Aderholt only Alabama Republican to vote for omnibus; State's congressional delegation weighs in on budget
Although Congress passed a bi-partisan budget deal on Friday to avert a government shutdown, only two members of the Alabama delegation followed the leaders of their parties' call to approve the omnibus bill that funds the government until September.
U.S. Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, were the only two "yes" votes for the omnibus in the House; both Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions voted against it in the Senate, as they previously indicated they would.
The $1.1 trillion omnibus package was a compromise hashed out by legislative leaders that includes lifting America's 30-year ban on exporting oil, funding increases for NASA, the Veterans Affairs department, federal workers, the National Institutes of Health and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (there are 12 HBCUs in Alabama.) But it also left out key Republican priorities like blocking the president's Syrian refugee resettlement plan and defunding Planned Parenthood.
Aderholt, a conservative Republican who plays a key role in the annual National Prayer Breakfast, said he voted for the bill because it continued a ban on federally monies from going to abortion except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger.
"The bill is known more for what it is not than for what it is. While I was able to get some important language included for the pro-life movement, the bill does not contain other riders I had hoped for such as tying the president's hands on the Syrian refugees and peeling back the EPA water regulation. That is a big disappointment," he said in a statement. "The good news is that this bill is the last vestiges of Speaker Boehner's style of leadership and in two weeks we will start putting together a bill that with conservative principles will pass with conservative votes."
Sewell cited the NIH increase and funding boosts to HBCUs and other education programs, as well as money allocated to preserve historic civil rights cites as among the reasons she was one of 166 Democrats to approve the omnibus in the House. The Democrats were joined by 150 Republicans who voted "yes," while 95 Republicans and 18 Democrats voted against it.
"This is not a perfect bill, but I am proud that both sides of the aisle were able to work out a compromise that benefits our nation, and helps us continue to grow," Sewell said in a statement.
The rest of the Alabama delegation – all Republicans – were united in their opposition to the omnibus, with most of them pointing to the Syrian refugee issue as the reason why they voted against the bill.
"I am outraged that the bill that passed today did not prohibit funding for President Obama to bring refugees from the Syrian conflict to America," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks. "What happened in California demonstrates that Islamic terrorists are ready and willing to use our lax immigration system to enter our country and do us harm."
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, agreed.
"Our nation is at war, and I could not support a government funding bill that fails to address the reality of the serious security challenges our nation his facing," he said in a statement. "I was disappointed the bill did not include provisions to block any funding from going to the Syrian refugee resettlement program. For months now, I have been warning about the legitimate problems posed by this program, and this bill fails to prevent the president from bringing Syrian refugees into the United States."
Although Shelby fought for language in the bill that is beneficial to Alabama, including a provision on rockets that affects some 850 jobs in Decatur and expanding access to red snapper on the Gulf Coast, he said the Syrian issue outweighed the positives.
Sessions echoed Shelby's sentiment on Syria and also criticized the bill for increasing the number of visas and green cards. It also did not satisfy Sessions' concerns on illegal immigration or defunding sanctuary cities.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, also cited the Decatur jobs and other provisions that would help his district as among the measures he liked in the bill, but said his economic concerns spurred him to vote against the omnibus.
"Financial experts have repeatedly warned Washington of America's increasing debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy if Washington does not cease its out-of-control spending habits," he said, adding that the bill increases the debt by "hundreds of billions of dollars."
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, who is in the conservative House Freedom Caucus with Brooks, also mentioned the debt as the rationale for his "no" vote.
"A spending bill should reflect the priorities of our nation," he said. "This $1.1 trillion bill does not. It continues to pile debt on our children without sufficient reforms."
A spokesman for Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, suggested the bill wasn't conservative enough to earn her vote.
"Representative Roby takes her role as a member of the Appropriations Committee seriously," said Todd Stacy. "In the end, this omnibus bill does not reflect the conservative principles House appropriators worked on and fought for all year, so she voted against it."