Richard Shelby: Senate works to rebuild America’s military in third appropriations minibus

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Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, on Thursday delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the consideration of H.R. 6157.  This bill packages two Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations measures – Department of Defense; and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies – which are the eighth and ninth funding bills to be processed by the full Senate this year. Both of the measures included in the appropriations package were passed by the full committee with near-unanimous support. 

“The package before the Senate makes essential investments to accelerate the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase they have seen in nearly a decade.  Further, it supports increased funding to advance medical research and fight the opioid epidemic,” said Shelby. “I am proud to present this legislation to my colleagues and urge their strong support.  With the continued cooperation of my colleagues, I am confident that we will continue to get our work done in a deliberate and timely manner.”

Watch Shelby’s floor speech below:

Senator Shelby’s full remarks, as prepared, are as follows:

Today the Senate begins debate on an appropriations package that is absolutely essential to the strength and security of this nation.

The package before the Senate marries the two largest fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills: Defense and Labor-HHS-Education.  Each of these bills carries the near unanimous support of the Appropriations Committee.

The Chairman of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, Senator Blunt, and his  Ranking Member, Senator Murray, worked together to produce a strong bipartisan bill that balances many competing priorities.  I commend these senators for their hard work and thank them for their continued efforts.

Soon, Senators Blunt and Murray will come to the floor to discuss the particulars of the Labor-HHS division of this package, so I’m not going to get into the details of that bill.

But, as Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I want to provide my colleagues with an overview of the funding it contains for America’s military.

Secretary Mattis – a decorated general who commands deep respect on both sides of the aisle – has warned that ‘failure to modernize our military risks leaving us with a force that could dominate the last war, but be irrelevant to tomorrow’s security.’ 

We cannot allow that to happen.  We must rebuild America’s military.  We have to defend this nation.

Mr. President, I am pleased to report that this bill takes a big step in that direction.  This package contains $607 billion in base defense funding.  It also provides an additional $67.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.

The fiscal year 2018 Defense Appropriations bill, enacted earlier this year, contained the largest increase in military spending in 15 years.

The bill now before the Senate does even better by providing an additional $16 billion above the fiscal year 2018 level.  This funding sustains U.S. force structure and improves military readiness.

It also provides critical resources for a wide range of priorities that are essential to maintaining our technological superiority in an increasingly complex and competitive national security environment.

The bill includes substantial investments in the areas of basic research, hypersonics, directed energy, artificial intelligence, microelectronics, missile defense, cybersecurity, and our test and evaluation infrastructure – among many other priorities.

Just as important, the package before the Senate provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase they have seen in nearly a decade, and they certainly deserve it.

As we debate this bill over the coming days, the sacrifices of these brave men and women should be top of mind for each of us.  In light of their sacrifices, it is our duty to ensure they are the best prepared and the best equipped military in the world.

The American military is the most feared fighting force the world has ever known.  This bill ensures that continues to be true.  That is how we defend this nation.

I want to thank the Vice Chairman of the Defense Subcommittee, Senator Durbin, for his valuable input in crafting this bill.

Together, I believe we have produced a balanced bill that meets the Pentagon’s objectives and includes the contributions of Senators from both sides of the aisle.  I am proud to present this legislation to my colleagues and urge their strong support.

In closing, I want to recognize the Vice Chairman of the full Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, and the Leaders on both sides, Senators McConnell and Schumer.

At the outset of this appropriations cycle, the four of us met and agreed to work together in an effort to return the Senate to regular order.

Since that time, the Appropriations Committee passed all 12 bills before the July 4th recess, all with strong bipartisan margins.  The first time that’s been done in 30 years.

The first minibus contained three bills and passed the Senate by a vote of 86 – 5.  It is now in conference with the House.

The second minibus contained four bills, two of which had not seen the light of day on the Senate floor in many years – Interior and FSGG.  That package passed by a vote of 92 – 6.  Hopefully it will soon be in conference as well.

 By August, the Senate had passed more appropriations bills than the House.  That had not happened in 20 years.

 None of this would have been possible without the partnership of Vice Chairman Leahy and the leadership of Senators McConnell and Schumer.  I thank each of them once again. 

 But our work continues.  We now have an opportunity to extend the success we have generated.  It has been more than a decade since the Senate passed a Labor-HHS appropriations bill.  And it has been a dozen years since the President was able to sign a Defense appropriations bill into law before the end of the fiscal year. These two records must be broken.

 We must not only provide the resources necessary to rebuild our military, we must do so before the end of the fiscal year.  There is no time to waste when it comes to our national security.

 With the continued cooperation of my colleagues, I am confident that we will continue to get our work done in a deliberate and timely manner.

 Thank you; I yield the floor.

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