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Departments of Laobr , Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - October 27, 2005)

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Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 2239.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the pending amendment is set aside.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To provide funding for the purchase of rapid oral HIV tests)

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

SEC. __. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall use amounts appropriated under title II for the purchase of not less than 1,000,000 rapid oral HIV tests.

DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006

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Mr. SANTORUM. This is an amendment that is to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to purchase of no less than 1 million rapid oral HIV tests.

As we all know, the problem of HIV and the spread of HIV continues to be a problem. Experts tell us that over half of all new HIV cases are as a result of someone who was unaware of their HIV status. The idea is having better testing out there, along with oral testing where it does not require any drawing of blood or needles--obviously, for a lot of folks that is a concern. This provides a safe effective way to be able to get these results in a timely fashion to give people the notice they need before they engage in an activity that might cause the further spread of the HIV virus.

I understand from my colleague from Pennsylvania, this is an amendment he is willing to accept. If there is no discussion, I urge agreement of the amendment.

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The Senator from Pennsylvania [Mr. SANTORUM] proposes an amendment numbered 2241.

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Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, this is a commission, a bipartisan bicameral commission, that will be set up as a result of this amendment that would undertake a comprehensive and thoughtful review of Federal social service programs and make recommendations that would be appropriate to provide beneficiaries more choice in how they receive their social services that are paid for from the Federal Government.

One of the things I hear as I work in communities that heavily rely on social services, a lot of places where they would like to get social services--community-based organizations, in some cases faith-based organizations--are not able. They either do not qualify for Federal funds or do not have the technical expertise to get Federal funds. The President has put forward a faith-based initiative. The Congress has passed charitable choice legislation. We have done a lot to try to get more providers in social services involved, and even in some areas provide more flexibility--such as vouchers for certain services that are out there so people can take that voucher and get the services from qualified places.

There is still a level of frustration out in the community. I think we need to do a more comprehensive job in looking at how we address the issue of giving people choices as to how they get their social services. I think this is a way to bring some of the best minds that we have into the social service delivery area, folks from both the House and the Senate and the White House, appointees, to sit down and look to see, is there a better mousetrap than the current system of social service delivery? Is there a better way for us to restructure some of these programs to give more efficient and effective services at less cost and with more consumer buy-in and choice?

One of the reasons some of our social services plans do not work very well is people do not interface well with the delivery systems in place right now. This commission would be tasked to determine how we can, in fact, remove some of these barriers to folks who do not access the social services systems.

One of the big problems we have continually with a lot of our programs--whether it is health programs, housing programs, rehabilitation programs, or other programs--is we have large segments of the community that simply do not participate. They may be eligible for services, but they do not participate in the services. So we have to figure out: How do we better reach these people? How do we better make these services available in such a way that we can actually start reaching people in how they live their lives and in a way that meets their needs?

As far as the money for this commission, I have asked that it be such sums as may be determined by the committee. Hopefully, they will allocate such resources they have available to stand up this commission. But, to me, it is important we get better utilization. For my mind, just giving more money to the different Departments to figure out ways to advertise or to do things to bump up their enrollment in some of these programs has been tried in the past, and it basically does not work very well. I think we need to at least have some of our best minds look at this together, as to how we could redesign this system and get recommendations given to the Congress as to how we can do a better job providing services.

With that, Mr. President, I urge the adoption of the amendment.

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Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, this is the first time I have seen this amendment. This is setting up a congressional commission on expanding social service delivery options. I have no problem with that.

But the way it is spelled out and everything, I would ask the Senator from Pennsylvania, the author of the amendment, has this been brought up before the authorizing committee? Has there been any hearing on this? Has there ever been a hearing on this, or has the authorizing committee acted on this at all? This is authorization on an appropriations bill.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the Senator from Pennsylvania is recognized.

Mr. SANTORUM. Thank you, Mr. President.

Mr. President, we have discussed it with the members of the Finance Committee which, as you know, I am a member of. To my knowledge, I am not aware of any objection on the part of the Finance Committee as to this particular provision. I will be offering a couple other amendments promptly which are under the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee which they do object to, which I will just offer and withdraw. But to my knowledge, they have not objected to this particular amendment.

Mr. HARKIN. Again, I thank the Senator. I personally do not have any problem with it, but this is something I think--I always have a little question when any Senator, on this side of the aisle or that side, anywhere, has a pretty thick amendment that involves commissions and how you select commissions and what they do.

I have not even had a chance to read this amendment. I don't even know what is in it.

Again, I ask my friend from Pennsylvania, has this amendment, in its present form, been submitted to either the Finance Committee or the HELP Committee? They probably share jurisdiction there. Have they looked at it to see if there are any objections to this?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, the Senator from Pennsylvania.

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, to my knowledge, we filed the amendment. My staff has discussed it, I know, with the Finance Committee. I do not know about any other committees. This is not a bill I introduced and has gone to committee. This is something I have brought up on this bill.

So to answer your question, I think, as directly as I can, no, we have not filed this with the Finance Committee as a bill to have them review it as a bill in committee, if that is your question.

Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I wonder if the Senator from Pennsylvania--well, you have offered the amendment. That is fine. The amendment is at the desk. I wonder if we might put off voting on this amendment.

Mr. SANTORUM. I would be happy to.

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Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, I perfectly understand what the concerns are of the Senator from Iowa and would be happy to work with him over the next several hours to get that amendment cleared.

AMENDMENT NO. 2237

Mr. President, I ask that amendment No. 2237 be called up and ask for its immediate consideration.

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(The amendment is printed in the RECORD of Tuesday, October 25, 2005, under ``Text of Amendments.'')

Mr. SANTORUM. Thank you, Mr. President. The next two amendments I am going to be talking about are amendments that I have offered and on which I want to have a discussion. They are in the subject area of this appropriations bill, but they are provisions that, as my colleague from Pennsylvania advised me, rightfully belong as amendments to a welfare bill.

But as Members of this Chamber know, we have not had the privilege in the Senate of having a welfare bill come across this floor, even though the welfare bill of 1996 expired a couple of years ago. We have passed extension after extension. As a result of that, the work requirements in the welfare reform bill of 1996--which have been so effective in transforming the lives of millions of Americans who were trapped in the welfare system--those work requirements in most States have gone away because the requirements only required that 50 percent of the caseload, at the time of the passage of the bill, had to be working.

Well, we reduced the caseload more than 50 percent, therefore the work requirements went away for the caseload
that is remaining. So many States have begun to sort of go back to the pre-1996 provision of welfare. It is easier for States to do that. Work programs cost money to the States. Other initiatives to try to help people get out of poverty, they cost money. So if you do not have to spend that money as a State, if you can just simply continue to pay out the money and not have to provide all these other services, it is a lot cheaper for States to do. In fact, that is what States did for years upon years upon years, as the welfare rolls grew.

There is still a time limit, so that is a good thing. That causes a lot of people, in spite of the lack of effort in many cases by States, to move themselves off of welfare because of the limits on the ability to get relief. But I believe we can do better. So I have many times come to the floor of the Senate and asked for consideration of the bill, asked for a specific number of amendments, and, candidly, we have had objections from both sides of the aisle. I think that is unfortunate.

So as a result, I have brought forward amendments to this bill on two programs that I think are vitally important in the next step on welfare. We did a great job in the welfare reform bill of 1996 in providing an economic path to recovery for millions of Americans, in providing incentives to work. We made work pay more than staying on welfare. In many cases prior to that, that was not the case.

We also did a lot in providing strict time limits and giving States very tough provisions to require work as a way of getting people out of poverty, instead of simply just allowing them to be maintained in poverty. It gave them a requirement that a certain percentage of the caseload had to be at work. That is all for the good. We saw the rate of poverty from 1996 to the year 2001--until we had, unfortunately, a recession in this country--we saw the rate of poverty go down, and go down dramatically.

One of the greatest indicators is poverty among African-American children. Poverty among African-American children, in the year 2001, was the lowest ever recorded--lowest ever recorded--and was a dramatic decline from one of the highest rates ever recorded, which was in the mid-1990s. So you can point directly to this act as a way of helping to alleviate poverty.

But I think what we have found since 1996, yes, we have had economic successes, but still there are people struggling at the margins of society. One of the reasons that is the case is, even though we now have moms who have gotten jobs--and it was predominantly moms who were on welfare--what they have not gotten is families brought back together. What we have not seen is an increase in the amount of family unification, moms and dads coming together and marrying and raising children in poor communities.

In fact, the rate of out-of-wedlock births has not changed substantially at all in most of these communities. The amount of fatherlessness in these communities continues to be of epidemic proportions. And we now have folks on the left and the right writing about this. This is no longer just a conservative cabal when we talk about family unification; families, mothers and fathers raising children. Now even those on the left have said there is no longer an argument. Children raised in healthy, stable, two-parent married families do better.

It should be a social policy to encourage those kinds of relationships for the benefit of children, for the benefit of mothers, for the benefit of fathers, for the benefit of neighborhoods, for the benefit of the country. Yet when it comes to that here in Washington, DC, when it comes to public policy that helps build those strong relationships, that helps nurture and foster those relationships of marriage and fathers taking responsibility for their children, the Government stands in absolute neutrality.

We do nothing to promote stable marriages. We do nothing, other than attach fathers' wages and get child support and establish paternity. We do nothing to help nurture and bring fathers back into the lives of their children and into productive and healthy relationships with the mother of their children.

What I have suggested, in both amendment No. 2237 and No. 2238, are two initiatives that are better placed and will be placed and will be debated in full on the welfare bill. One is a healthy marriage initiative. The second is a fatherhood initiative. Both would provide funding.

Let's review some of the statistics of the impact of marriage. This was done by the Brookings Institution. Those on the other side of the aisle will know that the Brookings Institution is not often cited on the Republican side of the aisle. It shows you that the debate is over. There is no debate anymore about the impact of marriage and the impact of having fathers involved in their children's lives. I talked about the effectiveness of five factors in reducing poverty rates. We hear a lot of talk on both sides of the aisle--unfortunately, more on the other side of the aisle--about reducing poverty. Hopefully, that will change soon.

