Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 6157, As Amended; A bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes. Through amendment, the Senate version of H.R. 6157 actually becomes a “minibus” of 2 appropriations bills, adding a  Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill to the Senate version of the Defense bill. Question: On Passage of the Bill, as amended.

Result:  Passed in Senate, 85 to 7, 8 not voting.  GOP and Democrats scored. 

Freedom First Society:  America’s military readiness and support is a proper role of the federal government.  However, the Senate appended appropriations for Labor/Health and Human Services/Education are almost entirely an unconstitutional usurpation of authority.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary:  As amended by the Senate, the Labor-HHS-Defense-Education bill appropriates $854 billion for Fiscal Year 2019.  Here is the Congressional Research Services (CRS) Summary of the Defense portion as considered by the House:

“Reported to House without amendment (06/20/2018)
Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2019

Provides FY2019 appropriations to the Department of Defense (DOD) for military activities. Excludes military construction, military family housing, civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, and nuclear warheads, which are all considered in other appropriations bills.

Provides appropriations to DOD for:

Military Personnel;
Operation and Maintenance;
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation; and
Revolving and Management Funds.

Provides appropriations for Other Department of Defense Programs, including:

The Defense Health Program,
Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction,
Drug-Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, and
the Office of the Inspector General.

Provides appropriations for Related Agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund and the Intelligence Community Management Account.

Provides appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism.

Sets forth requirements and restrictions for using funds provided by this and other appropriations Acts.”

Analysis:  America desperately needs a Congress that will focus on restoring limited government, i.e., rolling back the Federal monster to conform to what it is authorized by the Constitution — and no more.  Of course, that is far and away not the current focus of the leadership of either party.

And H.R. 6157 continues and expands unconstitutional government.

During the “debate” on H.R. 6157, Senate leaders sought to beguile the public with misleading boasts of collectivism, regular order, timeliness, and bipartisanship. Let’s examine each.

We dispute the claim that with this bill the Senate is implementing regular order.  Regular order means voting separately on the 12 individual appropriations bills.  The Senate-amended version of H.R. 6157 combines widely disparate topics, amounting to almost two-thirds of the discretionary spending, in order to achieve “bipartisan support” and ensure passage.

One could even argue that the Labor/HHS/education appropriations bill is an unhappy mixture and should be separated.  But not really.  The core of all three departments should be abolished as outside the proper federal role.

Regular order is primarily important as a means to do what Congress is not planning to do — trim the federal monster. Timeliness does reduce waste and uncertainty, but the important question that should be asked here is: What is to be done on time?  Americans should not be happy with just promoting government business as usual as though America doesn’t have a care in the world if the trains run on time.

Collectivism Alive and Well!

The Senate “debate” emphasized all of the great things federal money is doing for Americans in total violation of the Constitution.  In doing so, the sponsors of H.R. 6157 promoted the subversive collectivist worldview that the good things that happen in society must come from collective (i.e., government) action.  This was never the view of America’s Founding Fathers, who gave little authority to the federal government over domestic affairs, reserving such authority to the States and to the people.

Bipartisanship Deception

“We have two parties here, and only two.  One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party….  Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.” — M. Stanton Evans

Although Evans’ clever assessment may appear to have an element of truth, the reality is worse.  As for the leadership of the two parties, we are really dealing with “wolves” versus “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

The wolf in sheep’s clothing deceives those constituents who understand that government needs to be cut back.  The outright wolf appeals to those who accept the socialist lie that government can make their lives better and that more government power will be used to do so.

The Establishment media bolsters the latter by constantly drumming into the American people the ostensible virtues of political compromise. But compromising on one’s oath to uphold the Constitution is no virtue. 

From those standpoints, here are some revealing quotes from the “debate”: 

Excerpts from the Congressional Record (8-16, 8-20 to 8-23-18):

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of Senate Committee on Aging: “It has been 11 years since a Labor, Health and Human Services, and  Education appropriations bill has been considered on the Senate floor,  so let me begin my remarks this morning by commending the chairman and  ranking member of the full Appropriations Committee, Senators Shelby and Leahy, for their determination to report each and every one of the  appropriations bills so they can be considered, fully debated, and  amended in the regular order. I also commend the subcommittee chairman,  Senator Blunt, and the ranking member, Senator Murray, for their  leadership in creating a bipartisan bill.

