Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Speech: Minibus Appropriations Bill

Posted on October 5, 2018

Transcript – Floor Speech on the Minibus Appropriations Bill

September 12, 2018

Mr. President, Boy Scouts shouldn’t get a merit badge for telling the truth, and Senators shouldn’t get an award for passing an appropriations bill, because that is what we are supposed to do. But it is worth noting that for the first time in at least 10 years, these appropriations bills that we just passed are on time and within the budget Congress has set.

With this vote today, we are moving toward restoring the practice of regular order in the Senate from start to finish. This is what the right way means: hearings—we held three. Mark up the bills—all 12 bills are completed before the Fourth of July recess. Consult with other Senators—in the case of the Energy and Water appropriations bills, 87 Senators, we believe, had their wishes reflected in our bill. Floor debate, amendment votes, then a conference committee, and then we had the vote today.

I look forward to President Trump signing these appropriations bills into law. They will help to keep our country first in science, technology, and supercomputing, and they will build the ports and waterways that create jobs. This bill supports funding for several important agencies, including the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Bureau of Reclamation, and regional commissions, including the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.

The amount of funding in the bill is also consistent with spending caps agreed to as part of the bipartisan budget agreement. It sets priorities while reducing unnecessary spending. Let me start with the Army Corps of Engineers, which affects the lives of almost every American. Based upon the appropriations request we received, this is the most popular agency in the budget. The Corps maintains our inland waterways; it deepens and keeps our ports open; it looks after our recreational waters and lands; it manages our rivers to prevent flooding; its dams provide emission-free, renewable hydroelectric energy.

The bill restores $2.3 billion that was cut from the President’s budget request, bringing the Corps’ budget up to $6.999 billion—a new record level of funding in a regular appropriations bill. For the fifth consecutive year, the bill makes full use of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund revenues for water infrastructure projects, including up to $117.7 million to continue construction of Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga and $2.125 million for dredging at Memphis Harbor McKellar Lake.

The bill also provides funding that exceeds the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, a spending target established by the Water Resources and Development Act of 2014. This is the fifth consecutive year that the bill has met or exceeded the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund spending targets, which is necessary to adequately fund our Nation’s harbors, including Mobile Harbor in Alabama, Savannah Harbor in Georgia, Long Beach Harbor in California, and many others across the country.

For the Department of Energy, for the fourth consecutive year, we have included record funding levels in a regular appropriations bill for the following activities: No. 1, for the Department’s Office of Science. This is the Nation’s largest support of research in the physical sciences. It is funded at $6.5 billion, a new record funding level. The Office of Science provides funding for our 17 national laboratories—I call them our secret weapons—including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

No other country has anything like them. Let’s take supercomputing. The bill provides a total of $1.6 billion for high performance computing, including $935 million within the Office of Science and $723 million within the National Nuclear Security Administration. This includes $6.76 million to deliver at least one exascale machine in 2021 to reassert U.S. leadership in the critical area of supercomputing. This accomplishment is not the result of 1 year of funding, but of 10 years of bipartisan effort through three different administrations, Democrat and Republican, to try to make sure that the United States is first in the world in supercomputing. We continue to do that in this appropriations bill.

Nuclear power is our best source of inexpensive, carbon-free baseload power. It is important for national security and competitiveness. Nuclear power provides 20 percent of our Nation’s electricity and more than half of our carbon-free electricity. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees our 99 nuclear power reactors, is also funded in this bill. We wanted to make sure it is prepared to review applications for new reactors, particularly small modular reactors and advanced reactors, and to extend the licenses of existing nuclear reactors, if it is the safe thing to do.

The bill also provides $47 million for research and development at the Department of Energy to support existing reactors, $27 million for the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors, and $30 million for the Transformational Challenge Reactor. It advances efforts to clean up hazardous materials at Cold War-era sites. The bill provides $7.2 billion to support cleanup efforts, which is $578 million above the President’s budget request. A key pillar of our national defense is a strong nuclear deterrent. That is in this appropriations bill, as well, including $11.1 billion for weapons activities within the NNSA, including nearly $2 billion for six life extension programs, which fix or replace components in weapons systems to make sure they are safe and reliable.

Congress must maintain a safe and effective nuclear weapons stockpile and keep big construction projects on time and on budget. I want to compliment Senator FEINSTEIN, of California, my partner on the Energy and Water Subcommittee.

We worked hard together on all aspects of this bill, but especially on keeping those big construction projects on time and on budget. A principal reason the United States produces 24 percent of all the money in the world for just 5 percent of the people in the world is the extraordinary concentration of brain power in the United States supported by Federal dollars through our National Laboratories, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies.

It is important that the American people know that the Republican majority in Congress worked together with Democrats to provide record levels of funding for science, research, and technology. I would state to all of those who might not have noticed this quiet new development that Congress is funding science and research at record levels, and if we continue to do so, we will make America more competitive and help spur innovation and create good-paying jobs.

A lot of hard work went into these negotiations over the last several months. Our staff members have worked over weekends and over vacations to make that happen, including the last few days. On my staff were Tyler Owens, Adam DeMella, Meyer Seligman, Jen Armstrong, Molly Marsh, and Rachel Littleton; on Senator FEINSTEIN’s staff, Doug Clapp, Chris Hanson, Samantha Nelson; and on Senator SHELBY’s staff, Shannon Hines, Jonathan Graffeo, and David Adkins. I am deeply grateful to them for their professionalism and their bipartisan work.