We’re about halfway through the month of September, which means the September 30th expiration date for our current government funding is quickly approaching. I am pleased to report that in the House and Senate, we are unified in our motivation to send final funding packages to the President’s desk before the upcoming fiscal deadline. I am committed to doing all I can to keeping the government open and running for the sake of our priorities and needs as a nation.
It is imperative that Congress work to bring certainty to government funding, especially for our military, including the critical operations that happen in our district at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker.
As you might remember, Senate Democrats shut down the government at the beginning of this year over policy that was totally unrelated to government funding. While Congress and the Trump Administration were able to find common ground on a funding solution at that time, much work still remains to fund the government in an orderly, process-driven manner. The way we have been operating is not the way it was designed to work.
In order to fund the government by what we call “regular order,” both the House and Senate are supposed to pass all twelve of our respective funding bills through the subcommittees, through the full committees, and then on the House and Senate floors. After both chambers have passed twelve bills, we are then supposed to go to conference and work out the differences that exist between the versions of each bill. Once a finalized version is agreed upon by both chambers, the bills are sent to the President’s desk where they are hopefully signed into law.
Last year, the House did operate by regular order. The Senate did not, which is what caused us to go into crisis mode earlier this year with four people in a room deciding how to fund the government with a shutdown looming. The product that came out of this broken process was far from perfect, and it will continue to be until we come together and decide to operate the way our founding fathers intended – where the American people have their representative at the table with a vote to reflect their views and priorities.
This year, in the House and Senate, we have truly made progress towards returning to regular order with our appropriations bills. Under the leadership of Senator Richard Shelby who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate has made historic progress. They cleared seven of their twelve appropriations bills by the month of August. This has not happened in almost 20 years, and it is a very big deal. I’m optimistic that with Senator Shelby’s leadership, we are on a more responsible path than in years past.
Now that both chambers have made significant progress in passing appropriations bills for the Fiscal Year 2019, select members have been conferencing to work out the differences between the two versions of each bill. I am proud to report that the House and Senate have both passed the Conference Report for H.R. 5895, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, a combination of three of the twelve appropriations titles. It now heads to the White House where it awaits President Trump’s signature.
This is great progress, but we still have nine of the twelve funding bills to conference, pass out of both chambers, and send to the President. I am glad to have been selected as a conferee for the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education package, which combines two very important funding bills.
One of Congress’ most fundamental constitutional duties is to “provide for the common defense.” In both the House and Senate, we have done our due diligence to pass funding bills that provide strong support to rebuild our military after years of devastating cuts. This funding package also includes a Labor-HHS bill that has several priorities that are important to the people of Alabama’s Second District.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am in a strong position to ensure that our Alabama priorities are properly funded from year to year. I am very hopeful that we can finally begin to operate in a way that ensures your voice is heard, and I am eager to ensure that our government is fully and properly funded before the September 30th deadline.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.