Udall Urges Congress To Stop Playing Games, Pass Responsible Budget For New Mexico

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

STATE News:

“New Mexicans are eager for solutions. And they are tired of these political games that threaten jobs and weaken our economy.” – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/fIlaxQzfuRM 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor about the impact a potential government shutdown would have in New Mexico.

With less than one week left until government funding runs out, Udall urged Congress to pass a temporary funding extension and begin bipartisan budget negotiations he’s long called for.

“Have we forgotten what happened two years ago? The people of my home state of New Mexico have not. We were badly hurt by the shutdown then. And we would be now,” Udall said. “Shutdowns mean lost jobs and lost revenue — all in the face of a struggling economy.” 

Many of New Mexico’s 29,500 federal employees — including workers at Los Alamos, Sandia and the state’s military bases — would jeopardize their paychecks and the important national security work they do if the government does not pass a funding bill by Oct. 1.

“In Los Alamos and Sandia, our DOE labs are working on modernizing aging nuclear weapons systems to keep them safe and secure. It is foolish to cause unnecessary disruption to projects of this significance where there is no margin for error,” Udall said.

“Each of these labs employs thousands of people, many of them scientists at the top of their field. Why would we threaten their paychecks and the important national security work that they are doing? The three air force bases in New Mexico — Cannon, Kirtland, and Holloman — all serve a variety of unique national security missions for our country. White Sands Missile Range is unlike any facility in the country. It provides critical research and testing for future technologies,” Udall added. “Shutdowns and sequestration send a terrible message to the men and women at these facilities. It limits their effectiveness. And harms the economies of nearby communities — like Clovis, Albuquerque, Alamogordo, and Dona Ana County. Shutdowns mean lost jobs and lost revenue, all in the face of a struggling economy.”

“The people of my state work hard. Many are still struggling,” Udall continued. “The economy of New Mexico has not recovered completely from the recession. New Mexicans are eager for solutions. And they are tired of these political games that threaten jobs and weaken our economy.” 

As lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, Udall also discussed the need to finally end devastating across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration. Those cuts have badly hurt maintenance at our national parks, basic water infrastructure, critical Tribal programs like the Indian Health Service and other priorities. 

“A shutdown is a disaster. Sequestration is just a slower-moving disaster. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bandelier National Monument, Tent Rocks National Monument, Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge — and many other sites — are key economic assets,” Udall said. “We can’t keep asking them to do more and more on less and less. Yet, without a sensible budget, that’s exactly where we’re headed.” 

Finally, Udall highlighted the need to save the nation’s premier federal conservation program — the Land and Water Conservation Fund — before it expires Sept. 30. The LWCF has helped fund conservation and open space programs in New Mexico from Valle de Oro to Valles Caldera. In New Mexico, “the program has been a tremendous success and had a tremendous impact,” Udall said. “LWCF allows us to leverage today’s resources to protect vital lands and waters for future generations. Allowing the law to expire breaks that compact. It doesn’t make any sense, and it doesn’t have to happen.”

Below are Udall’s remarks as delivered: 

Madam President, the American people want a government that works—not one that shuts down to send a message. They want a Congress that moves the nation forward—not one that grinds to a halt. They want a responsible budget—that supports working families…that strengthens our economy…and creates jobs.

These should be our priorities—not an attack on women’s health care.

I understand some people have strong views about a woman’s right to choose that are different than mine. There are strong differences of opinion—on many important issues in this Senate and in the Congress. Health care. Energy and climate change. Foreign policy. And we could make a very long list here.

But I read an insightful quote from Republican Senator Alexander yesterday. He said, “If we had a shutdown every time we had a dispute over a contentious issue, the government would never open.” That I think is a very wise observation. We do have many differences. But, most importantly, we must have the broader national interest in mind.

The clock is ticking. Funding runs out in just a few days. We need a clean continuing resolution. We need it now… a temporary funding bill…just to keep the lights on.

Have we forgotten what happened two years ago? The people of my home state of New Mexico they have not forgotten. We were badly hurt by the shutdown then. And we would be badly hurt by a shutdown now.

In Los Alamos and Sandia, our DOE labs are working on modernizing aging nuclear weapons systems to keep them safe and secure. It is foolish to cause unnecessary disruption to projects of this significance where there is no margin for error.

Each of these labs employs thousands of people—many of them scientists at the top of their field. Why would we threaten their paychecks and the important national security work that they are doing?

The three air force bases in New Mexico—Cannon, Kirtland, and Holloman—all serve a variety of unique national security missions for our country. White Sands Missile Range is unlike any facility in the country. It provides critical research and testing for future technologies. 

Shutdowns and sequestration send a terrible message to the men and women at these facilities. It limits their effectiveness. And harms the economies of nearby communities—like Clovis, Albuquerque, Alamogordo, and Dona Ana County. Shutdowns mean lost jobs and lost revenue, all in the face of a struggling economy.

