Senator Collins Urges Colleagues to Pass Bipartisan Funding Bill to Support Our Service Members and Protect our National Security

Senator Collins speaks from Senate Floor to underscore urgent need to pass Appropriations bills

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, spoke from the Senate floor this morning to express her strong support for the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations bill. This bipartisan bill would provide vital funding to support the men and women of our armed services and make certain they have the resources required to protect our national security. The defense appropriations bill provides funding critical to Maine jobs and to our national security.

      In her remarks from the Senate floor, Senator Collins urged her colleagues to support the bill, stating that, “to fail to do so just days before we honor our veterans would be a grave disserve to those who serve in our military today.”

      Senator Collins continued, underscoring that “supporting an individual appropriations bill in no way suggests that the Senate is giving up on passing the other 11 subcommittee appropriations bills, whether they are brought to the floor individually or as an Omnibus package."

      “We have a budget agreement. A bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement. I do not understand why we cannot move forward with the defense appropriations bill, other appropriations bills, and ultimately an omnibus bill.”

      Unfortunately, this legislation was blocked by Senate Democrats this morning for the third time (51-44).

See below for a copy of Senator Collins’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

      Thank you, M. President.  I come before the Senate to express my strong support for proceeding to the FY 2016 Defense Appropriations bill.  This bill provides vital funding for the men and women of our armed services at a time of serious and growing threats to our own national security and at a time of troubling instability and violent conflicts in many countries around the world. 

      Proceeding would allow the Senate an opportunity to debate defense funding in an open and transparent manner and to meet our constitutional obligations. Mr. President, I am perplexed to hear some of my dear friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle suggest that there is a Republican plan to enact only the Defense Appropriations bill and then proceed to a Continuing Resolution for the other appropriations bills.  It would be an understatement to say that Continuing Resolutions are certainly not the preferred option of the Appropriations Committee, and I say that as a proud member of that committee.  Continuing Resolutions create uncertainty, they lock in last year’s priorities, and continue to fund programs that should be eliminated.

      They are not effective ways to govern.  

      I want to be clear, supporting an individual appropriations bill in no way suggests that the Senate is giving up on passing the other 11 subcommittee appropriations bills, whether they are brought to the floor individually or as an Omnibus package. 

      Members of the Appropriations Committee now have working numbers as a result of the budget agreement. We are working together in a bipartisan, bicameral manner, diligently to craft a bipartisan Omnibus that can be supported by both Chambers.

      Democrats and Republicans came together to pass a budget agreement just a few short days ago, and our ongoing negotiations prove our sincerity and determination to move ahead with individual bills and in crafting an Omnibus bill.  We have already made great progress this year.  As our Chairman Cochran has noted previously, this is the first time in six years that the Appropriations Committee has approved all twelve of its bills. And many of those bills due to the leadership on the Democratic side, by dear friend Barbara Mikulski and others, have been bi-partisan when they were reported by our committee. And I would note that we completed our work despite terribly strict budget constraints months ago. 

      Now we are in a new stage. We have a bipartisan two year budget agreement that has provided some much needed relief to some of the budget caps while keeping us on a fiscally responsible path. Mr. President, this is the third time that the Senate has attempted to take up this vital appropriations bill. Last time, my democratic friends objected because there was no bipartisan bicameral budget agreement. In the absence of such an agreement they said could not proceed with a bill. Now I didn’t agree with that rationale, but I understood it. I do not understand the situation we find ourselves in today. We have a budget agreement. A bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement. I do not understand why we cannot move forward with the defense appropriations bill, and ultimately an omnibus bill. Next year due to this budget agreement, I hope we can bring each and every one of the individual appropriations bills before the Senate, for debate and amendment, the way we use to do so and that is our goal.  

      December 11 is quickly approaching, and that is the date when the current Continuing Resolution expires. We must act before then to ensure the federal government remains open. We must act to ensure that vital federal programs are funded and not operating under yet another continuing resolution, which is such poor policy. That is what we are trying to prevent. Let’s get the Defense Appropriations bill approved, then I hope we can bring up at least one or two, perhaps three other appropriations bills, and in the meantime we are already working on an omnibus bill.

      As Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, I have already met with my Ranking Member, Senator Reed, and with our House counterparts to begin the negotiations on our bill.  We are operating under a very tight timeframe that will require Members to work around the clock and a good faith effort from all sides. And that is what I am asking for today: for members on the other side of the aisle to take the majority leader, the Republican leader, at his word. To pass this bill. This vitally needed bill. To go onto a second individual appropriations bill all the while we are working in a bipartisan way to craft an omnibus bill. 

      M. President, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the importance of advancing FY 2016 appropriations bills.  Let me reiterate, it is simply wrong for any of my Democratic colleagues to assume that proceeding to the Defense bill somehow suggests that there is no interest by our Leader in passing an Omnibus that will include the other bills funding essential education, bio-medical research, transportation, housing, agricultural energy, environmental and other important programs. 

      I urge my colleagues to support proceeding to the bill.  To fail to do so, once again for the third time, despite the existence of the budget framework that we have agreed to, to fail to do so just days before we honor our veterans would be a grave disserve to those who serve in our military today.