“This bill will make critical investments in medical research, opioid  abuse prevention and treatment, the education of our students, and  strengthening America’s workforce.   I appreciate so much that the subcommittee accommodated so many of my priorities in crafting this bill. It has my very strong support.  “I am  particularly pleased that the bill includes another $2 billion increase  for the National Institutes of Health. Robust investments in biomedical  research will pay dividends for many American families struggling with  disease and disability, just as such research has enabled us to  prevent, treat, or cure other serious illnesses.   Notably, this year, for the first time, the bill reaches the  milestone of providing at least $2 billion a year for Alzheimer’s  disease research — the amount that the advisory council to the National  Plan to Combat Alzheimer’s Disease has calculated is needed to find an  effective treatment for this disease by the year 2025….

“This bill provides $3.7 billion in the fight against the opioid  epidemic that is gripping our country. Sadly, in my State of Maine, the  crisis has actually worsened with drug-related overdoses claiming the  lives of 407 people in Maine last year, according to the new statistics  from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.   The crisis in Maine shows no signs of abating. Indeed, the  contamination of heroin with fentanyl has made this crisis even worse,  taking the lives of even more who are in the grips of addiction. While  I am very hopeful the Senate will consider a comprehensive opioids  package put together by the Senate HELP Committee, to which many of us  contributed in the weeks ahead, it is imperative that the funds  provided in this appropriations bill reach our communities without  delay.

“This legislation also funds key priorities for vulnerable seniors,  including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which I know  is of interest to the Presiding Officer because he represents the State  of Alaska, and that program is critical there, as it is in the State of  Maine.  “It funds the State Health Insurance Program, Meals on Wheels,  and other essential programs that make such a difference to our  seniors.   As chair of the Senate Committee on Aging, I am particularly  delighted that this bill provides a $300,000 increase to the administration for community living for the establishment of the family  caregivers advisory council. This council was created by a bipartisan  bill that I introduced with Senator Baldwin, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, and it will help develop a coordinated strategic plan  to leverage our resources, promote best practices, and expand services  and training for our Nation’s caregivers….

“The  hearings we have held in the Aging Committee have also put a spotlight  on the mobility challenges that many seniors face as they age, such as  difficulty climbing steep staircases that can lead to devastating  falls, performing routine household chores, taking care of themselves,  or being able to drive. This bill provides a $4 million increase for  the creation of a new aging and technology program to support the  development of assisted technology for seniors with disabilities in  rural areas….

“On a related note, I also applaud the inclusion of increased funding  to support community health centers, which serve approximately 27  million Americans, including upward of 186,000 individuals in the State  of Maine….

“I also strongly support the increased investment in the Individuals with Disabilities Education  Act, IDEA, which has provided opportunities to children with  disabilities and helped many of them reach their full potential….

“This bill also funds teacher and school leader professional  development, and the Rural Education Achievement Program, a law that I  coauthored several years ago to bring additional resources to small and  rural schools….

“Let me just end by urging my colleagues to support the fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. It  is good and much needed legislation.   Thank you.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): “Let me speak in my capacity as vice chairman of  the Senate Appropriations Committee.   Today, as you know, the Senate begins consideration of the Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies minibus appropriations bill. This will actually be the third  appropriations package brought to the Senate floor this year. Once we  complete action, the Senate will have passed 9 of the 12 committee-reported appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2019. It is certainly  much faster than has been done in years.   I want to thank Chairman Shelby for his commitment to a bipartisan  process…..

“I  think the bipartisan progress is due to the Shelby-Leahy-McConnell- Schumer commitment to move forward on appropriations bills that have  bipartisan support, are at spending levels agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal, and reject poison pill riders and controversial  authorizing language. The two bills in this package meet this test.    The minibus before us represents 65 percent of all discretionary  spending, but it also demonstrates the importance of the bipartisan  budget agreement reached earlier this year.

