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Public Statements

Department Of Labor, Health And Human Services, And Education, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 18, 2007)

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Mr. COOPER. Mr. Chairman, there is no Member of this House that I respect more than the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Obey. He has the toughest job in this body: To chair the full Appropriations Committee, to carry one of the largest bills and to do such a superb job at reconciling the interests of 435 Members of this body from all corners of the Nation. So it is with great regret, Mr. Chairman, that I rise to offer any amendment to this bill. But the need is great.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities all across America need help, and they need help now. And the chairman, to his credit, provides help. He upped the amount by $11 million to $249 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He also has some $57 million for Historically Black Graduate Schools. But, Mr. Chairman, I suggest that is not enough.

That is why my amendment would add $125 million to these marvelous institutions. It is about a 40 percent increase instead of a 4 percent increase in their funding. I would take this money from the Department of Education, their administrative fund. I will admit this is not my favorite place to get the money. But under the rules, I have to get the money at a place in the bill after page 90.

So my intent is this: To give HBCUs, Historically Black Institutions, higher priority and much higher funding. I trust the discretion of the Appropriations Committee to get that money from an appropriate place in the bill.

Mr. Chairman, I yield to my colleague from Memphis, Tennessee (Mr. Cohen).

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Mr. COOPER. Reclaiming my time, Mr. Chairman, these are marvelous Historically Black Institutions and today they serve a wide spectrum, people of all races and backgrounds. But, most importantly, so many of these students are first-generation college students. They deserve a chance to live the American dream; to become the doctors, the lawyers, the artists, the poets, the engineers and the scientists of the future.

These institutions serve a vital role in our society. As the gentleman from Memphis pointed out, their funding has essentially been frozen for the last 4 or 5 years. To offer them only a 4 1/2 percent increase this year is good, but it is not enough. That is why I think we need to reach deep, to increase the funding substantially, so that they know that the year 2007 was the year in which they saw a dramatic increase as opposed to the prior year of funding freeze.

I have the greatest respect for the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Obey. My wish is not to add to the difficulty of his task. But so many of these institutions are teetering on the edge. They need help, they need help now, and they need large amounts of help. That is why we have offered this amendment to increase funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities by $125 million. Please support this amendment.

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Mr. Chairman, there is no Member of this Congress I admire more than Chairman OBEY. He has the toughest job in Congress, to lead the entire Appropriations Committee, to carry the single largest appropriations bill of $153 billion, and to reconcile the needs and desires of 435 Members of Congress from all corners of the Nation. Another reason the job is so tough is that Chairman OBEY also has to listen to more blather than anyone else in Congress. So it is with great regret that I rise to offer any amendment to his handiwork.

My amendment would increase the funding for historically Black colleges and universities, and for historically Black graduate schools by $125 million. The chairman's mark already includes $249.5 million for these schools and $57 million for HBGLs, so my amendment offers a 40-percent increase in HBCU funding. My amendment would take that funding from the Department of Education Departmental Management Program Administration Account. I would agree that this is perhaps not the ideal source of funding, but due to procedural rules that limited me to finding offsets after page 90 in the bill, that is the best I was allowed to do.

My intent is to give higher priority--and much higher funding--to historically Black colleges, universities, and graduate schools, and that their increase in funding be offset in ways that the Appropriations Committee deems most appropriate in conference.

The key point is to boost these marvelous historically Black institutions. Most of these schools were born soon after the Civil War and have served America well by training the doctors, lawyers, scientists, poets, business people, professors, engineers, etc. that America needs. Today they serve Blacks, Whites, and a wide range of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Many of these students are first-generation college students trying to live the American dream by getting a good education and a good job. I have the honor of representing three of these institutions in Nashville: Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, as well as American Baptist College. But there are dozens of historically black colleges scattered over dozens of States. Many of today's Members of Congress attended these fine schools, and probably would not be in Congress without the education they received from these institutions. All of these historically Black colleges and universities are a vital part of America's history, and our future.

The chairman's mark already gives these historically Black institutions a 4.5 percent increase. I appreciate that, but I cannot help but notice that, after 4 years of no increase in Federal funding, that 4.5 percent is not enough to do the job, in fact, it's not enough to even offset the effects of inflation. These historically Black colleges, universities, and graduate schools need more of an increase than that--much more--to continue their extraordinary mission of reaching the poor, minorities, and the disenfranchised of all races, and to help them get the education they need.

Please support the C ooper amendment to increase Federal aid to historically Black colleges and universities. This is your chance to make sure that everyone has a better chance to live the American dream.

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