Setting priorities in federal spending


Governing is about setting priorities, and Senate Republicans are working to do just that by passing funding bills that support our troops, support important programs at Oak Ridge and help to conserve Tennessee’s great outdoors. Unfortunately, the Democratic minority has decided to block the Senate from even considering these funding bills because the president has threatened to veto them.

That would be a dangerous practice.

Congress has a constitutional responsibility to pass appropriations bills. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution says “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” In the U.S. Senate, it’s our job to consider appropriations bills in committee and send them to the Senate floor. Unlike last Congress, when the then-Democratic majority led by Sen. Harry Reid blocked Republicans from offering amendments, our new Republican majority is committed to giving senators the opportunity to offer amendments. If the president disagrees on the substance of a bill, he can veto the legislation and send it back for discussion. That is the way the Senate is supposed to operate.

In recent weeks, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved seven appropriations bills, three of these bills are especially important to Tennessee:

1) The Defense Appropriations bill supports our troops and national defense at a time of heightened terrorist threats from ISIS and other groups around the world. It would provide $576 billion in funding for the U.S. Department of Defense and military programs, including critical medical research, military equipment and weapons to maintain readiness and pay raises for troops.

2) The Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill supports many important Tennessee and national priorities. It would put us one step closer to doubling basic energy research, strengthening and rebuilding our waterways and ports, removing major obstacles to the use of nuclear power, maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile and cleaning up hazardous materials left over at Cold War facilities.

The bill also provides funding to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restart construction of Chickamauga Lock in 2016.

3) The Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill supports Tennessee’s great outdoors by providing funding for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest, the Dale Hollow and Erwin National Fish Hatcheries and other conservation programs that support projects across the states.

I’m disappointed that the Democratic minority has decided to block the Senate from considering these bills, especially when the Republican majority is committed to giving senators the opportunity to offer amendments and work to improve legislation.

Looking forward, I think that it is a dangerous practice for one party to adopt the idea that we are going to stop the legislative process every time that the president says that he might veto a bill. It’s time to work together to pass appropriations bills that set priorities and eliminates wasteful spending.

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