Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today applauded Senate
passage of a spending bill to avoid another funding lapse for the federal
agencies affected by President Donald Trump’s recent government shutdown and to
secure important investments in bolstering coastal communities for climate
change, treating addiction, and infrastructure upgrades. At the same
time, Whitehouse slammed President Trump’s intention to declare refugees
legally seeking safety at the southern border a “national emergency” as a
condition of signing the measure to keep the government open.
“This was Congress at work: a bipartisan,
bicameral group negotiated this deal in good faith to avert the chaos of
another Trump shutdown,” said Whitehouse. “The agreement notably includes
a significant investment in the coastal infrastructure and resiliency fund I
designed with Rhode Island communities in mind, and funding for programs I
authored to fight the addiction crisis that has hurt too many families.
“Now that Congress managed to get something
done without the White House torpedoing it, the president is thrusting the
country into a new manufactured crisis. President Trump’s condition for
agreeing to fund the government is to make up a ‘national emergency’ out of
thin air, and I expect the courts will find that his declaration is baseless
The spending measure passed the Senate with
broad bipartisan support in an 83-16 vote.
The omnibus spending bill includes $30 million
for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund, which Whitehouse passed into
law. The fund supports a national competitive grant program to protect
coastal communities and natural resources from rising seas and other
consequences of climate change. In its inaugural grant cycle last year,
the Fund provided support for 35 projects across the country, including
$280,140 for the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council’s work to
identify and prepare major resiliency projects across the state.
The spending bill includes increased funding
for programs authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act to
address the opioid crisis, including $22 million for establishing and expanding
addiction treatment for veterans and $157 million for grants to state and local
governments to provide treatment alternatives for incarcerated individuals. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act,
which Whitehouse authored with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and which became law
in 2016, remains the most significant legislation Congress has passed to
address the crisis.
The bill also includes $900 million for the
popular TIGER program, which is now also referred to as the BUILD program.
The bill rejects President Trump’s proposal to eliminate this competitive
grant funding, which allows for communities to make transformative investments
in transportation infrastructure. Rhode Island has been awarded $108
million in competitive TIGER grants since 2010. Last year, Rhode Island
was awarded a $20 million grant for repairs along Route 37 in Cranston and
Warwick and a $20 million grant to rebuild ramps leading to the Pell Bridge.
Whitehouse has worked with Senators Lisa
Murkowski (R-AK) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) on legislation included in the bill to
direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture to conduct research and pilot programs to support
emerging farming practices and other scalable commercial applications for kelp
and sea grass. The provision also directs the agencies to study the
capability of kelp and seagrass to remove excess carbon dioxide from seawater.
The spending agreement also rejects the
President’s plan to slash 30 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s
funding, and instead funds the agency at $8.8 billion.