U.S. Sen. Tom Udall
U.S. SENATE News:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined the full Senate Friday in voting 63-36 for a short-term agreement to keep the government running until April 28.
The bill also includes a measure that would expedite a bill to change the law requiring a Defense Secretary to have been out of military service for at least seven years. President-elect Donald Trump’s expected nominee for Defense Secretary, Marine Gen. James Mattis, retired in 2013.
The stop-gap budget, called a “continuing resolution,” maintains funding for the government at levels consistent with last year’s bipartisan budget agreement but without full direction or certainty from Congress for the full fiscal year of 2017. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill 326-96 earlier this week, so it now heads to the president to be signed into law. Udall made the following statement:
“Appropriations bills are critical to New Mexico’s economy, jobs, and the fundamental national security mission of our national labs and military bases, so I am relieved that we have averted a government shutdown. But once again, Congress has failed to do its most important job — adequately fund the needs of our government and American families. Instead of working across party lines to pass forward-thinking appropriations bills, the Republican leadership chose a broken process that will allow them to make those decisions next year, when they have a bigger majority and a Republican president. So what we are doing with this bill is keeping the lights on … barely.
“I want to remind the Republican leaders that pressing hold on our responsibilities doesn’t make the needs in New Mexico or our country go away, it makes them worse. It makes it more difficult for Los Alamos and Sandia to manage important nuclear weapons security work here and abroad. Our national parks — a critical part of New Mexico’s economy — can’t prepare for new maintenance on trails and visitor centers. And it creates roadblocks for our communities with water infrastructure, roads, bridges and other needs that keep communities and businesses running smoothly. Republicans took the majority in both the House and Senate this Congress promising a return to regular order, especially with appropriations, and with this bill they have failed to do their job. We need to do a lot better next year — and we can start by passing full appropriations bills for all agencies of our government early. We don’t know all of what’s in store for us in the new administration, but I’m prepared to fight to do whatever I can to make sure the needs of New Mexico families — and the nation — are met.
“I am also very troubled that the Republican leadership slipped into a must-pass bill, a measure that sets the stage to change the law — and limit debate — with regard to who can legally serve as Defense Secretary, one of the most powerful government positions in the world. That they did it threatening to shut down the government if Congress didn’t go along, is even more concerning.”
The continuing resolution funds important federal government installations and programs in New Mexico, including the national labs and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant; the National Park Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program; the state’s Air Force bases: Kirtland, Cannon, and Holloman; and White Sands Missile Range. The bill includes backstop provisions to allow the Department of Energy flexibility with funds to manage ongoing stockpile work at the national labs, and to allow for expanded staffing needs for Indian Health Service facilities, limiting the amount of disruption that would otherwise result from the failure to pass full appropriations bills.
In addition, the bill provides $500 million in funding for opioid prevention and treatment grants to help New Mexico and other states, as directed by the 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress approved earlier this week. It includes extra money for overseas operations by departments like Defense and State. And it provides $170 million in aid to address lead contamination in Flint, Mich.