The $1 trillion spending bill passed by the Senate on Saturday night includes more than $400 million in funding to support two Oak Ridge projects—building the world’s fastest supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said.
The appropriations legislation avoids a government shutdown and funds most of the government through September. The Senate approved it in a bipartisan 56-40 vote, and it now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
The spending bill cleared the House on Thursday. Liberals sought to strip out a policy provision that eases a Wall Street regulation, and conservatives tried to slow action on immigration.
“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 and 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 Tennessee senator said the funding for the supercomputer and the Uranium Processing Facility was part of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which Alexander helped write. 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 UPF, which has a cost cap of $6.5 billion, is the federal government’s largest investment in Tennessee since World War II.
- The closure of two facilities Alexander said perform duties that are redundant and can be accomplished more cost effectively elsewhere, saving taxpayers $120 million during the next 10 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.
Alexander said the appropriations bill, the main item left on Congress’ year-end agenda, complies with spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. He said the omnibus legislation passed by the Senate provides funding for most federal government agencies for fiscal year 2015, which extends until October 1, 2015.
But, “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 February 27, 2015,” the senator said in a press release. Alexander was referring to the president’s November announcement that he will shield about 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, circumventing Congress to provide the most sweeping changes to immigration policy in decades.
At $1.014 trillion, the appropriations 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 said. He 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.
“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,” Alexander said. “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.”
U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann issued a statement after the House of Representatives passed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act on Thursday, before the Senate approved the appropriations legislation.
“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,” Fleischmann said. “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 congressman said 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, but 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 Fleischmann to protect Second Amendment rights, the statement said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.