Lowey floor statement in opposition to FY 2019 Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the three-bill package that Republicans are bringing to the Floor today.
Instead of following regular order and debating and amending the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Legislative Branch bills separately, Republican leadership is forcing us to consider them together. This broken process has a simple aim: Republicans are using America’s veterans as pawns to force through cuts to clean energy research and harmful policy provisions that weaken environmental safeguards.
We all recognize the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to those who have sacrificed for us in our Armed Forces, as well as their family members who share in their service to our country. That is why it is so important that Congress ensure our veterans receive the honors, benefits, and assistance they have earned.
While I support many of the increases within the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill, Republicans have created a dilemma by transitioning the VA Choice program from mandatory to discretionary funding in the middle of fiscal year 2019. Even worse, Republicans have blocked consideration of my amendment to solve this problem. That will mean a further squeeze, and perhaps even cuts, to programs that benefit the middle class.
The Bipartisan Budget Act provided an $18 billion increase for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Instead of using those resources to create jobs and grow our economy, Republicans have chosen to devote $4.8 billion, more than a quarter of that increase, to the Department of Homeland Security, presumably for President Donald Trump's border wall and deportation force. Not only is such spending a betrayal of our American values, it is a waste of resources that crowds out investments that keep our families and communities safe, strong, and moving forward.
It is also part of a pattern in which Republicans are underfunding bills that will come later in the appropriations process. For example, Republicans have not provided a single penny in additional resources to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. This threatens to starve our schools, hurt job training and workplace rights protection, jeopardize Pell Grants, and limit access to affordable health care, among many other ill effects.
We can and must do better than spending levels that prioritize President Trump’s border wall and attacks on immigrant communities over the urgent needs of American children, families, and seniors.
With regard to the Energy and Water bill specifically, we are confronted with a partisan bill that contains cuts to many important priorities for the American people. With gas prices approaching $3 a gallon, the bill cuts energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. It cuts transformational science efforts, such as the successful and popular ARPA-E program. Just as bad, it contains many harmful riders, including rolling back clean water protections, blocking the National Oceans Policy, further endangering salmon on the Columbia River, and weakening gun safety rules on public lands.
These provisions, and the cuts to important priorities that drive innovation and safeguard our national security, make it impossible for Democrats to support this bill.
We can and must do better. I urge my colleagues to vote no and oppose the Republican raw deal that cuts critical priorities, includes harmful poison pill riders, and sets Congress on a path to future bills that will cause serious pain for American children, families, and seniors. I reserve the balance of my time.