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Public Statements

Congressional Budget for the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET FOR THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008--Continued -- (Senate - March 22, 2007)

AMENDMENT NO. 536

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise tonight to discuss for a few minutes amendment No. 536, which has been filed by my colleague from Georgia, Senator Isakson, and myself. In offering this amendment to the budget resolution, we truly believe it is a fair amendment and puts children first, in the way the State Children's Health Insurance Program was intended.

When SCHIP was created in 1997, it was instituted to do exactly what the name states: provide health care coverage to uninsured children. I do not believe you will find anyone here who disagrees with that purpose because it provides health insurance to hard-working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy private insurance.

There has been a lot of discussion about the long-term aspects of that program lately, and rightfully so. However, some States are using their SCHIP funding to cover adults, and that is not the intention of this program. In fact, three States have more adults as enrollees than children. There are 12 States that will spend almost $807 million of their SCHIP money on more than 671,000 adults this year.

When we talk about children's health care, two of the components that are critical include dental care and mental health care. That is the specific focus of our amendment. Our proposal would eliminate States in receiving an enhanced SCHIP matching rate for adults who are covered under the SCHIP program. If States continue to choose to insure adults with SCHIP funds, they will receive a lower Federal match instead of the normal SCHIP match. We think this approach makes the most sense because SCHIP was created to cover children.

The increased Federal match was created as an incentive for States to cover these kids, not adults. This new lower match rate for adults will free up funding to create a budget-neutral reserve fund to provide for dental and mental health benefits for children. So, again, our amendment simply says this: If States want to use their SCHIP funds to cover adults, which is a decision States may choose to make, they will receive the Medicaid matching rate.

We are not saying the States should not provide health insurance coverage for adults who need it. At the same time it is important to emphasize that SCHIP funding is for kids. Our amendment uses this funding intended for children for two very important components of children's health care, that being dental care and mental health.

I believe we must craft policies to ensure the greatest number of children are provided quality health care and quality dental care. I was extremely saddened to hear recently of a 12-year-old boy in Prince George's County, MD, who died from a toothache and an inability to find proper care. I do not know whether this child was on an SCHIP program or was on Medicaid. But this is only one example of the need for increased access to dental care for children. It is heartbreaking and inexcusable that something as tragic as this could happen, when a routine tooth extraction may have saved this young boy's life.

Parents know and understand that things as routine as dental care are critically important to a child's overall health. Tooth decay remains a prevalent, chronic disease, and is the single most common childhood disease nationwide. It is five times as common as asthma, and, unfortunately, minority, low-income, and geographically isolated children suffer disproportionately from this disease. Eighty percent of all tooth decay is found in only 25 percent of children. These are the children the SCHIP program was created to help. We can and we must do better for these kids. This amendment does exactly what we ought to be doing with SCHIP, namely providing health insurance coverage for children, not adults.

I urge my colleagues to do what is right and support this amendment.

AMENDMENT NO. 619

Mr. President, let me very quickly talk about one other amendment I have filed. It is amendment No. 619. This particular amendment deals with the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant Program, which is commonly referred to as the Byrne/JG Program. It is an amendment which Senator Feinstein, Senator Isakson, Senator Graham, and I have filed. The Byrne/JG Program is the primary provider of Federal criminal justice funding to State and local jurisdictions. The funding supports all components of the criminal justice system from multijurisdictional drug and gang task forces to community crime prevention programs, to substance abuse programs, prosecution initiatives, domestic violence programs, and information-sharing initiatives.

I will tell you that our law enforcement officials, our sheriffs, our prosecutors, our drug court professionals, and many of our public servants in the law enforcement arena rely on this funding to make our communities safer. The results they get with this funding are tangible and real.

In February of last year, the Iowa Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy conducted a survey to obtain a clearer, quantifiable, and more complete national picture of the Byrne/JG program's impact on drug and criminal efforts in America. This survey focused on the 2004 grant year and found that drug enforcement task forces funded by the Byrne/JG program in 45 States made more than 221,000 drug arrests. The achievements of those multijurisdictional drug enforcement task forces are impressive.

For example, 45 States reported seizing almost 18,000 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated consumer street value of over $1.6 billion. Forty States reported seizing just shy of 5,500 kilograms of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $518 million.

The States participating in this survey reported the total value of drugs seized at over $12 billion. This figure represents more than $63 dollars in seized drugs for every dollar spent on drug task forces. This is indeed an amendment which will reinstate the level of funding for the Byrne/JG Program to last year's level. We are not asking it to be any higher than that. By doing that, we will allow our law enforcement community to continue to provide the type of safety and protection citizens all across America want.

Before I yield the floor, I wish to note several well-respected organizations, including the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, the National Sheriffs' Association, the National District Attorneys' Association, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the National Criminal Justice Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police support this robust funding for the program.

I encourage my colleagues to support amendment No. 619.

Mr. President, I ask that my entire statement be inserted into the Record.


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