September 28, 2016

Udall Welcomes Passage of Short-Term Agreement to Keep Government Open, Urges Congress to Return to Long-Term Responsible Budgeting for New Mexico

Agreement includes funding for construction at NM military bases, NM veterans, chemical safety testing, combatting the spread of Zika

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, joined the full Senate in voting for a short-term agreement to keep the government running until Dec. 9. The measure passed the Senate 72-26, after Democrats secured a promise from Republican House and Senate leaders last night to provide, in other legislation, emergency funding for the people of Flint, Mich., and other lead contaminated communities before the end of the year.

The short-term agreement, called a "continuing resolution," funds the government at levels consistent with last year's bipartisan budget agreement and includes new full-year funding levels for military construction projects and veterans affairs. The agreement now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for a vote. Udall welcomed the agreement, but called on Congress to return to a regular appropriations process that would provide long-term budget certainty for New Mexico.

"I'm very pleased that the Senate has come to an agreement on this short-term measure to prevent a government shutdown. But we need to return to a responsible long-term budgeting process that gives federal employees and contractors in New Mexico and around the country the certainty they need to make smart long-term budget decisions," Udall said. "We cannot continue budgeting from crisis to crisis - these political games and the risk of government shutdowns threaten jobs in New Mexico and weaken our economy."

"I'm pleased that the bill we passed today contains funding levels consistent with the bipartisan budget agreement, and will ensure that Congress returns in December to finish its work," Udall continued. "It also supports funding for important projects at Kirtland, Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases, and provides needed resources to improve services and care for our veterans. I'll continue working with my colleagues to pass bipartisan budget agreements that make smart investments in our communities and support hard-working New Mexico families."

While today's bill funds most of the government through Dec. 9, Udall also worked as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure the budget measure includes full funding for military construction and veterans' care through all of fiscal year 2017. Udall pushed to include $38.9 million in funding for projects at Cannon, Kirtland and Holloman Air Force bases. Specifically, the bill includes $21 million for the Cannon North Fitness Center, $10.6 million for a hazardous cargo pad and taxiway at Holloman, and $7.3 million for a combat rescue helicopter simulator at Kirtland.

The bill includes record funding levels for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which will fund increases for health care, benefit claims processing, the Board of Veterans Appeals, the VA Inspector General, medical and prosthetic research and information technology. The continuing resolution also will ensure that New Mexico's national labs can continue their important national security projects until Congress passes a funding measure for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The agreement also contains a limited number of changes to the fiscal year 2016 appropriations levels through Dec. 9. Among them is provision to ensure the chemical safety regulation implemented by Udall's Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which was signed into law in June, can begin on time. The provision contains language to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin collecting fees from industry to fund the review process of toxic chemicals. The funding provided through the budget agreement will be offset by fees collected by the EPA, so it will incur no cost to taxpayers.

Finally, the agreement provides long-overdue funding for public health officials, researchers and families to help combat the spread of the Zika virus, but it excludes partisan poison-pill riders that would have prevented funding for women's health from going to Planned Parenthood and weakened clean water protections.