WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called the just-released Omnibus legislation to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2016 an “overall positive for our nation, our environment and public health.” Senator Cardin released the following statement, citing key successes of the bill, as well as areas of strong concern, while he continues to review the details of this comprehensive package.
“The federal government should not shut down again because of partisan wrangling. The American public and the federal workers who carry out policy and programs on their behalf, as well as American businesses who continue to push our economy into more positive territory, soon should have the predictability and peace of mind that comes from knowing federal programs and initiatives will be funded for the full fiscal year — and without relying on short-term fixes to keep the government functioning.
“With this bill, we keep our promises to our veterans and their families, make key investments in our nation’s public schools and higher education, protect victims of domestic violence and bolster programs for small businesses. And with a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, every Institute and Center would see an increase in the resources dedicated to support investments to advance science and speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics and preventive measures to improve the health of all Americans. Our dedicated federal workers, who have been needlessly under attack for so many years, should see a slight pay increase. This bill invests in our infrastructure through steady or increased funding for rail, roads and air travel, as well as Baltimore’s harbor and other water resources nationwide. We provide full $150 million annual funding for Metro, make permanent a provision to encourage the use of public transit by employees and move one step closer to a fully consolidated headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
“As a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I am especially pleased that we have been able to keep this Omnibus Appropriations bill free of dangerous policy riders that would gut our nation’s foundational environmental laws. I led a group of 27 senators urging top appropriators and the president to bring us a bill free of these damaging riders. Thanks to hard-fought negotiations, the Omnibus protects the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up our water and air. Flat funding for the EPA will create great challenges for the agency, but I was pleased to see the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) reauthorized for three years and funded at $450 million — an increase of $144 million above the 2015 enacted level. Congress also has brought a greater degree of predictability to the solar and wind renewable energy markets through the reauthorization of tax incentives for these nascent industries, although the illogical inequities continue between permanent tax breaks for Big Oil and dwindling tax incentives for renewable energy sources.
“While the Omnibus has many positive components, I found it irresponsible that the bill includes a major policy decision on whether the United States should allow oil exports for the first time in decades. Given that this is such a monumental decision, it astonishes me that the Senate would move forward after so few hearings on the subject this session. Both the House and Senate should have taken more time, separate from the appropriations process, to review and debate this issue, which will have wide-ranging implications for our energy policy, our economy and our environment across the country.
“As Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I was greatly dismayed that the bill, in making needed changes to our Visa Waiver Program, blatantly discriminates against individuals who hold dual citizenship. We must carefully screen all those who want to enter our country for any purpose, but such vetting should be done in such a way that doesn’t put Americans with dual citizenship in jeopardy.”
“I am pleased to see that with this bill we finally should approve a package of IMF reforms. This development was a long time coming, but a necessity in demonstrating ongoing U.S. engagement and leadership on the international stage. The IMF is doing meaningful work throughout the world, especially in Ukraine, and the United States must continue to play a central role in this critical international institution.”