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September 06, 2016

Inhofe Statement on Senate Democrats Blocking Military, VA, Zika Funding

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today voted for the Military Construction (MilCon) and Veterans Affairs (VA) Appropriations conference report for fiscal year 2017, H. Rept. 114-640, which includes emergency funding to address the Zika virus outbreak, and for the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2017. Both appropriations bills were blocked by Senate Democrats and would provide funding for our nation’s military and veterans.

“By blocking the Senate Defense Appropriations bill, Democrats are shutting down a transparent and open debate process to address readiness shortfalls for our military, a shortfall the president’s Defense Secretary acknowledged when he said more defense spending may be needed to support the administration’s increased troop levels in Afghanistan,” Inhofe said. "Unfortunately, the Obama administration wants to hamstring defense funding by tying it to demands for increased spending on liberal social programs. It’s no wonder RussiaNorth Korea, Iran and China are treating America as the weaker nation as they watch the dismantling of President Reagan’s peace through strength approach for national security.

“As for the Military Construction-VA appropriations bill, this legislation would provide necessary resources to modernize and sustain our military infrastructure as well as support needed reforms in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation also includes emergency funding to provide a sensible response to the Zika virus outbreak that has severe affects for unborn babies. Currently, there are more than 600 Zika cases in the United States, with 80 of those being pregnant women. With this legislation, pesticides could be more quickly deployed to minimize the spread of mosquitos, a provision my committee provided oversight to and approved last year. Both sides of the aisle gave overwhelming support for moving Zika funding in tandem with the MilCon-VA bill. It’s time to put a pause on the election season and send this final bill to the president’s desk.”

Background on the MilCon-VA Appropriations conference report for fiscal year 2017

On May 19, the Senate passed the MilCon-VA and THUD Appropriations bill, H.R. 2577, by a vote of 89-8. The legislation was conferenced with the House-passed MilCon-VA appropriations bill and the final legislation was introduced on June 22 as H.Rept. 114-640. The conference report then passed the U.S. House of Representatives by 232-176 on June 23, and was blocked by Senate Democrats on a procedural vote on June 28 and on July 14.

The MilCon-VA Appropriations conference report would provide $82.5 billion in discretionary funding, to include increased funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs by 4 percent over fiscal year 2016 levels in order to address management problems and health care shortages, and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its services to veterans. Military construction would be funded at $7.72 billion, supporting more than 200 military construction projects to include $77 million for Oklahoma. The legislation also includes $1.1 billion in emergency funding to address the Zika virus outbreak, and includes a Republican provision to waive the requirement of a Clean Water Act permit for the discharge of an approved pesticide for a 180-day period, if the pesticide application will be done by an entity authorized under state or local law. 

This provision was first considered in Congress on Aug. 5, 2015, when the EPW Committee considered Sen. Mike Crapo’s (R-Idaho) S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2015. The bill was reported out of the committee by voice vote on Oct. 29, 2015. EPA currently imposes duplicative regulations concerning the application of pesticides under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). S. 1500 would ensure duplicative CWA permits are not required for pesticide applications near water, underscoring the sufficiency of its regulations under FIFRA.

Background on the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2017

On July 7 and July 14, Senate Democrats blocked the Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2017 on a procedural vote, preventing the bill to fund the Department of Defense (DoD) from being debated and amended on the Senate floor. The legislation would fund the DoD base budget at $515.9 billion and the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) at $58.6 billion, adhering to the FY'17 National Defense Authorization Act authorization levels and Bipartisan Budget Agreement spending levels.

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