Weekly Democratic Address
December 9, 2017
Hi, I’m US Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. Let me here talk with you today about one of the most basic but one of the most important functions that Congress has – that’s funding our Federal Government.
First, let’s just go over the basics. Every year, Congress is supposed to pass a budget – a budget that sets the overall amount of money the Federal Government’s directed to spend that year. Then the Appropriations Committee gets into the details and hashes out how much we’ll spend on each specific agency and program.
Both parties lay out their priorities, each side works together. And in the end, hopefully, we ensure the funding is there for our government. At least, that’s the way it is supposed to happen.
But right now, the process doesn’t look much like that at all.
In May, months later than he was supposed to, our President proposed a budget that added $54 billion to defense and cut 54 billion from a wide range of things essential to our country: health research at the National Institutes of Health, education support for schools and colleges through Pell Grants, many other domestic programs. And the good news here is that both parties working together rejected those irresponsible cuts.
But now, with Republicans in charge of both the Senate, the House and the White House, our Republican colleagues are mostly debating amongst themselves about whether months into our new fiscal year, we can actually pass a final budget. They want a shut down, frankly, the ball’s in their court.
Democrats have so far been crystal-clear about where we stand.
We want to keep our government open.
We want to pass sensible bipartisan funding bills that both increase investment in our military and in domestic priorities, like supporting our veterans and fighting the opioid crisis.
We want to end this pattern of governing from crisis to crisis, moving from one deadline to the next.
We also believe we can and must address some other critically important issues before the end of this year as part of the government funding bill.
We urgently need to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIP, which is a literal lifeline for more than 9 million low-income children across the United States. Funding for CHIP ran out months ago in September and already, some states have had to notify parents their children’s health care coverage will soon lapse. That’s just unacceptable.
We also need to pass desperately-needed disaster relief funding to help our fellow Americans in Texas, and Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Florida and California, which have been devastated by hurricanes and wildfires, and are just beginning the long and difficult process of recovery.
We also need to protect once and for all the DREAMers here in our country, young men and women brought here at a young age who’ve never known any country other than ours as their home. These young men and women reflect the best of our country. I’ve met many in my home state of Delaware, and they’re high school and college students, members of our military, part of our neighborhoods, communities and churches. But President Trump has decided to end our nation’s policy of allowing these young people to come out of the shadows and live without fear of being deported. We agree with our Republican colleagues that we should strengthen border security. And we believe we can pass a bipartisan DREAM Act that both protects DREAMers and makes our borders more secure.
These don’t need to be partisan and difficult fights. These are common-sense things that should be part of keeping our government open and working for the American people. We have to be able to do more than just keep the lights on by passing yet another so-called “continuing resolution” that just kicks the can further down the road.
I believe we can make real progress in fighting the opioid crisis by giving communities and first responders the resources they need. We can fund Community Health Centers the 26 million patients rely on. And we can give our veterans the care they need.
And rather than just moving from one government shutdown crisis to the next, we can come together and make smarter spending decisions, like rebuilding our infrastructure, shoring up pension plans, and investing in education and health research.
The American people send all of us – Democrats and Republicans – to Congress, not to just sit around and fight with each other but to get things done and take on the real challenges that real people are facing every day.
Keeping our government open and fixing the problems right in front of us doesn’t need to be hard and it certainly doesn’t have to be partisan.
As Democrats, we’re ready to get to work and we think we can do more than just keep the lights on. We can address real challenges the American people are dealing with.
Thanks for listening today, and thanks for your support. And please stay engaged as we work to solve these problems together.