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Byrne praises Shelby for leading charge on final passage of bill which funds Veterans Affairs, military construction, nuclear security, energy and water infrastructure

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) issued a statement praising Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) in response to overwhelming passage of the first government funding package for Fiscal Year 2019, which included important bills for Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and the Legislative Branch.

Shelby, the powerful chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is currently spearheading a historic effort to fund the government in a deliberate and timely way. The three-bill appropriations “minibus” bill that passed on Thursday includes the most money ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs and maintains a congressional pay freeze.

Byrne praised Shelby for steering Congress back towards regular order and a process where spending bills are passed separately instead of all at once in an “omnibus” bill, which can lead to government shutdown threats and partisan hackery regarding critical funding.

“This is a step in the right direction toward passing individual, targeted government funding bills instead of settling for a massive omnibus bill at the last minute. I want to especially commend Senator Richard Shelby for his work to end the backlog in the Senate and move the appropriations process forward,” Byrne said in a statement.

He continued, “This funding package includes the highest dollar level ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides funding necessary to make improvements to our military infrastructure, increases funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, and supports our nuclear national security strategy.”

Some of the bill’s highlights:

  • Includes the highest dollar level ever for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This includes funds for new and expanded Mission Act programs, increases in mental health services, modernizing the VA’s health records system, and addressing the claims backlog.
  • Supports a strong nuclear national security strategy, including nuclear weapons security programs, the maintenance and readiness of the nuclear stockpile and Naval nuclear reactors.
  • Increases funding for the nation’s water resources infrastructure, which will boost navigation and flood control improvements.
  • Promotes economic competitiveness and energy independence with funding for energy programs, including protecting the safety of the nation’s electrical grid and investments in fossil and nuclear energy research.
  • Provides resources for improved infrastructure for our military service members and their families, including vital construction projects for deterrence operations, unique training requirements to counter challenges posed by Russia and threats from the Middle East and Africa, infrastructure and facilities construction and improvements on U.S. military bases and housing for all 1,400,000 military families currently served.
  • Opens the door for Congressional service to students and young people of all economic backgrounds by dedicating funds for paid internships.
  • Continues the Member of Congress pay freeze.

Byrne concluded, “This is a first step. We should continue to pass targeted government funding bills that reflect our Alabama and conservative priorities.”

Shelby explained some of the key provisions of the funding package.

“This conference report contains critical funding to help transition our nation’s veterans to the new health care program they deserve and have earned under the VA Mission Act,” Shelby outlined.

“It funds nearly 200 construction projects that are very important to America’s military and provides resources to bolster American energy and secure our nuclear weapons stockpile. The bill also provides funding to develop and maintain water infrastructure projects across the country,” he added.

Alabama’s senior senator also gave his insight on the importance of his mission to overhaul the appropriations process.

“This is a far cry from where we were just a few months ago,” Shelby said. “Along the way I have pointed out that we have steadily consolidated critical mass for a return to regular order in the appropriations process. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that our partisan disputes on a given issue should not paralyze this institution’s ability to carry out its most fundamental Constitutional responsibility: funding the government.”

Shelby continued, “Both parties see failure in this regard as harmful to our country as a whole – and both parties understand success in this regard benefits us all because it provides the stability and continuity that leads to security and prosperity.”

Looking forward, Shelby has Congress on track to accomplish something unheard of for many years.

“I thank my colleagues for their hard work in making this aspiration a reality. If we continue to work together in a bipartisan manner we can successfully fund nearly 90 percent of the federal government on time through regular order – something Congress has not been able to do in many years,” Shelby concluded.

In his floor speech on Wednesday before the funding package passed, Shelby lamented the state of Washington and the mainstream media’s fixation on chaos.

“Despite the importance of this package and the strong bipartisan support I expect it to receive, its passage will be greeted by little fanfare. Unfortunately that’s the way it is today, where partisan clashes make better copy than bipartisan cooperation.  But so be it,” he said.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn