Senator Jay Rockefeller today issued the following statement after the Senate voted to move a measure forward that would continue government operations for six months. The bill also includes the six-month extension of the welfare reform program, which Rockefeller first voted for in 1996.
"Today, Congress was able to join together and come closer to passing a responsible, bipartisan bill to maintain federal government operations," said Rockefeller. "My first priority, as always, is making sure that we help struggling West Virginia families, particularly during this difficult economy. Yet we also need to responsibly work to lower the deficit. This bill continues all of those efforts while pushing forward a path of fiscal discipline that reflects Congress' efforts last year to cut the federal deficit.
"The bill also extends the welfare reform program which is intended to move parents from welfare to work. And it protects federal funding that West Virginia uses for crucial child care support for struggling families. Our National Guard provides a valuable resource and I fought to make sure that under the legislation, the aviation training site in Clarksburg continues to fully function, and the C-23 aircraft and training mission are maintained. And the bill provides money for the cleanup of abandoned mine lands, which has been an important resource for so many West Virginia communities by making it possible for the land to be used for other purposes."
The bill the Senate will soon vote on will continue to fund government operations through March 27, 2013. The legislation is a clean extension which reflects the cap in spending that Congress passed last year to prevent the federal government from spending above a certain limit and to reduce the deficit. Specific provisions in the bill of importance to West Virginia include:
Funding for the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency has recently helped to provide West Virginia and other states with critical support in the aftermath of the severe "derecho" storm earlier this summer.
Continued Federal Support for C-23 Aircraft. Rockefeller worked to make sure that the bill prevents the retirement of the C-23 Sherpa aircraft, as the U.S. Department of Defense had proposed. The West Virginia National Guard training site in Clarksburg had been at risk of losing its four C-23 aircraft and its related training mission which will now continue. The bill also prevents the Air Force from proceeding with its plans to retire recently deployed Global Hawk Block 30 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Aircraft, parts of which are manufactured by Aurora Flight Sciences in Bridgeport.
Abandoned Mine Land Funding. The bill also contains a provision to protect future Abandoned Mine Land funding for West Virginia.
Extension of Welfare Reform. The bill also allows for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the welfare reform program, to continue. It provides many critical support services -- from child care to other work supports -- to families and single-parent providers during pre- and post-employment transitions. Without this extension, the program expires on September 30. During the six-month extension, West Virginia will receive about $55 million.