Providing for Congressional Disapproval of a Rule Submitted By the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agencyby Senator Debbie Stabenow
Posted on 2015-11-04
STABENOW. Mr. President, just a week ago the American people were
able to breathe a collective sigh of relief--and I think all of us did
in this Chamber as well--as Republicans and Democrats in the House and
Senate finally pulled back from what would have been a financial
catastrophe. We had a potential default of our country's bills. There
was a potential government shutdown, but that was averted, and we
passed a budget with no time to spare. It was a good thing to do on a
bipartisan basis, to be able to show that we could work together,
develop a bipartisan budget.
I believe it was 3 a.m. when we had the final vote on early Friday morning, but we put that in place and had some confidence at that moment that we were going to be moving forward with a comprehensive budget--a comprehensive appropriations process--that would allow us to say to the American people that we were addressing all of the needs they care about: security, growing the economy, making sure we are investing in middle-class families, strengthening our defense, and so on.
Now, not even a week later, Republican leaders are back to their old tricks again. We are quite shocked to see that rather than giving the appropriators the opportunity to put together a comprehensive appropriations process, a comprehensive budget to be able to move forward on all of the needs of the country, what we are seeing is potentially a trick to undo the bipartisan budget agreement through the backdoor. We have seen this movie before, a few years ago, passing the Department of Defense appropriations and then forcing everything else into a long-term continuing resolution.
We are not going down this road again. We are operating under the basis that we have a bipartisan agreement. A lot of folks on both sides of the aisle deserve credit for that, but we want to stick to that and a comprehensive budget moving forward--no tricks to undo the bipartisan budget agreement.
Frankly, our families deserve a budget that grows the economy and invests in our middle-class families. How many of us have said the issue is that folks don't have money in their pocket, good-paying jobs, and can't do what they need to do to be able to put food on the table, send the kids to school, pay the mortgage, be able to support their families in a way that we always have in America, and be able to grow the economy with a strong, vibrant middle class.
We also need to strengthen our national defense--our national security--broadly. If we only move forward on Department of Defense, as we know, we [[Page S7739]] are leaving out a whole range of things that are part of our national security.
I can say that as a border State in Michigan, we need to be concerned. We hear a lot of debate and discussion about border security. We need to make sure we are adequately funding border security. Cyber security, for us it means things such as the Coast Guard. When we look at other areas of security, it includes food security efforts that people care about. It includes first responders, police, and firefighters. It includes airports--a whole range of things that need to be looked at comprehensively.
We want to see the whole budget, not just the Department of Defense. We want to see the agreement on the whole budget so we know there aren't going to be any tricks. If there aren't going to be any tricks, what are folks trying to hide? Let's just develop the whole budget and then move the whole budget.
We also know people care deeply about growing the economy and jobs, and that means supporting small business. It means investing, making things, and growing things, which I talk a lot about in Michigan. That is what we do; we make things and grow things. There are efforts to support that that we need to do.
Frankly, some of that is in critical partnerships with the private sector and job training. The No. 1 thing I hear from manufacturers today--in fact, the National Association of Manufacturers tells us there are 600,000 unfilled jobs today because we don't have people with the right skills for the right job. That is something we need to address in our budget: job training, education, and college affordability.
How many times have we heard about young people or in our own families know people who have come out of college, they did everything we told them to do: Go to college, get good grades. They graduate, and then they come out with more debt than if they were trying to buy a big house. In fact, the realtors tell us now they can't qualify young couples to buy a house because of their college debt. That is part of this debate on the budget: education, access to college, job training, support for small businesses, and support for our manufacturers and our farmers, large and small.
Another critical area in our budget that we want to make sure is adequately funded is our ability to save lives through medical research, such as new treatments, new cures that we all have heard so much about that we are excited about. The whole effort now--finally, we are doing research on the brain, the least researched organ in the body. That impacts Alzheimer's; $1 out of every $5 Medicare dollars is spent on Alzheimer's disease and dementias, Parkinson's, mental illness, and addictions. That doesn't count what needs to happen with cancers. It doesn't count how close we are if we were to double down on our medical research in this country. Juvenile diabetes--we could go on and on. That is part of this budget.
We want to see what is being funded on medical research in the National Institutes of Health before we move forward on only one piece of this, as we are very late in the game to debate this. This might have been a strategy we could do last spring. Now what we need to have is a look at the entire budget: mental health, substance abuse, services for veterans. Whether it is veterans and job training, whether it is providing veterans an opportunity to have a home and live in dignity, whether it is mental health substance abuse services, that is in this budget. We need a comprehensive budget. We need to know, the American people need to know the whole budget and that there are not going to be tricks in this process.
Protecting our natural resources. For us around the Great Lakes, 20 percent of the world's freshwater, it is incredibly important for us that we know how the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funded; how we are supporting our clean air, clean water, and land initiatives.
We have new challenges in outrageous things such as what is happening in Flint, MI, where there is very high lead found in the water and we need pipes changed. We need to be supporting infrastructure around not only roads and bridges, which are critically important, but aging pipes that have been there for 60 years, 70 years, 80 years, 100 years that we are now seeing--and multiplied by a series of errors and incredibly bad misjudgments at the State level, at the minimum. We are seeing situations where we are going to need to support efforts on making sure we can upgrade our pipes, our water pipes, water and sewer, and so on. That is all part of this budget.
So when we look at moving forward, last week at the end of the week was a good time because it was an opportunity to come together in a bipartisan way, avert disaster, and actually come together as the American people want us to do every day. People in Michigan ask: Can't you guys just get something done? Can't you just work together? Well, at the end of last week we actually did that. We actually came together and developed a plan, a 2-year overall budget process, and now it is implementing it through appropriations. What we as Democrats are committed to doing is implementing the agreement in total. We are not going to support going back to where we were before, where we move one budget--the budget that has the most interest among Republican colleagues, the Department of Defense--and then potentially see all of these other needs go unaddressed in a fair and responsible way in terms of what American families are asking us to do. We just want to know that we are truly working to implement a bipartisan budget that we voted on--no backdoor tricks. Unfortunately, we have seen this movie before--no backdoor tricks to undermine critical needs for jobs, the economy, quality of life, protecting our natural resources, our broad security needs as a country. Let's put that strategy aside rather than trying to have a vote on only moving forward on the Defense appropriations.
I urge that Republican leadership put that strategy aside, give the appropriators the time they need--we have good people on both sides of the aisle who can work together as appropriators--and provide us a balanced, responsible budget for the United States of America that will in fact grow the economy, invest in our middle-class families, and strengthen our national defense. I am hopeful that in the end that is what will happen.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.