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Public Statements

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

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - November 17, 2005)

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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to oppose the Labor-HHS-Education conference report, which is the most recent evidence that working and middle class Americans are paying the price for the Republican economic agenda of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Not only does this immoral budget fail to provide for what the American people need now, it also fails to address what it will take to be economically competitive in the future.

Overall, the conference report cuts education, health care, and human services by $1.5 billion from what was spent on these efforts last year. Meanwhile, Republicans will spend $11 billion this week on a capital gains and dividend income tax cut that will provide 53 percent of its benefit to people making more than $1 million per year. Their plan spends more on tax cuts this week alone ($70 billion) than on both the Department of Education and the Department of Labor ($68 billion) for an entire year.

Funding for education is also cut by $784 million, the first time the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act will have been cut since the law was enacted. Title I, which is the core of NCLB's efforts to improve reading and math skills, receives the smallest increase in eight years. Because it fails to keep pace with our growing population, 3.1 million low-income children will be left behind.

A program for which I have consistently advocated is Mathematics & Science Partnerships. Under this program, grants are first made to states, which, in turn, make grants to partnerships that must include a state agency; an engineering, math or science department of a college or university; and a high-need school district. Grantees use these funds to establish rigorous math and science programs; recruit math, science and engineering majors into teaching; and improve the teaching skills of math and science teachers. Without significant investment in math and science education, we will not be competitive with countries like China who are graduating nine times the number of engineering students that we are producing in America. Unfortunately, this conference report appropriates $6 million less than the House passed earlier this year and $85 million (32 percent) less than the President's request.

Also important for long term economic competitiveness is the Educational Technology State Grants Program. Like math and science partnerships this program received $25 million less than the House bill, $150 million (35 percent) less than the Senate bill, and $221 million (45 percent) less than the current appropriation. This is exactly the wrong direction to be taking the country. We can not stay globally competitive if we are not teaching our children the skills and knowledge they will need to be the innovators of tomorrow.

Education for the disabled is also slashed. This bill cuts the Federal share of special education costs from 18.6 percent in FY 2005 to 18.0 percent by providing the smallest increase for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in a decade. The bill provides $4 billion less than Republicans promised for IDEA.

Similarly, the bill cuts $17 million for vocational education. This cut will force local school boards to raise funds or cut other services to make up the shortfall. This will not prepare our children with the high tech vocational education they will need to obtain a job that pays well but for which a college degree is not necessary.

With 7.4 million Americans out of work it is unclear to me why Republicans are cutting the Community College Initiative. This initiative would train workers for high skill, high paying jobs, yet it is being reduced by $125 million, denying this assistance to 100,000 Americans of a continued education to help them get a new job. This bill also cuts job search assistance through the Employment Service by $89 million (11 percent) and unemployment insurance by $245 million (7 percent), eliminating help for 1.9 million people.

This bill is no better for those attending college full-time. Despite the fact that higher education is increasingly expensive, the majority has decided not to increase the maximum Pell grant. Rather it is being frozen for the fourth straight year, and no new funding is provided for any other student financial aid and support programs, even though college costs have increased by $3,095 (34 percent) since 2001.

College students are not the only ones left out in the cold by this bill. Families and seniors who cannot afford to pay the expected 46 percent increase for natural gas and 28 percent for home heating oil this winter will have to get by without energy assistance from the federal government. For some reason Republicans have refused to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps keep the heat on for people who cannot otherwise heat their homes in winter.

As this bill hurts families' ability to pay for college and heat their homes, it also deals a blow to their ability to receive healthcare. Nearly 46 million Americans are without health insurance, yet Republicans provide virtually no funding for new Community Health Centers beyond the amount approved last year. They also eliminate the Healthy Communities Access Program altogether along with the state planning grants to improve health care coverage. Where do the Republicans find the moral justification to cut these programs while planning to pass another $70 billion tax cut for the top 1%?

The bill does little to prepare for long-term healthcare concerns or invest in medical research. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is cut $249 million (3.9 percent). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) receives a (0.7 percent) increase--its smallest increase in 36 years, and not enough to keep the number of research grants from declining for the second year in a row. How are we supposed to remain the world leader in health research with funding numbers like this?

I believe American leadership is fueled by national investments in an educated and skilled workforce, groundbreaking federal research, and a steadfast commitment to being the most competitive and innovative Nation in the world. We must make the decision now to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation and competitiveness. This bill takes us in the opposite direction.

America's global leadership in technological advancement and innovation is being seriously challenged by other countries. The warning signs could not be clearer. The rest of the world is increasing its capacity, its investments, and its will to catch up with us. We cannot ignore this challenge. Americans again must innovate in order to create new thriving industries that will produce millions of good jobs here at home and a better future for our children. Today this bill moves us further away from achieving this goal.

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