We cannot afford another government shutdown. And we cannot afford a return to sequester cuts. These are bad choices. These are self-inflicted wounds.

A clean CR will keep the government open. But we need a long-term cure. We need a bipartisan budget agreement—one that makes smart investments. And meets the real needs of American families.

The people of my state work hard. Many are still struggling. The economy of New Mexico has not recovered yet completely from the recession. And we know New Mexicans want us to come together and they are eager for solutions. They are tired of these political games that threaten jobs and weaken our economy.

And yet here we are. Once again—facing a manufactured crisis. We all know that in fiscal year 2016—which begins next week—the Murray-Ryan budget deal expires. And we are left with a return to sequestration.  

As Ranking Member of the Appropriations Interior subcommittee—I would like to talk about that today. Because the impacts of the funding levels required by the Budget Control Act are clear. And they are very destructive.

Just look at the Senate Interior Appropriations bill reported out of our Committee in June.

To stay within the spending limits we face under sequestration, it slashes more than $2 billion from the President’s budget request.

That means it doesn’t provide enough funding for basic water infrastructure. Or to protect our public lands. Or to fulfill our trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Now, I know that my Chairman, Senator Murkowski, did the best she could with the allocation she was given. But here’s the reality—the Budget Control Act caps don’t meet the needs of our nation. They fail critical programs. And they fail our communities in New Mexico and nationwide.

Our nation faces an infrastructure crisis. And yet the Senate bill cuts grants to states—for water and sewer infrastructure—by more than $500 million below Fiscal Year 2015 levels. 

Actions have consequences. And here are the consequences of the Senate bill: 230 communities will not have their water projects funded;14,000 construction jobs will not be created; $1 billion in matching and leveraged funds from state partners will be lost.

The Senate bill also short-changes the National Park Service—with $318 million less than the President requested. That means 1,000 fewer park rangers. It means $150 million less to maintain our national parks. Even though the Service will celebrate its Centennial in 2016 and will host a record number of visitors at national parks nationwide.  

We have 15 national parks in New Mexico, including our newest national park, the Valles Caldera National Preserve. 

These parks and other public lands in my state are critical not only for conservation but for our economy.

A shutdown would be a disaster. Sequestration is just a slower-moving disaster. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bandelier National Monument, Tent Rocks National Monument, Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and many other sites are key economic assets. These sites help grow jobs, they help communities grow, and they are great conservation assets for the country.

We can’t keep asking them to do more and more on less and less. Yet without a sensible budget, that’s exactly where we’re headed—in New Mexico, and across the nation.

The Senate Interior Appropriations bill also cuts more than $300 million from the president’s request for the Indian Health Service. We have a solemn trust responsibility to Native Americans, and we are failing.

Again, these are not just numbers. The impact is very real—and very painful. It means the Indian Health Service will fund 20,000 fewerdoctor  visits in 2016—and nearly 1,000 fewerhospitalstays. It means falling further behind.

We need a responsible budget to meet our obligation to the Indian Health Service and other tribal programs, like housing school construction, Indian education. All of those are being hurt by sequestration.

We cannot continue being so short-sighted. We can’t keep  short-changing programs that make a real difference in the lives of all Americans. This includes arts and cultural programs. The Land and Water Conservation Fund. And funding for our national forests and wildlife refuges. And the list goes on and on.

Madam President, the time is now. And we are running out of time. We are on the wrong train, on the wrong track and going nowhere.

Fortunately, there is a solution. Let’s pass a clean CR. And let’s work together to pass a budget that actually meets the needs of our nation, with sensible funding levels for defense and non-defense programs alike. 

Madam President, before I wrap up my remarks I want to call attention to another deadline that’s fast approaching. The authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will expire on September 30 if this Congress doesn’t act.

Recently, I was one of 53 members who called on the leadership of this chamber to pass an extension of the law. And I want to reiterate that call today.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund just celebrated its 50th birthday. It enjoys strong bipartisan support. Because the idea behind it is so simple and so powerful. 

When this nation develops one natural resource—our oil and gas reserves—we invest some of the proceeds in other critical conservation priorities. 

For five decades now the Land and Water Conservation Fund protects our national parks, forests and other federal lands. It helps ensure hunting, fishing and recreational access. And it improves and expands our local parks and recreation facilities. 

The program has been a tremendous success and had a tremendous impact on my state. From urban refuges—like Valle de Oro—to wild open preserves like Valles Caldera. It provides crucial funding to conserve open spaces, strengthen the economy, and enhance our way of life. 

The LWCF allows us to leverage today’s resources to protect vital lands and waters for future generations. Allowing the law to expire breaks that compact. It doesn’t make any sense, and it doesn’t have to happen.

We shouldn’t let the Land and Water Conservation Fund expire even for a single day. I call on this chamber to act swiftly and to permanently authorize this important program and ensure that it is fully funded.

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