Senate Appropriations approves fiscal year 2022 ag bill
The Senate Appropriations Committee today, Aug. 4, approved the fiscal year 2022 Agriculture appropriations bill.
The vote was 25 to 5, as it was on the Energy and Water and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bills that the committee also approved today.
Five Republican senators voted against the bills not because they opposed the contents of each, but because they are concerned about overall spending levels and the lack of clarity about parity between defense and nondefense spending, which Republicans are demanding.
The five who voted against the bills are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sens. John Kennedy, R-La.; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn.; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
The approval theoretically paves the way for the bill to be considered on the Senate floor, but McConnell said that floor action would not proceed because of their concerns.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., acknowledged the lack of agreement on topline spending, but said, “I do not want the lack of a topline or an allocation to keep us from making at least some progress in advancing our bills. The committee should do its work, and the end of the fiscal year is rapidly approaching. I am glad that we could reach agreement to consider these three important bills today.”
Leahy said he was pleased that the bills contain earmarks “for the first time in a decade.” Although earmarks have become controversial, Leahy said he believes that the senators know more about the needs of their states than civil servants based in Washington. In recent years, appropriations bills have not included earmarks, which has left funding decisions up to the executive branch.
“The Constitution vests Congress with the power of the purse, and it is it this committee that wields that power,” Leahy said. “I believe we should use it responsibly and transparently to address the needs of our communities. Senators know the needs of their states better than unelected bureaucrats, and these bills provide an opportunity to directly address those needs. The Appropriations Committee has spent the last two months diligently reviewing and vetting member’s requests, all of which are available to the public, and I believe the projects included in these three bills will address critical needs across this nation.”
There were no amendments to the ag bill approved Monday by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee except for a manager’s amendment offered by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., subcommittee chairwoman.
Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., offered and withdrew an amendment that would stop the retail labeling of genetically engineered salmon, which is produced by AquaBounty in his state.
Braun said genetically engineered salmon should not be singled out for special labeling, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, defended the practice. Murkowski noted that genetically engineered salmon is the first animal food approved by the Food and Drug Administration for human consumption. Murkowski noted that a number of grocery chains have declined to sell genetically engineered salmon and said AquaBounty is “circumventing” the label regime by selling to restaurants, which are not required to label it.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., joined Murkowski in her concern, adding that he is still worried that genetically engineered salmon, which is raised on farms, could end up in open waters through a flood.
The bill and report including earmarks have been printed but not yet posted on the Appropriations committee website.
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