Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) released the following statement regarding the passage of the conference report for the first FY19 “minibus” government funding package (H.R. 5895). A minibus bill is a package of appropriations measures and provides funding for a number of, but not all, government departments, programs, and agencies. The minibus conference report passed today includes the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (VA) FY19 Appropriations Acts. This funding package was passed by the full U.S. House of Representatives in a vote of 377 to 20 and by the U.S. Senate in a vote of 92 to 5.
“The ‘minibus’ funding package, which includes the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs FY19 Appropriations Bills, has come through the conference committee process much improved, and I am pleased that we are considering this bill in advance of the September 30, 2018 deadline. Although not perfect, this legislation supports a number of the nation’s most important needs. It provides robust funding for our military installations and veterans programs, and includes strong funding for our country’s water infrastructure.
“The Military Construction portion of this minibus provides a total of $11.3 billion in FY19 funding and takes steps to improve military family housing, military medical facilities, Department of Defense education facilities, and many National Guard and Reserve facilities. This funding will enhance the readiness of our military and provide for much improved infrastructure for our service members and their families. The legislation also includes report language I spearheaded that requires the Department of Defense to provide detailed reports on what steps each service is taking to address toxic lead paint exposure in on-base housing.
“The VA portion of the minibus provides a total of $197.2 billion in FY19 resources to ensure the 20 million veterans that the VA serves receive top quality care. As a part of this total, $76 billion is provided as advance FY20 appropriations. Advance appropriations are provided as a contingency to ensure the VA continues to have funding should Congress not complete full FY20 appropriations by the end of the upcoming fiscal year. The VA funding included in the minibus provides for medical services, support, and facilities, and ensures that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care needs. This bill allocates funding for VA medical care, construction of many major and minor VA facilities, and implementation of the VA’s new electronic health record system. Additional key measures in this bill provide for increased funding for mental health care and suicide prevention, as well as funding to address the opioid epidemic.
“The minibus also provides funding for the VA Mission Act. Although I am encouraged that this bill will provide adequate funding for community care, caregiver support, and other key medical services utilized by our veterans, I am disappointed that the VA Mission Act programs were not supported by long-term mandatory funding mechanisms. I am concerned that this lack of guaranteed future funding could put veteran care at risk. Further, the funding mechanism used for the VA Mission Act violates the understood budget agreement, meaning that we will have to reallocate funding from many key domestic programs that ensure quality education and rural development.
“The Energy and Water division of the minibus funding package provides for $44.6 billion in FY19 funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior, and Department of Energy. The legislation provides funding to bolster our nation’s energy infrastructure against cyber and physical attacks, increases funding for renewable and fossil fuel research, and maintains current law prohibiting the Corps of Engineers from requiring permits for certain agricultural practices.
“Finally, the Legislative Branch section is allocated $4.84 billion for FY19, which funds operations in the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Capitol Police, the Library of Congress, and the Government Accountability Office. Included is almost $9 million in dedicated funding for Members of Congress to provide stipends to interns, which will allow for greater diversity and accessibility for our nation’s future leaders to participate in the lawmaking process.”