“The LHHS bill makes important new investments in healthcare and  education. It increases funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5 billion over fiscal year 2017 so they can aggressively pursue  cures for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.  It backs our  commitment to increase access to higher education by increasing college affordability spending by $2.3 billion over fiscal year 2017. By  increasing access to childcare by $3.2 billion over fiscal year 2017,  it supports working families and communities in every part of our  country.  In doing this, we have rejected the President’s shortsighted budget  proposals, which would have cut important programs in the LHHS bill by  $12.5 billion from fiscal year 2018 funding level.

“Now, we take into consideration our immediate national security  needs, but you can’t just stop there, you have to think about the  future of the country. The deep ties that run between defense and non-defense priorities make it fitting that we take up these two bills together, and I applaud the chairman for doing that. By combining these  bills into one package, we increase the certainty that they will be enacted into law on time and will avoid the devastating effect of long- term continuing resolutions.   I urge our House counterparts, when they come back to Washington, to  commit, as we have, to producing a conference report that contains both  bills so that we can move swiftly toward final passage. [Emphasis added.]

“Finally, I wish to highlight the new funding in this bill that helps  our country address the scourge of opioids…. This package represents a second installment in investing in  serious solutions.   We invest $3 billion in new resources over fiscal year 2017 to  address this crisis. This is on top of roughly $500 million in additional funding contained in other appropriations bills and similar  funding levels in the fiscal year 2018 omnibus. But it is because of  the bipartisan budget deal that these new investments will surpass $6  billion over 2 years….

I know we are going to go back now to the appropriations bills, but  here is a case in which I think we have done things right. Senator  Shelby is the chairman, and I am the vice chairman. It is one of only  three committees that has a vice chairman. We have worked very closely together, and we have done it in a way to get bills through in a bipartisan fashion. We actually work the way the Senate did when I  first came here, which is the way the Senate has worked under great  leaders on the Democratic side, like Mike Mansfield, or on the  Republican side, like Howard Baker, and we have gotten things done….

“We are just within an hour or so of doing something the Senate, as  Senator McConnell pointed out, has not been able to do in years.  I think we will pass a good, responsible and within-the-budget piece of legislation. Both Republicans and Democrats had a voice in the  process. We held numerous votes in the Senate Appropriations Committee, all of them overwhelmingly bipartisan, many of them unanimous — with the  exception of one or two votes — to get to where we are today….

“Mr. President, the Senate, and Congress as a whole, best  serves the American people when we reach real, bipartisan solutions.  Today, the Senate will pass its third bipartisan appropriations  package, completing Senate consideration of 9 of the 12 appropriations  bills reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee and accounting for 87 percent of all discretionary spending.   We are proving that when we put partisan politics aside, we can do  the work of the American people.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee:  “Mr. President, this afternoon, as most of us realize now, the Senate has begun debate on amendments to the fiscal year 2019  Defense-Labor-HHS appropriations bill. These are the two largest bills  to come out of the Appropriations Committee as a whole. Both of them  together make up a great part of all of the appropriations process and  the numbers….

“So the No. 1 thing at stake here is rebuilding our military and taking care of our troops.  This bill also provides for a wide range of critical domestic priorities, including education, medical research, and funding to  combat the opioid epidemic. All are very important to America.

“Recent history suggests that we face a tall task in passing these  bills on the Senate floor. The Senate has not passed a Labor-HHS  appropriations bill in more than 10 years. It has been even longer since the President was able to sign a Defense appropriations bill into law before the end of the fiscal year, which ends September 30.   Why? Because in the past, poison pills have blown up the process or  foreclosed it altogether. I appreciate that one Senator’s poison pill  is often another Senator’s priority, but I strongly urge my colleagues  today to focus on accomplishing the big picture priorities that I have  underscored here. We know where the fault lines run, and I hope we can  avoid them.

