WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a member of the Finance, Foreign Relations and Environment and Public Works committees, released the following statement after the 68-31 Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Act, H.R. 2471.
“It is a relief to have an appropriations bill completed and headed to the president to be signed into law. For nearly half of Fiscal Year 2022, we have been forced to endure continuing resolutions to keep the government functioning, and federal agencies have been locked into using last year’s budget priorities to face this year’s issues. I supported this spending package not because I agreed with every measure included — there is so much more that should have been included — but because it allows us to set new, relevant priorities and keep the government running with increased support for our service members and civilian workers who work daily on behalf of the American people.
“For the first time in more than a decade, Congress restored the power of members to request Congressionally Directed Spending projects that support local community initiatives. This legislation includes direct funding I secured for more than 40 local Maryland projects, totaling nearly $60 million for nonprofit organizations and county and municipal governments to enhance environmental restoration priorities, transportation, health care, education, and job opportunities, as well as other important economic development projects.
“I was pleased that we came to a bipartisan agreement on $14 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. As Vladimir Putin continues his war against Ukraine, there is great need for food, medicine and other supplies for the millions displaced from their homes. And as Putin has his military target civilian areas, we also provide Ukraine with access to additional firepower to bolster their defenses. He will pay for his crimes, but the most immediate need is to stop any Russian advances as best possible.
“My greatest disappointment in the Omnibus Appropriations Act was that the package does not include additional assistance for restaurants that are still reeling from COVID-19. For two years, restaurants in Maryland and from coast to coast have been struggling; too many have had to close their doors for good. Restaurants that are hanging on still need our help to emerge from the pandemic. Congress did not act on this legislation even though restaurants, many small businesses, have been pleading for additional help — most especially ones that were approved for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund but did not receive funds before the funding was exhausted.
“Overall, that we did not get to vote on additional emergency funding for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and therapies is disappointing and potentially dangerous. This pandemic is not over. Spread of the virus may be waning because of vaccines and testing, but the pandemic is not fully in check. We cannot let our guard down too early. I place full blame on the partisans who forced negotiators to find offsets for this emergency spending — something that is not done for other emergency situations, whatever the cause. I urge my colleagues to reconsider and allow us to vote as soon as possible on a new COVID-19 supplemental package, including COVID-related support for restaurants.”