WILKES-BARRE — Here’s how local lawmakers reacted to Friday’s $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit.
• U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, said the agreement contains a badly needed spending increase to strengthen national security, rebuild a neglected military, and honor the commitment to veterans.
“Unfortunately, it also adds $131 billion in non-security spending, without any real, meaningful offsetting spending reductions,” Toomey said. “Our federal government is on an unsustainable fiscal path. This spending spree makes it worse.”
• U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, called it a bipartisan deal to fund the government and address a number of vitally important issues.
“I have pushed for a funding agreement that invests in our infrastructure, funds efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and funds community health centers,” Casey said. “Although there is vital work to do on additional issues, this bipartisan agreement will help Pennsylvania families.”
Next week, Casey said the Senate will begin a debate on protections for the immigrants known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to this country as children.
Their status was not addressed in the budget deal, as had previously been hoped.
• U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, said he supported the budget bill because it contained many provisions that help families.
“This bipartisan budget deal provides long-term funding for CHIP and community health centers, directs over $3 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, and invests in our nation’s infrastructure,” Cartwright said. “I urge the GOP leadership to use this moment of bipartisanship to allow the House to vote on a bill addressing the status of the 1.8 million Dreamers left out of this agreement.”
• U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, said the budget package reverses the defense sequester — or automatic cuts — by allowing for $700 billion in defense spending for Fiscal Year 2018 and $716 billion in defense spending for FY19. He said the deal also includes a $46 billion increase in non-defense spending in FY18 and FY19 to be used for National Institutes of Health research, the opioid epidemic, mental health programs, and reducing the Veterans Administration health care backlog.
“Elevating the budget caps on defense spending was the critical underlying feature of this two-year budget package,” Barletta said. “Our military readiness has deteriorated at an alarming rate, severely limiting America’s ability to maintain the sufficient and necessary resources to provide for a national defense.”
He continued: “There are a lot of things I am upset with about this budget that I will continue to fight against in the upcoming appropriations processes.”
• U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Williamsport, said he voted to keep the federal government open and provide certainty to military members and their families.
“While many of my colleagues chose to vote ‘no’ on this bill, I believe that our service members deserve all of the support we can provide,” said Marino. “As President Reagan said, the United States must provide peace through strength. This bill will help accomplish that pursuit.”