“There are reasons to believe that this year will be a different year  and that we will produce a different outcome. First among them, there  is a unified desire to avoid another omnibus spending bill. Second, we  come to the floor this week on the heels of a string of recent  successes in passing appropriation bills. Third, each of the bills in  this package passed the Appropriations Committee by a vote of 30-1. These factors paved the way for the full Senate to consider this  package, and I want to take a minute to thank the leaders on both sides, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, for agreeing to bring  this bill to the floor.  I also want to thank the vice chairman of the Appropriations  Committee, Senator Leahy, for sticking to the agreement he and I made  to move these bills in a bipartisan manner….

Mr. President, 1999 — nearly 20 years ago — was the last time the  Senate passed nine appropriations bills by the end of August — 1999.  Some of us are still here. This is the milestone here today that we are  about to mark with the passage of two appropriations bills and with the  most moneys than in any appropriations bill.   Earlier this year, we collectively called for a return to regular  order in the appropriations process because it was broken. The leaders  on both sides, Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer, provided us with  the opportunity to follow through. So I take a moment to thank both of  them for their leadership. I believe that we, together in the Senate,  are demonstrating that they made the right call.   I also recognize the vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee,  Senator Leahy, for his work in this regard. I can’t say enough about  the importance of his role in passing appropriations bills in a  bipartisan manner, because that is the only way we are going to get  them done.”

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), majority whip:  Mr. President, this week marks the continuation of a  bipartisan effort to actually do the work we were elected to do.   The New York Times recently published an article that said the Senate got its groove back. I don’t know if I would go that far, but certainly  we are making some progress when it comes to these important funding  bills.  These two appropriation bills are two of the largest ones in the  Federal Government. One, of course, is for the Department of Defense  which, appropriately, is the No. 1 priority of the Federal Government — to maintain the peace and keep our Nation safe. The other funds the  Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

“After we pass these bills this week, which we will, we will have  passed 9 of the 12 appropriations bills, which cover 87 percent of  discretionary spending.   I might add that when I mention discretionary spending, it is noteworthy that about 70 percent of what the Federal Government spends  is not discretionary spending. It is mandatory spending, which is  another story in and of itself.   But insofar as the Congress’s responsibility to appropriate the funds  in discretionary spending, we will have covered about 87 percent of  that.”

Freedom First Society:  Conservatives should be wary of action endorsed by the New York Times!  Are Americans really going to be satisfied that Congress has done its job by merely voting to spend taxpayer money and keep the government running with business as usual?

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), majority leader: “Now, let me say a word about the other appropriations bill that is  part of our package on the floor. This bill, the Labor-HHS-Education  bill, includes funding for the National Institutes of Health. For the  past 6 years, I have made this the focal point of my work here in the  Senate. I don’t take particular credit for the results, but I have done  my darndest to encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to  make this a priority, and I am happy to report they have.

“For the fourth year in a row, Congress is on track to provide the  National Institutes of Health with funding increases of at least 5  percent in real growth — a $2 billion increase in this bill. In the  fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill before the Senate, we will help to ensure that our Nation’s best and brightest medical researchers have the funding they need to conduct research on the diseases and conditions that impact every single American….

“I hope, as we move forward to conference with the House on this bill, that we can include at least a 5-percent funding increase for the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other agencies  that allow America to literally lead the world in medical innovation.   This bill provides $3.7 billion for the prevention and treatment of  the scourge of opioid addiction. It will help our Federal agencies to  respond better to this ongoing public health challenge.

“It includes  provisions I requested to help the CDC address the toll of violence in the city of Chicago and assist with the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Quincy, IL.

“It rejects President Trump’s efforts to slash the Federal-Work Study Program and includes an increase in the maximum Pell grant of $100. It includes $5 million for the Open Textbooks Pilot  Program, helping college students across America with the exploding  cost of higher education.

“It is a good bill, and I want to commend Senator Patty Murray of  Washington, the Democrat, and Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, the  Republican, for crafting the bipartisan fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health  and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia):  “We are here to talk about some of the important issues in this bill  and how consequential this bill will be and has the potential to be.   We are encompassing both Defense and Labor-HHS, both of which passed  out of our committee a few weeks ago with bipartisan support and a lot  of input from Members in the process.   Bills of this magnitude deserve to be debated on the Senate floor, as  we are doing today.

