Alexander: Appropriations Bill Keeps Spending in Check, Supports National and Tennessee Priorities

Says Energy & Water subcommittee secured funding for world’s fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge, Uranium Processing Facility

Posted on December 13, 2014

***

“Fiscal responsibility is about setting priorities, and I voted for this legislation because it helps keep spending in check while supporting projects that are crucial to Tennessee, as well as our country’s economic competitiveness and national security.” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Senate’s top Republican on energy appropriations, today voted in favor of legislation to fund the federal government that “helps keep spending in check while supporting two projects that are crucial to Tennessee,” a proposal to build the world’s fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12. Alexander noted that the legislation complies with spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

“Fiscal responsibility is about setting priorities, and I voted for this legislation because it helps keep spending in check while supporting projects that are crucial to Tennessee, as well as our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” said Alexander, the top Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, which oversees funding for Oak Ridge and Y-12. “Once again having the world’s fastest supercomputer in the United States – and once again having it in Oak Ridge – will help us remain a center for advanced manufacturing and scientific breakthroughs. Providing both funding and oversight of the Uranium Processing Facility supports jobs and national security, and continues our mission of completing this project on time and on budget.”

The omnibus legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 56-40 and provides funding for most federal government agencies for fiscal year 2015, which extends until Oct. 1, 2015. In order to slow President Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants, the legislation only extends funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015.

At $1.014 trillion, the legislation complies with the budget caps that Congress passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and amended with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Alexander noted that the legislation only affects discretionary spending – such as funding for national defense, national labs and national parks – which currently accounts for about 35 percent of the federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Mandatory spending, which is not controlled by appropriations legislation and includes entitlement programs, makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending.

Alexander continued, “Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democratic Senate majority have not worked with Republicans to address the real driver of the federal government’s nearly $18 trillion debt: out-of-control entitlement spending. I hope that changes with a new Republican Senate majority. We need to pass a plan like the Fiscal Sustainability Act I proposed with Senator Corker, which would reduce the growth of entitlement spending by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years.”

The funding for the supercomputer and the Uranium Processing Facility was part of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which Alexander helped author. It included:

  • $104 million for supercomputing, following a November announcement by Alexander and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz that Oak Ridge would build a supercomputer five times the speed of Titan, its current machine.
  • $335 million for the Uranium Processing Facility, which processes enriched uranium for nuclear weapons systems. Alexander has pushed to keep costs under control, in part through the Red Team review led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thom Mason.
  • The closure of two facilities Alexander said perform duties that are redundant and can be accomplished more cost effectively elsewhere, saving taxpayers $120 million over the next ten years. The first is the New Brunswick lab in New Jersey, which does work on radiation that is used in the calibration of radioactivity detection equipment and that Alexander said can be done in various other parts of the federal government. The second is the closure of the Lujan Center in New Mexico, which performs scientific research with neutrons that Alexander said can be done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

UPDATED 12/14, 10:00 ET:

Alexander voted against a constitutional point of order offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), saying, "I voted against the point of order because it would have invalidated the annual appropriations bill that is  needed and clearly constitutional. The bill funds the Department of Homeland Security for only three months, giving the new Republican Congress an opportunity next year to deal with the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty."

# # #