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Public Statements

Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2004

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I want to thank both Senator Specter and Senator Harkin for their hard work on this important legislation which provides Federal Funding for the Departments of Labor, DOL, Health and Human Services, HHS, and Education, and related agencies. It funds programs that are among the most critical to the health and well-being of our Nation. With our military forces deployed abroad and a struggling domestic economy here at home, providing for and protecting our Nation has never been more challenging or more important.

The funding provided by this bill for domestic health programs is critical for our country, States and local governments.
Given the poor state of our national economy and the rising number of unemployed and uninsured Americans, as well as the budget crises facing most State governments, resources provided by this legislation will help meet the substantial health care needs of our Nation's vulnerable populations.

I am pleased that this legislation provides increased funding for a number of programs that are particularly important in light of the many threats facing our Nation today. This bill increases funding for the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, CDC, which plays a vital role in protecting our nation from bioterror attacks and ensuring adequate preparedness for health emergencies. With the recent threat of foreign born illnesses such as SARS and Monkey Pox, increased funding for the Infectious Disease Initiative is especially important and will ensure quick response to public health threats.

Additionally, this bill increases funding for National Institutes of Health, NIH, by $1 billion over the last fiscal year. That increase will enable the continuation and expansion of research into treatments and cures for chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, new infectious diseases that threaten our Nation's safety, and diseases that disproportionally affect older Americans, such as Alzheimer's. I have strongly supported doubling the amount of the NIH budget, and I am pleased that its funding continues to increase.

In addition to funding key public health programs, this bill provides funding to help States and local communities educate our children. I applaud the fact that funding for education for individuals with disabilities and programs to improve educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged students have been increased in this bill. I also am pleased that this legislation increases funding for Head Start to ensure that low-income children are physically and mentally prepared to begin school.

These and the many other important programs funded throughout this legislation will help many Americans. However, I am disappointed to find that the report accompanying this bill is laden with directives and suggestive language that predetermines which programs may receive funding. This language eliminates the ability of the agencies funded by this bill to determine, by a fair and competitive process, which programs to fund. This is yet another example of the micro-management of federal agencies at the hands of the appropriators.

I would like to note that both the bill and the report contain only a handful of earmarks, and I commend the Appropriations Committee for its restraint. I encourage the members of the Committee to resist the temptation to weigh down this important bill with locally specific parochial projects when the bill is negotiated with the House of Representatives during conference. Unfortunately, however, the list of directive and suggestive language included in the actual bill language and the accompanying report are extensive, and I will not burden the chamber by listing each one individually. Instead, I highlight a few examples:

In the report language, for the Department of Labor, the Committee "recommends" $7 million for the Denali Commission for job training in rural Alaska. The funding is intended to train rural Alaskans for high-paying jobs in their villages. Any doubt as to whether the appropriators wanted this funding to occur is dispelled by the fact that the bill language authorizes "such sums as may be necessary" to the Denali Commission to conduct this Alaskan job training. Although this specific authority and funding was unrequested by the Administration, the appropriators apparently think they know better. They not only provide the appropriation, but they also want to do the work of the authorizing committee as well. How fortunate it is that this activity in the State of Alaska has such ardent supporters in the members of the Appropriations Committee and has received special treatment at the expense of other states.

Furthermore, the report language expresses the Committee's concern about the Department of Labor's reorganization proposal, which would close the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, offices in Bangor and Portland,
Maine, and would consolidate the activities of those offices in Augusta, Maine. Instead of allowing DOL to do their job and streamline the operations of OSHA, the Committee in its report, "expects" the Department of Labor to maintain the existing organizational structure with offices in Bangor and in Portland, including providing adequate office space for the current Bangor OSHA staff. Again, the appropriators are catering to a locality-specific interest in Maine at the expense of the national interest in having a more efficient government agency.

Furthermore, this legislation includes legislative and report language that creates a new National Cord Blood Stem Cell Bank Program, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, and appropriates $10 million for the new program.
This program may further important life-saving research; however, this is a new legislative initiative, not authorized by the committee of jurisdiction, and not requested by the Administration, but created and funded entirely by the appropriators.

Similarly, the report language accompanying the bill includes directive and suggestive language for the Department of Health and Human Services to initiate a number of new programs, all of which may be worthy of consideration; however, none have been requested or authorized. These programs range from the creation of a Diamond Blackfan Anemia Clinical Care
Center to $500,000 allocated for the CDC to create a registry and database of children nationwide with craniofacial malformation. Although these new programs will undoubtedly benefit many children and individuals, they are further examples of new programs created the appropriators, by circumventing the authorizing committee of jurisdiction.

Also included in the report is language directing HHS and the Department of Education to complete over 20 reports, all at the specific request of the Appropriations Committee. These reports concern important programs within the Departments, but producing them will require substantial manpower and time, diverting scarce and valuable resources to projects dictated by the Appropriations Committee.

With this sluggish economy expected to push this year's budget deficit past a whopping $450 billion and numerous threats facing our nation, funds must be expended on programs that will provide the maximum benefit for all Americans. It cannot be spent on unauthorized and unrequested projects and reports demanded by members of the Appropriations Committee.
This is simply wrong and does a disservice to all Americans.

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