In 1992, we did what was, in fact, the most effective thing in reducing poverty, this study found. The most effective thing was not to double cash welfare payments. Some on the other side of the aisle have suggested that all we need to do is pay people more from the Government. If we give them more, they will get out of poverty. Wrong. That doesn't work. In fact, the percentage reduction in poverty rates, if we doubled cash welfare, would only decrease the poverty rate by 8 percent.

What did work? Full-time work. Full-time work decreases the poverty rate by 42 percent. We have done that. We have required work, not full-time work, but we require 20 hours. The bill that is being proposed, that we have yet to bring to the floor, requires 24 hours. But we have required work, and it is working to take people out of poverty.

What is the next biggest factor in reducing poverty? Again, according to the Brookings Institution report, an increase in marriage. We did something to require work. Many States have more generous welfare benefits than what is prescribed by the Federal Government. In fact, I know there is some money out there for healthy marriages, but very few States and very little Federal money goes to do anything about helping to improve the health of marriage among the poor. It is vitally important that we recognize that there is a direct social-policy, social-service-community, child-mother-father benefit for encouraging healthy marriages. The Federal Government doesn't spend a penny. This Congress has not spent a penny on something we know could reduce poverty by 27 percent and, more importantly, provide more stability in the lives of children, reduce domestic violence, and improve the lives of millions in communities across America. We will not spend a penny this year. That is why I offered the amendment, because I want to spend more than a few pennies, because we know it has an impact.

What impact does it have? Let's look at the benefits of marriage for children: better school performance and less dropouts; fewer emotional and behavioral problems; less substance abuse; less abuse or neglect; less criminal activity; less early sexual activity and fewer out-of-wedlock births. I am not too sure I know anybody who doesn't think all of those things are good. The Federal Government doesn't spend a penny.

Think of all the things we spend money on in Washington. One of the things you hear most when you go back home is all the waste, fraud, all the money we throw at projects for which people have no rhyme or reason as to why we spend the money. Yet here is something that we know will help children, mothers, fathers, neighborhoods, will build on a stronger America, and we don't spend one red cent.

You might ask the question: Why is that, Senator? Why don't we spend any money on this? Let me tell you what some of my colleagues on the Finance Committee have said. The response was: Well, who are we to impose our values on other folks; who are we to suggest that marriage is something the Federal Government should be concerned with; that is a private matter.

Is this a private matter? Is less substance abuse a private matter? Is less abuse and neglect a private matter? Is less criminal activity a private matter? This isn't a private matter. We are talking about policies that have a direct impact on the health and safety of children. It is not a private matter. Supporting healthy marriages is a public good. If you think about all the
other things we spend money on, I can't imagine anything that would be a more valuable expenditure than to provide more stable families for children growing up in poor neighborhoods.

The second amendment is an offshoot of the first. That is to try to bring fathers who have children out of wedlock back and get them involved in their children's lives--not necessarily to marry, but to have them involved. I was at a conference within the last year where Jason DeParle, a writer from the New York Times, was giving a talk. He was talking about a book he had written, following three women in Milwaukee, WI, post welfare reform of 1996. He wrote about many things, about how welfare reform is working in some ways and not in others. One way he talked about where it wasn't working was with regard to fathers. There was a question from the crowd about who these dads are. We are not talking about the best neighborhoods in America when it comes to crime, wealth. We are talking about a lot of dads who, yes, were or even are incarcerated, were or still are dealing with addiction, dealing with unemployment, dealing with a whole host of other maladies that affect large segments of our population.

The question was: Do we want these dads involved in the lives of these children? I thought that was a bold question. Jason's answer was, in a word--I won't quote him, because I didn't write it down--well, they may not be the best role models of dads, but they are still their dads. These children, like all of us children, want to be loved by their dads. They need that love, as imperfect as it is. As a dad, I know how imperfect it can be. We all do. But it is still your dad.

These programs are not perfect. We are not bringing ``Father Knows Best'' Robert Young dads back into the home. We understand that. But these children still long for their dad. Do we have a Federal program that helps bring dads back into the home? Do we spend any Federal dollars to help reunite fathers with their children, in spite of all the benefits that we know about two parents? No, we don't. We will spend more money on daycare, billions more on daycare. We will spend more money on afterschool programs, Head Start Programs, early programs, late programs, noon programs. We will spend all sorts of money on Government programs. But will we spend a penny to help reunite a father with his children? No. Who are we to impose our values, is the line I hear.

Did anyone ever ask a kid whether he wants his dad back? What kind of value is that? We need to start thinking about how important it is for young children growing up in a hostile world in poor neighborhoods in America to have a shot to be with their dad and to start funding those groups who are out there--and there are hundreds across America who are working hard every day on a shoestring--to help dads be a dad.

I can't offer this amendment because it is authorizing on an appropriations bill. We aren't going to get a welfare bill, so kids across America are going to have to wait a little longer while Congress decides whether we want to take the time to help find their dad. Hopefully we can find the time sometime soon. The kids are waiting.

I yield the floor.


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