Votes to advance funding bills for NM labs, bases, water projects, veterans, but says sequestration cuts must be reversed
U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the Senate Appropriations Committee to advance critical Fiscal Year 2016 bills that fund New Mexico priorities, including the national laboratories, military base construction and the Department of Veterans Affairs. But although he voted to advance the Energy and Water and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills to the Senate floor, Udall warned that he has very serious concerns about the funding levels, which revert to sequestration levels.
Udall has opposed the across-the-board sequestration budget cuts, which were implemented in 2011. The cuts have hurt New Mexicans and held back our national security and economic growth. While Democrats worked to restore funding to appropriate levels, this year’s proposed Republican budget again slashes funding. President Obama has said he will veto any appropriations bills that keep sequestration levels, and Udall and other Democrats are urging Republicans to work on a bipartisan basis to roll back sequestration cuts as they did in FY 2014 and 2015.
“Thousands of New Mexico workers and communities across our state – not to mention our national security and economy – would be hurt by funding at the level in these bills. Sequestration budget cuts have hurt our labs, bases, vital rural water projects, and veterans’ services, and I have deep reservations about supporting these bills without significant improvements,” Udall said. “For example, the funding levels to ensure cleanup can continue at Los Alamos National Lab and the safe reopening of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are below the president’s budget request and far below my request. The bills also underfund veterans’ services at a time when VA hospitals in New Mexico and across the country are struggling to provide care – and even as the VA anticipates the need to treat millions more veterans in coming years.”
“I supported an amendment in the committee today that would end sequestration. We need to be responsible and disciplined about our debt and deficits, but we can do that without putting our national security and economy at risk,” Udall continued. “I will continue to fight sequestration as these bills move to the full Senate for a vote.”
Additionally, Udall expressed concern and unsuccessfully offered an amendment to cut a provision in the Energy and Water bill that would allow the U.S. Department of Energy to take title to private nuclear waste. The provision in the bill would change current law and make taxpayers liable for the waste from power plants across the country if it is stored temporarily at private facilities, such as proposed sites in West Texas and New Mexico.