August 23, 2018

Warner & Kaine Praise Passage Of Bill To Fund Virginia Health Care, Defense, Education, & Workforce Priorities

Fully funds Gabriella Miller child cancer research program, includes amendment to improve early detection of black lung, and increases funding for opioid and substance abuse treatment 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine celebrated Senate passage of a bill to fund health care, defense, education, and worker protection priorities that are critical to Virginia. The Senate appropriations bill to fund the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins on October 1, will now go to conference with the House of Representatives before heading to the President for signature. Warner and Kaine pushed for many of these priorities through the appropriations process and have long pressed the Senate to return to regular budget order to make sure there are no gaps in funding that could cause a government shutdown.

“I was proud to vote for this bill, which includes funding for so many of the programs Virginians care about and count on,” Kaine said. “Not only does this legislation fully fund the Gabriella Miller Kid’s First Pediatric Research Program to advance research for pediatric disease and cancer, but we were able to stop language that could have further damaged the Affordable Care Act. Coupled with additional funding for states to administer substance abuse treatment and to combat Alzheimer’s, this legislation will help make Virginians healthier. The funding to support our troops and help keep the country safe, protect black lung health clinics, boost our economy with workforce and job creation initiatives, and strengthen key education programs to make college more affordable makes this a big win for Virginia. I hope that this bill moves swiftly through the legislative process and to the President’s desk so we can offer our hardworking public servants and troops some certainty.”

“This legislation makes important investments in our national security and in Virginia’s economy — from a well-deserved raise for our troops and important funding for shipbuilding in Hampton Roads, to new resources to fight opioids and combat Alzheimer’s disease. I’m pleased to report that this legislation includes several amendments I sponsored, including legislation that will improve black lung early detection and treatment efforts for Virginia’s coal miners. In addition, the legislation includes my cyber scholarship amendment that makes $7 million in funds available to secure a talented and diverse workforce in the field of cybersecurity,” said Warner. “While I voted in favor of this legislation, I’m beyond frustrated that my bipartisan amendment to limit the President’s ability to revoke the security clearances of his critics didn’t even get a vote. Congress should not sit by as the President abuses this vital national security tool to get revenge on his critics.” 

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 $579 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 $25 million for mental health block grants, 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 $23.9 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.
  • 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 provide reports to Congress on the monitoring and remediation of lead and verifiable compliance with lead exposure limits in military housing.
  • Improving cyber resiliency: This legislation provides $365 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $117 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. 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.
  • Defense Community Infrastructure Program: The legislation includes an amendment cosponsored by both senators to provide $20 million in funding for the defense community infrastructure pilot program. This program would provide DoD an opportunity to leverage community funding to improve off-base infrastructure, which is a critical need in the Hampton Roads region.

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.
  • 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.

Workers:

  • Funds black lung health clinics: Fully authorizes black lung health clinics at $10 million.
  • 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 as well as $5 million to support workforce training for those affected by opioid addiction. 
  • 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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