Why I Supported This Year’s Federal Spending Bill
Earlier today, I voted in favor of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act. I wanted to take a moment to share some information about the bill and explain why I chose to support it.
The bill makes critical investments in affordable child care, higher education, transportation infrastructure, medical research, community health centers, opioid abuse prevention and treatment, construction of VA hospitals and important veterans’ health services. The spending package also halts President Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA, which plays a crucial role in supporting the Chesapeake Bay program, as well as many other environmental and public health initiatives that are important to Maryland.
On the democracy reform front, Democrats succeeded in stopping harmful provisions that would have injected more secret money into our political system, and we denied attempts by House and Senate Republicans to give powerful special interests more influence in our democracy. Earlier this month, I led more than 100 Members of Congress in opposing these controversial campaign finance provisions, and I’m proud that we were able to keep them out of the final package. We also secured $380 million in grantmaking to help states improve election security ahead of the 2018 election – a modest but important step in shoring up our election systems in the face of foreign interference.
In addition, the bill lifts a ban that had prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting research on gun violence. For quite some time, I’ve been calling on the CDC and imploring Republican leaders on the House Committee on Energy Commerce to conduct serious research on gun violence and public safety.
Without question, the bill has its downsides. It doesn’t stabilize the health care marketplaces or help lower premiums for hardworking Americans. It fails to insist on an updated Authorization for Use of Military Force, even as it significantly increases funding for the Department of Defense. Furthermore, while the bill denies the Trump Administration its requested level of funding to build an unnecessary wall along our southern border, I am deeply disappointed that it expands funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement without including bipartisan legislation to permanently protect Dreamers from deportation.
Finally, the process used to deliver this bill to the House floor was unconscionable. Republican leaders crafted and negotiated the 2,200-plus page legislation behind closed doors, and only released it publicly less than 24 hours before bringing it up for a vote. There was hardly enough time to read the entire bill, let alone allow the public to weigh in.
Americans deserve better. That begins with conducting the business of the House of Representatives in a more open and transparent manner.
Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District