Bipartisan Bill Will Fund U.S. Military, Miners’ Benefits, Border, Fight Against Opioids

‘These are important priorities of Congress and the president, they reflect a lot of hard work, and they promise to positively and meaningfully impact the lives of the men and women we represent.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the government funding bill:

“The funding bill announced last night will allow us to make critical advances to rebuild our military, strengthen our border, and continue providing relief to communities that have struggled for too long against the opioid epidemic. These are important priorities of Congress and the president, they reflect a lot of hard work, and they promise to positively and meaningfully impact the lives of the men and women we represent.  The funding bill also includes another critical priority I’ve long fought for: protecting health care for thousands of retired coal miners.

“This legislation will allow us to take the initial step needed to begin rebuilding our military. It contains a down payment on defense that will support forward-deployed forces in places like the Korean Peninsula and Eastern Europe and operations against adversaries like ISIL and the Taliban as we work to secure the funds that will be necessary to improve readiness and restore munitions and ammunition.

“We know that more must be done to meet our global commitments and — by providing some of the resources that will be necessary for a sustained rebuilding campaign, one we hope will earn bipartisan support — we can take an important step forward.

“This legislation will allow us to substantially strengthen the border. It contains the largest increase in border-security resources in a decade, allowing us to address high-priority security needs, crack down on illegal border crossings, and strengthen the border with everything from upgraded physical infrastructure to high-tech biometric and surveillance technology. 

“We know more must be done to secure the border and — by finally delivering more of the resources and tools necessary to secure it — we can take an important step forward.

“This legislation will also allow us to fight back against the opioid and heroin crisis while bolstering medical innovation and treatments at the same time. It contains funding for the programs Congress authorized in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, continued funding for the 21st Century Cures Act to attack opioid abuse, plus additional funds to combat the prescription opioid and heroin crisis that has devastated communities across the nation. We know more must be done to heal the communities that are hurting and — by funding the fight against today’s epidemic along with the fight for tomorrow’s medical solutions — we can take an important step in the right direction.  My home state of Kentucky has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic, and helping our families and communities overcome this assault remains a top priority for me.

“Now on another priority of mine, addressed in this funding bill: I am particularly proud to announce that, through this legislation, we have secured a permanent extension of health care benefits for thousands of retired coal miners and their families in states like Kentucky. Over the past few years I’ve met with numerous Kentucky miners about this important issue, and I’ve been proud to lead efforts to help these families keep their health care. Now, I’m pleased to report that this spending legislation incorporates language from a bill I introduced earlier this year and will enact a permanent extension of miner health care benefits. I’m proud to have secured this important provision as we put together the final package, and I will continue to fight to provide relief for coal communities going forward.

“Moreover, this funding bill also includes additional assistance for troubled coal-mining communities and dislocated coal workers, and it promotes an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy that prioritizes coal, natural gas, and nuclear research.

“It’s disappointing that our Democratic colleagues blocked last year’s efforts to move individual appropriations bills under regular order, but I am pleased that they have now agreed to a solution that will advance many of the priorities of the American people, Congress, and the president.  The funding legislation announced last night, which incorporates the 11 regular appropriations bills remaining from last year, is the product of a great deal of work in committee last year and subsequent bipartisan, bicameral discussions this year.

“I want to thank all those who’ve put in long hours and continued negotiating in good faith so that we could arrive at this strong agreement. In particular, I want to recognize Chairman Cochran, the leadership of the Senate and House Appropriations committees, and their staffs. They worked to ensure the process was bipartisan and bicameral every step of the way. Because of their efforts, we now have an agreement that both sides should support.

“Before we take up the bill later this week, I encourage all Senators to review the full text, which includes more information on the priorities I just mentioned. Then, let’s keep working together to pass it.”

Related Issues: Opioid Abuse, Homeland Security, Coal, America's Military