The Kansas congressional delegation split evenly this week on a federal spending bill that includes $404 million for construction of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to be built at Kansas State University.
That money was part of a $1.1 trillion appropriations bill to fund federal government operations through the rest of the federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The bill passed the House Wednesday, 332-94. It passed the Senate, 86-14. Without passage of the bill, most federal programs would run out of spending authority on Saturday, prompting another partial government shutdown.
In the House, Reps. Lynn Jenkins, whose district includes Lawrence, and Kevin Yoder, who represents the Kansas City metropolitan area, both voted for the bill. But Reps. Tim Huelskamp, whose western Kansas district includes the site of the facility, and Mike Pompeo of the Wichita area, both voted no.
In the Senate, Sen. Jerry Moran voted yes and Sen. Pat Roberts voted no.
All six are Republicans.
“This is great news for the Kansas economy, Kansas jobs, and reiterates that NBAF is a critical need for our nation’s security that ranks high on the list of federal priorities,” Jenkins said in a news release.
The facility, which has been on the drawing board for several years, would replace an aging facility at Plum Island, N.Y. Its main purpose would be to test and monitor infectious animal-borne diseases and biological threats.
Jenkins noted the bill also includes funding for cost-of-living raises for retired and disabled veterans, and money to address the backlog of disability claims pending at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Pompeo, however, said he could not support the bill, despite the fact that it also includes money for construction at McConnell Air Force Base to prepare for the new KC 46 Tanker, saying, “I cannot support legislation that undoes important spending restraints that I fought hard to see achieved.”
He also said the bill “fails to rein in the continuing implosion of the Affordable Care Act,” and “includes billions of dollars for (President Barack) Obama’s radical green agenda that is destroying jobs and increasing the cost of energy.”
Huelskamp also said he thought the bill was fiscally irresponsible.
“While I am excited that NBAF received the funding we fought for in the U.S. House,” Huelskamp said in an email to the Journal-World, “this 1,582 page bill will add another $600 billion to our already-massive national debt. It cuts military pensions. It continues to throw hundreds of millions to abortion providers. It maintains thousands of wasteful programs — some even the White House has proposed to cut. It is irresponsible for Washington to return to the days of massive bills, written in secret, read by few or no members of Congress, where amendments are prohibited, and rushed through with one hour of debate on a $1.1 trillion bill.”
Meanwhile Yoder posted on his Facebook page that he supported the bill because it contains several things important to Kansas, “including restoring full cost of living benefits to our disabled military retirees, restricting all foreign aid to Libya until it takes responsibility for bringing the perpetrators of Benghazi murders to justice, and prohibits the IRS from targeting Americans based upon their political or religious affiliation.”
Moran, who serves on the Appropriations Committee that worked on the bill, issued a statement Tuesday saying, “I have worked to make certain NBAF remains a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration and among Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle.”
In a separate statement, he also praised the bill for prohibiting implementation of the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, which he opposes.
Roberts, who faces a Tea Party challenger in the Republican primary this year, said he opposed it because, “the $1.11 trillion bill to fund the government’s discretionary spending busted the budget caps we set just a few years ago. We keep talking about the need for fiscal discipline, but Congress and the President just cannot seem to get it done.”