Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee on Defense, delivered remarks on the Senate floor today ahead of the Senate’s 64-19 procedural vote on the motion to proceed to the national security supplemental package.
A transcript of Senator Collins’ remarks are as follows:
“Mr. President, I rise to urge strong support for the national security supplemental appropriations bill before us.
“Earlier this week, General Kurilla, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, told me that this is the most dangerous time in 50 years.
“The threats the United States faces from an aggressive Iran and its proxies, an imperialist Russia, and a hegemonic China, are interconnected and they require our immediate attention. That is why this bill focuses not only on strengthening our allies, but also on fortifying our military and rebuilding our own defense industrial base.
“Since October, there have been more than 170 attacks on U.S. service members throughout the Middle East. We have seen unprovoked attacks on our naval ships, the loss of two Navy SEALs at sea, and three brave service members in Jordan. Merchant ships have been attacked in the Red Sea. They have been protected by our Navy ships, including, I am proud to say, the U.S.S. Carney, a destroyer built at Bath Iron Works in Maine, which has shot down numerous Houthi UAVs.
“Mr. President, despite the perilous times that we live in, I heard a colleague suggest on the Senate floor that we are not ready to consider this bill. I would contend that we cannot wait any longer. He also implied that it had been shrouded in secrecy.
“Mr. President, that is simply inconsistent with the facts. The package before us is the result of months of deliberations, starting on October 20th, when the President submitted his national security supplemental request to Congress, available for all to read and review.
“On October 31, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a 3.5 hour hearing on the request. Virtually every member of the committee attended. Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin testified prior to this public hearing.
“Mr. President, the last time the Committee held a hearing on a supplemental budget request was March 25, 2010 – more than 13.5 years earlier.
“So, under the leadership of Chair Murray and myself, we have been transparent. We have held countless public hearings, including on the supplemental before us.
“The following week, our Committee held a second hearing. At this hearing, the Secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services testified on the supplemental request.
“In the time that followed, there were numerous discussions on the content of the supplemental funding bill, information was gathered on emerging needs, particularly with regard to U.S. military operations in the Middle East, and the bill's language was refined and improved.
“On February 4, the text of the national security and border supplemental was released along with a section-by-section analysis to make it easier for members.
“After it was clear that there was not sufficient support to advance the border security provisions, revised text and a summary were circulated that excluded the border security sections, and that is the package before us today. A package that has taken us months to get to this point, and that began in October with the submission of the budget request, and was subjected to two extensive public hearings.
“Further delay, or worse, an outright refusal to address these challenges cannot be the answer. There is simply too much at risk.
“Mr. President, the package before us would bolster U.S. military readiness, help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, assist Israel in its fight against terrorists, and deter a rising China.
“Now, let me briefly describe the major components of this legislation.
“First, $35 billion would go to restoring U.S. military readiness. This includes $26 billion to replenish Defense Department stockpiles with new, and in many cases, upgraded weapons and equipment; $5.4 billion to increase production capacity for artillery, air defense, and long-range precision missiles; and $3.3 billion to enhance the U.S. submarine industrial base in support of our trilateral security partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia, known AUKUS.
“This funding directly supports our military defense and defense industrial base.
“One of the ways that we support Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan is through the transfer of weapons and equipment from our stockpiles. The replenishment funding that I just mentioned allows us to replace those articles with new, and often more modern, more effective munitions and equipment, benefiting both our military and theirs.
“By modernizing our arsenal of democracy and improving the readiness of the U.S. military to deter any adversary, this funding makes America stronger.
“Second, the bill provides resources to assist Ukraine as it defends its territory following the second Russian invasion. And let us keep in mind, Putin has made no secret of his plan. His plan is to recreate the former-Soviet Union. If he is allowed to be successful in Ukraine, I believe he will then seize Moldova, invade Georgia, menace the Baltic states, and threaten Poland. And then, our troops will be involved in a European war.
“Today, our troops are not dying on the Ukrainian battlefield. We include $15.4 billion to help Ukraine purchase weapons from the U.S. industry so that it can defend itself.
“It includes $11.3 billion to support our service members in Europe, principally in Poland and Germany, who are helping our allies equip and train Ukrainian forces. It also provides $9.4 billion for economic assistance to help Ukraine rebuild its economy.
