I am proud to say, as the vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, that the committee has completed its work. We have done it in a bipartisan way and in a way that there will not be a shutdown of the government. We have canceled sequester, and we have done this in a responsible way.

    The House is working on the bill now. We shall be voting on it tomorrow. Tomorrow I will talk about the national implications of the bill when it comes before the Senate, but today, as the Senator from Maryland and for Maryland, I wish to talk about the public investments this bill makes to support the Nation's needs, which also supports Maryland's needs, which supports Maryland's jobs.

    As the vice chair of the committee, my first job--and as the Constitution requires--is to be the Senator from Maryland, and I require myself to be the Senator for Maryland. I am proud to say that this bill does make the kinds of public investments that I believe will help America's and Maryland's future.

    This bill delivers on a promise I made many years ago that I would look after the day-to-day needs of my constituents and the long-range needs of this country.

    You will be interested to know that Maryland is the home to 20 major Federal facilities with more than 200,000 Federal employees and retirees. We have great military installations, such as Fort Meade, the National Security Agency, Cyber Command, the U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Bethesda, and Walter Reed. It also has great public institutions, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Weather Bureau, the national NOAA satellites that tell us what the weather will be, and also agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

    Although we have the Federal assets in Maryland, they serve the Nation. These aren't Maryland's institutions; these are national institutions, but they employ Marylanders.

    In this bill, working on a bipartisan basis, we have increased the funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, increasing it to $32 billion. Working with both Senator Murray, the ranking member, and Senator Blunt, the chair of the subcommittee, we have nicknamed the National Institutes of Health the ``National Institutes of Hope.'' Why? Because it looks to find the cures and breakthroughs for America's devastating diseases, from cancer to Alzheimer's. But at the same time, while we have worked on funding the research to find cures and breakthroughs, they must be moved to clinical practice. That is why we in Maryland have fought so hard to make sure the Food and Drug Administration is capitalized in a way that it does its job.

    The Food and Drug Administration, which employs over 4,000 people, is responsible for our food safety, both here and as it comes in from abroad, and also for being able to move drugs, biologics, and medical devices into clinical practice and demonstrating that they are both safe and effective. It is a big job, and it is a big employer in our State.

    We also want to make sure that we look out for those who are the most needy. This Senate and this Congress often talk about Social Security and it also talks about Medicare. Both of those--the Social Security Administration and CMS--are located in Maryland. We are very proud of that. The Social Security Administration is in a community called Baltimore County, a neighborhood called Woodlawn. It has a building that is 57 years old, and it hasn't had any improvements since 1959. They work in terrible situations, with mold, decay, crumbling technology, and even vermin. We make sure that those who administer the Social Security Program have the right facilities and also have the right technology.

    We worked very hard to be able to stand up for our Federal employees. Again, working on a bipartisan basis, we allowed a 1.46 percent cost- of-living adjustment.

    We were absolutely appalled to find out about the OPM data breach, which had a devastating effect on over 130,000 Federal employees both here and around this country. What we did, working on this bill, we are going to make sure that the Federal employees have 10 years of credit protection since OPM fell down on its job in protecting them.

    [[Page S8760]] We also have been very concerned about physical infrastructure. We work very hard in terms of the Metro. Metro is not a Maryland subway; it is not a Virginia subway; it is America's subway. For all who ride that subway, we have been absolutely concerned about their safety. Working with our colleagues across the Potomac, we have been concentrating on Metro safety, and we were able to put the funds in the Federal checkbook to be able to improve that. We also want to be able to get people to the jobs, and that is why we funded the Purple Line.

    There is a great opportunity in Maryland, and I hope it comes to other parts of our country, which is modernizing our ports. Whether you are in New Orleans, whether you are in Baltimore, whether you are in Charleston, Long Beach, CA, the ports need to be modernized. It is a great opportunity for jobs--real jobs in construction and real jobs here.

    I am happy to say we worked very hard over the years with my colleagues, my beloved friends--Congresswoman Helen Bentley, a wonderful Republican woman. They called us the salt and pepper of the Maryland delegation. We worked to make sure our port was dredged and ready for the future.

    There are many other issues that I can show, but I wanted to show that we are making public investments that not only look out for American jobs but our Federal employees working in these key agencies-- the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Weather Service. These are civil servants who, while they are located in Maryland, are working on a national mission. I am glad of the role I played to make sure they were capitalized.

    I thank my colleagues on the other side of the aisle because they, too, understood why these investments are important.

    Much is said about why we need to be America the exceptional, and I believe it is these kinds of programs. Our human infrastructure, our innovation, and our physical infrastructure is what we are doing.

    There are many things in this bill. Many will complain about how big it is. But it is not how big the bill is, but it is how effective we are in helping America be able to be what America is--a land of opportunity and a land of growth and a land that knows how to protect its people and protect the world.

    Mr. President, I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee.


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