Progress on Appropriations
It was a productive week on Capitol Hill, particularly on the Appropriations side. The House passed the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Appropriations bill with a bipartisan vote of 282-138. This bill aims to fully fund military operations overseas, ensure the readiness of our troops to meet global threats, and sustain health and safety programs military personnel and their families depend on. It contains an authorized 2.1 percent military pay raise and important funding for the Apache, Blackhawk and Lakota helicopter programs, which are an integral part of the mission at Fort Rucker and Army Aviation missions worldwide.
Of note, the bill included an amendment prohibiting the Department of Defense from using appropriated funds to construct or modify facilities to house "unaccompanied alien children" (UAC). That's the technical term for the Central American minors detained at the Mexican border whom Obama Administration officials were considering housing on military bases. You may recall that Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery was among the installations being considered. Fortunately, we have been able to shut these efforts down in the past. However, officials are now reportedly considering naval airfields in Baldwin County for this purpose, prompting my Alabama delegation colleague Rep. Bradley Byrne to sponsor this amendment. I appreciate his partnership on this issue, and I'm glad the House-passed bill reflects the commonsense policy of not spending critical defense funding to house these detained minors on military bases.
Also this week, the Appropriations Committee met to mark up and pass the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill. Among the various provisions included in this bill are funding for preventing and combatting wildfires and addressing the problem of lead in drinking water throughout the United States. During the Committee proceedings, I rose to lend my support to an amendment from another Alabama delegation colleague, Congressman Robert Aderholt requiring that all iron and steel used in water infrastructure projects be American made. Our nation’s laws and the purchasing power of the federal government should always promote our businesses and manufactures in America first. I’m proud to support “Buy American” provisions that benefit our manufacturing industry and support jobs here.
Finally, appropriators from the House and Senate met in a joint Conference Committee to officially begin negotiations on finalizing the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Zika Response appropriations bill. As a Member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, I was pleased to be asked by the Speaker to serve on this joint Conference Committee charged with ironing out differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed versions. Because the bill now also includes a plan for responding to the Zika outbreak, it is all the more important that we quickly reach an agreement and send a final bill to the president’s desk.