TN Congressional Delegation Splintered on Federal Spending Bill

Saturday night, the U.S. Senate voted to approve a $1.1 trillion spending measure passed by the House earlier last week to fund the federal government through October 2015. Tennessee’s federal legislative delegation was split in their support for the CR-Omnibus bill.

In the Senate, the legislation passed 56 to 40. While Sen. Lamar Alexander voted in favor of the spending bill, and Sen. Bob Corker cast a vote in opposition, both senators voted against a point of order raised by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, related to Pres. Barack Obama’s recent executive order on immigration. That point of order failed 22 to 74.

In the House, the bill passed 219 to 206. Four of Tennessee’s representatives voted for the legislation, while five voted in opposition to the funding measure — including both of the state’s Democratic representatives. U.S. Reps. Phil Roe, Chuck Fleischmann, Diane Black and Stephen Fincher voted for it, and Reps. John Duncan, Scott Desjarlais, Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn and Steve Cohen voted against.

Statements from Tennessee’s congressional delegation follow:

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn:

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the Senate’s top Republican on energy appropriations, today voted in favor of legislation to fund the federal government that “helps keep spending in check while supporting two projects that are crucial to Tennessee,” a proposal to build the world’s fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12. Alexander noted that the legislation complies with spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

“Fiscal responsibility is about setting priorities, and I voted for this legislation because it helps keep spending in check while supporting projects that are crucial to Tennessee, as well as our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” said Alexander, the top Republican on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development, which oversees funding for Oak Ridge and Y-12. “Once again having the world’s fastest supercomputer in the United States – and once again having it in Oak Ridge – will help us remain a center for advanced manufacturing and scientific breakthroughs. Providing both funding and oversight of the Uranium Processing Facility supports jobs and national security, and continues our mission of completing this project on time and on budget.”

The omnibus legislation passed by the Senate provides funding for most federal government agencies for fiscal year 2015, which extends until Oct. 1, 2015. In order to slow President Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants, the legislation only extends funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 27, 2015.

At $1.014 trillion, the legislation complies with the budget caps that Congress passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and amended with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Alexander noted that the legislation only affects discretionary spending – such as funding for national defense, national labs and national parks – which currently accounts for about 35 percent of the federal budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Mandatory spending, which is not controlled by appropriations legislation and includes entitlement programs, makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending.

Alexander continued, “Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democratic Senate majority have not worked with Republicans to address the real driver of the federal government’s nearly $18 trillion debt: out-of-control entitlement spending. I hope that changes with a new Republican Senate majority. We need to pass a plan like the Fiscal Sustainability Act I proposed with Senator Corker, which would reduce the growth of entitlement spending by nearly $1 trillion over 10 years.”

The funding for the supercomputer and the Uranium Processing Facility was part of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which Alexander helped author. It included:

  • $104 million for supercomputing, following a November announcement by Alexander and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz that Oak Ridge would build a supercomputer five times the speed of Titan, its current machine.
  • $335 million for the Uranium Processing Facility, which processes enriched uranium for nuclear weapons systems. Alexander has pushed to keep costs under control, in part through the Red Team review led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory director Thom Mason.
  • The closure of two facilities Alexander said perform duties that are redundant and can be accomplished more cost effectively elsewhere, saving taxpayers $120 million over the next ten years. The first is the New Brunswick lab in New Jersey, which does work on radiation that is used in the calibration of radioactivity detection equipment and that Alexander said can be done in various other parts of the federal government. The second is the closure of the Lujan Center in New Mexico, which performs scientific research with neutrons that Alexander said can be done at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

UPDATED 12/14, 10:00 ET:

Alexander voted against a constitutional point of order offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), saying, “I voted against the point of order because it would have invalidated the annual appropriations bill that is needed and clearly constitutional. The bill funds the Department of Homeland Security for only three months, giving the new Republican Congress an opportunity next year to deal with the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after voting against a spending bill known as a continuing resolution (H.R.83).

“I could not support this spending bill because it continues the regrettable precedent of spending above the budget levels established by the original Budget Control Act without proper offsets elsewhere in the budget,” said Corker. “Next year, controlling both chambers of Congress, Republicans will have the opportunity to govern responsibly by passing individual appropriations bills with more oversight of how taxpayer dollars are being used.”

Corker also commented on a Constitutional point of order raised by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“‎While the president’s executive actions on immigration are reprehensible and deserve a strong response, I value the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution too much to exploit it for political expediency,” said Corker. “The Constitution gives Congress the power to fund the government so to assert that the House-passed spending bill is unconstitutional is not only inaccurate but irresponsible.”

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01:

Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement after voting in support of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act:

“The budget agreement, while imperfect, has numerous provisions that will help our state. For the past six years, I’ve heard from East Tennesseans on a wide array of issues, but because our government has been operating under a continuing resolution, we haven’t been able to roll back some of the policies enacted in the first few years of the Obama administration.

“While traveling around the district I’ve heard from folks concerned about the IRS targeting, the runaway EPA, Obamacare and President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration. This agreement will prohibit the IRS from targeting organizations because of their political or ideological beliefs; keep the EPA from regulating lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle while also cutting their funding for the fifth consecutive year; and reduces funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which I’ve worked on since the Affordable Care Act’s passage. This bill funds important infrastructure projects while keeping one of the largest economic drivers in the First District – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – open.

“Perhaps most importantly, by only extending funding for the Department of Homeland Security until the end of February, this bill ensures the new Republican-led Congress will have the opportunity to address the president’s executive action on immigration early in the new year. I believe it’s important we get to work on immigration as soon as the 114thCongress convenes.”

