September 18, 2018

Warner & Kaine Praise Final Passage Of Bill That Avoids September Shutdown Threat, Funds Key Priorities

Agreement funds Virginia health care, defense, education, and worker protection priorities

Bill now heads to the House for a vote

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated final Senate passage of a bill to fund the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins on October 1, and to fund the rest of the government through December 7 as negotiations continue. If the legislation is signed into law, it will avoid a government shutdown at the end of September—something Warner and Kaine have long called for—and offer the Department of Defense and other agencies some clarity on 2019 spending levels in regular budget order, helping to keep the country safer. President Trump has threatened to veto any spending bills that do not fund a border wall.

“Despite the President’s continued attempts to cut vital federal programs, this bipartisan agreement upholds many defense, education, and workforce priorities that are important for Virginians,” said Warner. “As we continue to tackle the opioid crisis and combat the resurgence of black lung disease, this bill upholds our promise to save more lives. I’m also pleased to report that this bipartisan legislation provides the necessary resources to protect our men and women in uniform and supports Virginia’s critical national security footprint. While the Senate did its part to fund these programs, it’s now up to the House and the President to move swiftly and keep the government open.”

“I’m proud that we were able to pass this legislation to avoid a shutdown and fund so many of the programs that Virginians care about,” Kaine said. “Health care, defense, education, and worker protections are all huge priorities as we ensure Virginians have access to the resources they need and that we are investing in the right ways to keep our country safe. I’m glad we were able to swiftly pass these bills, and I hope that President Trump will drop his threats to shut the government down over funding for his wall and quickly sign them into law.”

Warner and Kaine pushed for many priorities through the appropriations process that were included in this final bill:

Health Care:

  • Funds childhood disease research: The bill provides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. Warner and Kaine worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.
  • Early detection of black lung disease: The bill also includes a provision Warner and Kaine advanced to improve the participation rate of coal miners in federal health surveillance programs that detect and treat black lung. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for coal miners and their families, supporting legislation that ensures they retain the health and retirement benefits they deserve.
  • Protects the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid: The Senators ensured that the bill did not include proposed language that would have restricted HHS’s authority to administer or enforce the ACA.  The bill keeps funding and program authorities consistent with 2018, thereby protecting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ ability to administer Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA. 
  • Provides $5.7 billion to combat substance abuse:  The bill provides $5.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is $584 million more than Fiscal Year 2018. This includes $1.5 billion for State Opioid Response Grants, an increase of $50 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, and $105 million for the National Health Service Corps. It also expands loan repayment eligibility requirements to include substance use disorder counselors, which will support recruitment and retention of health professionals needed in underserved and rural areas.
  • Increases funding for Alzheimer’s and brain research: The bill provides $39.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $2 billion from last year’s level and $4.5 billion above the President’s suggested budget. The increase includes an additional $425 million for Alzheimer’s research for a total of $2.34 billion and an increase of $29 million for the BRAIN Initiative.

Defense:

  • Funds a 2.6 percent pay raise for servicemembers: Funds the pay raise that was authorized in the annual defense bill Kaine worked on with his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Warner and Kaine strongly supported the pay increase.
  • Supports Virginia’s shipbuilding industry: Provides over $24 billion in Shipbuilding Accounts, with more than $12 billion going towards programs that will benefit Virginia like the Columbia & Virginia Class Submarines, Ford Class Carrier construction, and Nimitz Class overhaul. It also supports the Navy's goal of attaining a 355-ship fleet, which Warner and Kaine have both strongly endorsed.
  • Supports block-buy of Ford-class aircraft carriers:  The legislation preserves the Navy’s ability to pursue a block-buy of aircraft carriers once it completes an independent cost analysis and certifies that the strategy will save taxpayer dollars, as required by the 2019 Defense Bill. 
  • Offers budget certainty to our troops and military leaders: This legislation appropriates a full year of funds for the Department of Defense, addressing Warner and Kaine’s concerns, shared by military leaders, that Congress’ failure to return to regular budget order has interfered with DoD’s ability to plan ahead and that continuing resolutions have been painful to the country’s national security initiatives.
  • Addresses lead poisoning in military housing: Following reports of lead poisoning in military housing units, the legislation requires the Government Accountability Office in consultation with the Department of Defense to conduct an investigation and provide a report to Congress on toxic lead levels in all military housing. In August, Kaine and Warner sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army asking for a briefing after a report surfaced about lead poisonings and dangerous lead levels in housing on U.S. Army installations.
  • Improving cyber resiliency: This legislation provides $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense. Warner has been a strong advocate for cyber resiliency and stronger cyber tools at the DoD.
  • Defense Cyber Scholarship Program: The legislation includes Warner’s amendment to make available $7 million in funding for the DoD Cyber Defense Scholarship Program, bringing it in-line with the funding level from the House-passed appropriations package.  Warner successfully included a provision to boost the cyber scholarship program’s recruitment efforts in the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act. This amendment builds on the expansion of the program that Senator Kaine championed last year through his DoD Cyber Scholarship Program Act in the FY18 NDAA.

Education:

  • Provides funding to help teachers, social workers, military personnel, and other public servants cancel their student loan debt: For a second year includes $350 million for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that mirrors Kaine’s bill to fix a technical glitch that will allow borrowers who were in the wrong repayment program to be eligible for PSLF.
  • Includes language to help HBCUs access funds to make infrastructure improvements: Includes language from Kaine’s bill to require the HBCU Capital Financing Advisory Board, which provides financial guidance to the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to provide Congress with a report on the loans granted under the program along with recommendations to address issues related to construction financing for HBCUs.
  • Provides additional funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program: Includes an additional $10 million to ensure that all eligible institutions—including Virginia Union University—are able to access the program’s deferment authority. Warner and Kaine both called for this supplementary funding to provide additional flexibility for eligible HBCUs to meet their infrastructure needs.
  • Increases access to Pell Grants: Increases the maximum Pell Grant award to $6,195, a $100 increase from FY18, and also includes support for year-round Pell Grant funding.
  • Increases funding for Student Support and Academic Enrichment block grants: Includes $1.17 billion, a $70 million increase from FY18, for K-12 public schools to create a well-rounded education, ensure safe and healthy students and support the use of technology in the classroom.
  • Increases funding for career and technical education: Increases funding for the recently reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to $1.26 billion, a $70 million increase from FY18.

Workers:

  • Funds black lung health clinics: Authorizes black lung health clinics at $11 million, $1 million above its full authorization level.
  • Provides $30 million to train rural and Appalachian workers: Includes $30 million to provide workforce training to dislocated workers in rural areas with a specific priority for Appalachian communities.
  • Provides $160 million to support apprenticeships: Includes $160 million for registered apprenticeship programs.
  • Requires better tracking of career and technical occupations to help prepare the future workforce: Directs the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) to track and report on improvements they are making to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to collect data about career and technical occupations. With this data, the country will have more information to track where improvements are needed and ensure that the workforce is trained with the skills needed for jobs available in today’s economy.

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