‘I will first address the defense part of this measure because I think it impacts not only our standing here and our  military here but also has a global impact.   President Trump has made rebuilding and strengthening our military one of his administration’s primary objectives, and this bill helps him  do exactly that.   This legislation invests in programs, projects, technologies, and  capabilities that will strengthen our Nation’s military. More  importantly, it invests in the people behind all of these efforts by  including a 2.6-percent raise for all of our military. That includes  our National Guard….

“Of course, the legislation under consideration doesn’t just focus on  the military; it also focuses on another war being waged right here in  our country, and that is the fight against the opioid epidemic…. Over the past 4 years, we have increased funding for this effort of fighting the opioid crisis by more than 1,275 percent, but we haven’t  done this blindly. We are just not throwing money at the problem. I think we have been very thoughtful, as have our partners in the State  and local areas.   We have focused on treatment through our community health centers. We  have focused on prevention, working with the CDC. We have focused on  recovery through our workforce initiatives. We have focused on research  at NIH, where, hopefully, NIH can develop a non-addictive opioid  treatment, which I think will be a major breakthrough for this problem,  and we have focused on directing funding to the States to meet the  local challenges through their State opioid response grants.

“We have  also focused on the ripple effects of this epidemic, including the  impact on families and children in foster care. These are all important  resources and much needed….

“Just a few weeks ago, our State Department of Health and Human  Resources released the preliminary numbers. So far in West Virginia, we  have had almost 500 opioid-related deaths. While this is the most  devastating statistic, when it comes to West Virginia and the opioid  epidemic, it is not the only one. It is not the only one we need to  look at.  We are seeing an increasing number of children in foster care. This  has impacted the entire family. There are more grandparents and great- grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. Our State has an increased need for treatment facilities. We have  more babies who are requiring neonatal care, as well as the services as  they grow….

“While the opioid epidemic is a very significant focus of Labor-HHS, I  wish to highlight some of the other valuable investments…..

“With this bill we have surpassed, with the help of Chairman Blunt and his leadership, a $2 billion milestone when it comes to Alzheimer’s research. That isn’t just for research. It is also to figure out the best way to help our caregivers.   Also in this bill, we have directed help to other priorities to a lot of rural States like mine for community health centers, which are critical.

“As for apprenticeship grants, I was just with the plumbers and  pipefitters. Apprenticeships are absolutely critical to the workforce  that we need.   There is the IDeA Program at NIH, which drives research dollars out to universities, away from the main campus of NIH….

“In short, this legislation aims to improve the health and well-being of every single American.   When it comes to the Department of Labor, very briefly, this is important for us in West Virginia. There is a training program there  for displaced coal workers and coal miners. We have re-funded that. We  have pushed more funding to that, I should say.”

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland):  “Prescription drug costs are  out of control. Any of us who have been to any town-hall meetings — I  have been to many in my State — we hear constituents all the time talk  about the fact that there is a serious challenge as to whether they can  afford to take the medicines they need in order to control their  disease, whether it is diabetes, heart, kidney, or cancer.   So many patients have to make very tough decisions as to whether they  can afford the prescription drugs that are necessary for their care.  Many are going into debt. We are now seeing people going into bankruptcy because of medical debt from prescription drugs, and many are going without the  medicines themselves. We need to do something about it….

“Lastly, we need to improve Medicare Part D. The out-of-pocket costs  are not affordable. We have to put reasonable limits on what people can  afford and cover what is beyond those reasonable limits.”

Freedom First Society:  Here is one realistic objection.  Senator Flake was one of only seven  senators to vote against H.R. 6157:

Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona): “With our national debt now exceeding $21 trillion, taxpayers should not have to pick up the Pentagon’s tab for beer bots and for many other  unnecessary spending items which are in the bill that we are  considering right now. This minibus bill provides over $800 billion in  funding to the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human  Services, and Education. Yet, over the past 3 days, we have considered  just four amendments to the bill, and not a single one has offered a reduction in spending — not a single one.”

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