Congress is in recess, but we have work to do in September

Yesterday, the Senate recessed for the summer. I’m proud of the important work that Congress accomplished in the first seven months of this year. We cultivated these successes only by working together—Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike—and finding principled compromises on tough issues that matter to Americans from all corners of our country.

This week, we sent legislation to President Obama’s desk that will establish nationwide rules for labeling foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The bill, which will soon become law, will give consumers the information they need and deserve about foods they put on their table, without creating a logistical nightmare that would stifle American businesses. I’m proud that through communication, collaboration and compromise, the Senate took a reasonable, principled and science-based approach to address the issue of GMO labeling.

And, just last month, the Senate passed historic chemical safety legislation, updating a 40-year-old law regulating thousands of products we use in our homes every day. By overhauling our country’s outdated and inadequate chemical safety law, we can reduce the risk of toxic exposure for our families and children. I was proud to work with my Republican colleagues on this legislation and honor the memory of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg who represented the state of New Jersey in the Senate for nearly 30 years. During his time in the Senate, Senator Lautenberg was the greatest champion for fixing our broken chemical safety laws, and I was proud to join his wife, Bonnie Lautenberg, just outside the Senate when the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act was approved last month.

These are two great examples of Congress coming together, addressing issues Americans have asked us to address, and showing everyone that we can still get things done. Despite these successes, I am disappointed that Congress is taking our longest recess in 60 years when there are so many important issues left to address.

As we enter the height of mosquito season, many Delawareans and Americans are understandably concerned about the relatively little-known Zika virus. In February, President Obama asked Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika Virus, and as Congress leaves for a 7-week break, we haven’t approved any funding. With a potential public health crisis upon us, Americans are looking to Congress to set politics aside and address the impending threat of this virus in a responsible way. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues continued to put partisanship ahead of prevention – insisting that funds to combat the Zika virus be cobbled together by cutting funding to our ongoing efforts combatting Ebola, pilfering the Affordable Care Act, and cutting family planning and contraception initiatives that could help prevent the birth of children with microcephaly caused by Zika infections in women. I have never supported measures that rob Peter to pay Paul, and that is what would have been done by the Zika funding measure rejected by the Senate yesterday.

I am also disappointed that legislation approved by the Senate earlier this week to battle our nation’s opioid and heroin epidemic provides no funding for this crucial effort. Our country’s prescription drug and heroin epidemic has caused irreparable harm to families and communities alike, and this legislation, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, contains a lot of good proposals to help us save lives and help those suffering and struggling with addiction. However, without any investments in the programs created by this bill, Congress falls short on making real progress in addressing this heartbreaking epidemic.

In fact, Congress has yet to send any of the 12 annual appropriations bills funding the federal government to the president for his signature. One of the most fundamental, important responsibilities of Congress is to approve funding every year and keep the government open for business. 

While I regret we are going to spend so much time out of session this summer, I am an optimist by nature, and I look forward to returning to Washington in September and working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to show the American people we can get things done.