U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02:

Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) released the following statement Thursday following his vote against a massive bill Omnibus-Continuing Resol to fund the government through next year:

During my time in Congress, I have never voted for an omnibus spending bill.  I am very much opposed to funding the government at the end of the year with massive, last-minute bills where they throw in just about everything but the kitchen sink. It is simply a bad way to do business.

There really was no way to find out what all was in the bill.  It contained more than $1 trillion in spending at a time we have a national debt of $18 trillion that is still rising at a very fast rate.

Of course in a bill this massive, I could find things that I liked, but I couldn’t vote for a bill that funded President Obama’s amnesty program and included increases for many departments and agencies even above what some were asking.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03:

The House of Representatives passed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act to keep the government open and functioning through fiscal year 2015. After passage, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement.

“This evening, the House performed its duty as representatives to ensure taxpayers’ dollars are wisely invested in effective programs and our government remains open and functioning. The legislation we passed today will cut excessive spending for programs such as the IRS and EPA while responsibly funding critical programs like those that keep our brave men and women in uniform safe. By providing no new funding for Obamacare or President Obama’s executive amnesty, this Omnibus will responsibly fund the majority of our federal government through the end of the fiscal year. While this bill is not perfect, it is a product of bipartisan compromise, and I am hopeful the Senate will act quickly to avoid another government shutdown.”

The 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill will provide funding for the vast majority of the federal government through September 30, 2015. Included in the Omnibus are significant program cuts and improved oversight of tax dollars; yet, critical programs, such as the research and work conducted in Oak Ridge, will remain funded. The bill will cut Internal Revenue Service funding by $345.6 million and Environmental Protection Agency funding by $60 million. Additionally, the Omnibus includes language led by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann to protect 2nd Amendment rights.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. 04:

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, M.D. (TN-04) released the following statement after voting against HR 83, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act for FY 2015, commonly referred to as the cromnibus:

“This 1,603-page bill was released just the other day. There is absolutely no conceivable way any member of Congress had time to properly review this $1.1 trillion piece of legislation. Have we not learned the lesson that having to pass a bill to find out what is in it results in bad policy?

“One thing we do know is that this legislation provides funding for President Obama’s unconstitutional executive order on immigration. As the representative for Tennessee’s Fourth District, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution. This is something I will not compromise on. Congress has the power of the purse and it is incumbent upon us to use this power to prevent the White House from violating the separation of powers.

“If the president wants immigration reform, then he should present his ideas to Congress and work within the proper constitutional framework. But he does not have the authority to disregard existing law – laws that he is constitutionally bound to execute. If Republicans won’t step up and hold this president accountable, who will?”

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper; D-Tenn. 05:

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued a statement following his vote against a $1.1 trillion spending bill.

“Congress had all year to do its job. But it again waited until the final hours and made shady backroom deals. This bill is no way to govern,” Cooper said.

The House of Representatives voted 219-206 to pass the spending bill late Thursday night. The “cromnibus” includes 11 appropriations bills and a continuing resolution, which will fund most of the government through September 2015. The bill also includes changes to campaign finance and Wall Street reform laws. It is expected to quickly pass the Senate and be signed into law by the President.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06:

Today, Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) issued the following statement on her vote in support of the CROmnibus legislation to keep our government open:

“No government funding measure that needs to be negotiated with Senate Democrats and signed by President Obama will ever be perfect,” said Congressman Black. “But rather than let the perfect be the enemy of the good, I supported this measure because it will avoid a repeat of the 2013 government shutdown, while setting the table for Republicans to take on President Obama’s unconstitutional immigration overreach. By funding all of government through the end of the fiscal year except for the Department of Homeland Security, we will be able to fight his executive action in February with a new Republican majority in the Senate.

“In addition, this bill cuts funding for Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and reduces IRS funding by $345 million – putting the agency’s budget below Fiscal Year 2008 levels. This legislation also cuts EPA funding for the fifth year in a row and ends an outrageous EPA regulation on lead that resulted in ammunition shortages and acted as a form of backdoor gun control on Tennessee sportsmen.

“I understand and share the strong concerns of my constituents about the President’s unconstitutional action, which is why I have introduced legislation, the Separation of Powers Act, to fight back against this power grab. Our best leverage to stop this action will come when Republicans control both Chambers of Congress next month.”

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in opposition to the House Continuing Resolution, which fails to take the steps necessary to stop President Barack Obama’s executive actions to expand amnesty for illegal aliens.

“Unfortunately, this spending package fails to take the necessary actions to defund the President’s lawless amnesty. As a result, I cannot vote in support of this measure. It is not fair that hard-working taxpayers in Tennessee will now have to compete for jobs with illegal aliens to whom the President is unilaterally granting work permits at a time when our workforce participation rate sits at a 36-year low and more than 90 million Americans are out of work. That is why I fought for and passed my bill in the House this summer to freeze the President’s unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. King Obama’s amnesty is turning America into a lawless open borders society.”

U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher; R-Tenn. 08:

No prepared statement available from Rep. Fincher.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen; D-Tenn. 09:

Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today released the following statement regarding the 2015 government funding agreement:

“While I am pleased that negotiators on both sides of the aisle agreed that funding for Tennessee’s hospitals and my $5 million provision to help fight our rape kit backlog should be included, I simply cannot support the many non-germane riders added. This agreement takes from the middle class and the poor and gives to the rich, overturns the D.C. vote on marijuana, and gives millionaires more influence in Washington while letting them take bigger risks on Wall Street. The American people do not want more money in our politics and a return to the Wall Street policies that almost brought the world economy crashing down in 2008.”