“Now, let me spend a moment on this point. The President's request for direct budget support was $11.8 billion. We rejected that amount as too much. We reduced it to $7.8 billion, and we further stipulated that no funds could be used to reimburse pensions.
“Tonight, I heard on the floor that the Europeans were not doing their part. Madam President, that's simply not true. Many of our European partners, I think of the Baltic states for example, with whom Chair Murray and I met with representatives of recently, are contributing a greater percentage of their GDP by far than we are.
“Why are we joining our European allies in providing economic assistance to Ukraine? As part of his plan to try to force Ukraine to surrender, Putin has sought to destroy Ukraine's economy, tax base, and exports, including grain exports. This funding seeks to help Ukraine rebuild, so that ultimately, it will be able to provide for itself economically once again.
“But we're not just giving blank checks. We've included $23 million for Inspectors General for continued oversight of Ukraine assistance, including funding for the special IG that was established in this year's National Defense Authorization Act.
“Earlier in this debate, one of our colleagues suggested that our country had no strategy for Ukraine. But once again, the language of this bill has been ignored. It requires a strategy with achievable objectives with respect to U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
“And the Appropriations Committee did not draft this language alone – we did so in consultation with the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees.
“Third, this bill fully funds the budget request to support Israel in the war against Hamas. It includes $5.2 billion for Israel's missile defense programs, including Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Iron Beam. The first two of those are co-produced with the United States.
“It also includes funding for foreign military financing for Israel and funding for U.S. embassy support, oversight, and other assistance.
“This next part is really important. The bill includes, it adds to the supplemental, $2.4 billion to support our U.S. forces as they face ongoing attacks in the region, and to sustain U.S. military operations in Central Command against the Houthis and other Iranian-backed proxies. General Kurilla stressed to me how critical this funding is.
“Fourth, this bill includes resources aimed at deterring a rising China. It includes $2 billion in foreign military financing for the Indo-Pacific region, which includes, obviously Taiwan, but also the Philippines and Vietnam. It provides funding for missile defense for Guam, for new technologies to detect undersea threats, and for training and exercises.
“Funding is also included to address a choke point in the supply chain for motors that affect multiple long-range cruise missiles, including Harpoons and the Tomahawk.
“The submarine industrial base investments that I previously mentioned will also benefit our regional partners, as they help the United States meet its commitment under AUKUS while protecting the size of our own submarine fleet.
“Finally, I want to note that this bill includes $9 billion for global humanitarian assistance. This funding would help the State Department and USAID respond to critical humanitarian needs around the world, from Ukraine and Eastern Europe to the Middle East and Africa. More than 108 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced today.
“Madam President, I want to emphasize that only 15% of that assistance – $1.4 billion – is for Gaza, and of that amount, $400 million that had been targeted by the Administration to flow through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, will not go through UNRWA.
“Despite allegations highlighted in the Wall Street Journal last month and numerous other publications that at least 12 UNRWA employees had been directly involved in Hamas' October 7 terrorist attack on Israel and in taking hostages, and around 10% of all of its Gaza staff have ties to Islamic militant groups. Incredibly, the Biden Administration continued to push for UNRWA funding. I want my colleagues to know that this bill includes an outright prohibition on funding in this supplemental and prior appropriations, from being used for any grants, contributions, or other U.S. payments to UNRWA. We can distribute that humanitarian assistance through other organizations.
“The bill also includes stringent guardrails on humanitarian assistance to Gaza. By March 1, the Secretary of State must certify that policies, processes, and guidelines have been established and are in use to prevent the diversion of aid by Hamas or other terrorist groups. This includes consultations with the Government of Israel, which has made clear the importance of humanitarian assistance to its objectives in Gaza. Third party monitoring and intelligence assessments provide additional layers of oversight.
“And we, finally, include a total of $10 million dollars for the State Department and USAID Inspectors General, funding that the Administration did not request, but that should accompany any assistance for Gaza.
“Madam President, I encourage my colleagues at this time, this perilous time, to support this bill that includes the funding desperately needed to strengthen America's military readiness, to help Ukraine counter brutal Russian aggression, to assist our closest ally in the Middle East – Israel – in its fight against terrorism, and to deter a rising China.
“The stakes are high, and we must meet the moment.
“Thank you, Madam President.”