News Center

Friday, August 24, 2018

Investments in our Future

Dear Friends,

The Senate has been hard at work this August. This week we passed a comprehensive measure to fund the government in the areas of defense, education, health, human services and labor.

With the passage of this legislation we’re preparing for the future with critical investments in our military, education and job training, and health care.

I introduced two amendments that were included in the final measure. One amendment was to fund the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System. This system, which will be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, will help researchers collect information to advance research on Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological diseases that affect so many lives. The system originally passed as part of the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in 2016, but this portion of the bill still required funding, and I’m pleased we’ve reached this important step.

I also introduced an amendment that was included in the final legislation to address a recent Reuters report about lead poisonings and dangerous lead levels in housing on U.S. Army installations, including Fort Benning in Georgia, that is potentially endangering military families. Additional information on my efforts on this front is below, but our military families should not have to worry about their safety due to lead-based paint problems in their military housing. I’m glad to be taking further steps to address this issue to prevent lead poisoning and protect our military families and children going forward.

With the funding measure we passed yesterday by a vote of 85-7, we’re delivering on the promises we made to our service members to give them a pay raise and equip them with the training and resources necessary to confront threats and protect our national security. We’re also directing more funding to helping workers acquire the skills they need for 21st century jobs and to fighting the growing opioid epidemic that has already claimed too many lives.

These resources will make a difference for our Georgia communities. I’m pleased that Congress is diligently working to fulfill its commitment to fund the government through individual measures that help direct and prioritize our spending. The Senate has this year passed bills containing more than 90 percent of annually appropriated federal spending on time and under regular order. In the past, I’ve shared my concerns about Congress being forced to pass massive “omnibus” spending bills at the last minute to prevent the government from shutting down. Returning to regular order in the budget and appropriations process is essential to restoring political and fiscal responsibility in Congress.

The measures will now move to a committee to work out differences between the Senate and House-passed funding measures.

Protecting our Military Families

Last week, after reading a recent Reuters report about lead poisonings and dangerous lead levels in military housing, I sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper on August 17, raising concerns over the report. We also asked that the secretary provide a detailed briefing about what the Army is doing to keep military families safe and what the Army needs from Congress to address this problem.

Two measures passed this week to also help address potentially dangerous lead levels on military bases as part of the funding bill for our nation’s defense.

First, I filed an amendment with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and several other senators from both parties to require the Government Accountability Office to report on the monitoring and remediation of lead and verifiable compliance with lead exposure limits in military housing.

Second, I cosponsored another amendment to require that children who reside on military installations undergo blood testing for lead during both their 12- and 24-month wellness checks. Both of these amendments were included in the final passed legislation.

The recent reports regarding lead poisoning in some military housing units is disturbing and must absolutely be corrected. Our military families sacrifice greatly in service to our country, and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to ensure their safety, especially in homes the military provides for them. In addition to the information we’ve requested from the U.S. Army to ensure proper treatment, remediation and accountability plans moving forward, these amendments will help us learn as much as we can about this dangerous exposure to prevent future poisoning and protect our military families going forward.

In Other News

  • We’re continuing to work in the Senate to confirm nominees to our nation’s courts. Since Jan. 3, 2017, we’ve confirmed a total of 53 judicial nominees who will have an impact on our courts for years to come. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also taken the necessary steps to secure a Senate confirmation vote soon on Judge Stan Baker of St. Simons Island, Ga., to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, where he has served as magistrate judge since Feb. 3, 2015.

  • During our Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, I questioned Wess Mitchell, assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department, on the importance of full funding of the National Defense Authorization Act and on our anti-nuclear proliferation efforts, specifically with regard to Russia. I also requested an update on the identification of warheads and he offered a later classified briefing on that issue, which is vital to verification and enforcement of international arms control treaties. I also questioned him on the continued engagement and manipulation in Syria by Russia and Iran.
  • On Thursday, I participated in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's hearing on prioritizing medical cures at the National Institutes of Health. I questioned Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, about gene therapy to address neurological diseases and congratulated him on the “National Institutes of Hope” program initiative to help spread the mission of the agency. I admire the agency’s work on these programs and their brain initiatives, which is an area I believe we should be investing in to help the millions of Americans affected by neurological and other rare diseases.

What’s on Tap?

Next week, the Senate is expected to continue its work on confirming the president’s nominees to judgeships and key positions in the administration.

Sincerely,

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