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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 19, 2007)

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Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I just want to remind my colleagues of some important facts as we deliberate on these earmarks. I think it is very important to understand that we have reduced the dollar value of earmarks in this bill by 50 percent from the levels that the Republicans had when they were running this House of Representatives. A 50 percent reduction. We have cut 41 wasteful programs from the budget in this appropriations bill. We have saved over $1 billion over last year.

So instead of getting involved in the intricacies of one earmark after another, let's keep focused on the facts that count. And the fact that counts is that we reduced this budget and slashed those earmarks in half.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

I appreciate the gentleman's argument. At least his argument is consistent. I appreciate the gentleman's integrity, and I appreciate the principles of his argument. But I must say, sitting here listening to some of the other Members on the other side of the aisle consistently raises issues of inconsistency.

The gentleman who's offered this amendment has said we should go back to last year. That's all we're doing is going back to last year so we can hold the line on spending. Why we would want to go back to last year? When last year was there ever an attempt to hold the line on spending?

Mr. Chairman, the other side spent and spent and spent and borrowed and borrowed and borrowed. The difference between us is we want to invest in America's families. The other side, Mr. Chairman, decided to spend to give special interest giveaways. We want to spend to make sure that kids can get Pell Grants and go to college and compete in the global economy. They wanted to spend on no-bid contracts to Halliburton. We want to spend to make sure that seniors can heat their homes in the winter because of high oil prices. They wanted to spend on $13 billion in tax cuts for oil company executives who I don't think are eligible for LIHEAP. That's the difference between us.

We just had a debate earlier about the propriety of Members of Congress putting their names on projects that are funded by the Federal Government. I would suggest to my good friends that if there were an earmark for a facility called the Congressional Hypocrisy Treatment Foundation, there wouldn't be a plaque large enough for all of their names.

Mr. Chairman, with that, I yield 1 minute to the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The gentleman just said the things that they are investing in and implying that the Democrats are making these investments. Yes, we are making these investments. They are investments in strengthening American families, making sure kids can go to college, making sure people can afford to heat their homes.

I will tell you something else, it's not just us, this bill came out of appropriations with a strong bipartisan majority. The most conservative Members of the other side voted for this bill. It's not that we are making these investments as Democrats, it's that most mainstream Members of Congress, with responsibilities to our districts, are making these investments.

Now, maybe there are some who are so far on the other side, so far on the fringe, that they would argue with their own conservative Members that an investment in college education is a bad idea. But the fact of the matter is, they are in a very, very small minority.

This bill has strong bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee. Republicans and Democrats work together despite the opposition from such a fringe minority.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan).

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Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, the differences we have heard in this debate are entirely clear. We want to, with Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, who by a widespread margin supported this bill. We want to continue to invest in America's families and in their future. A very small group of Members on the other side want to continue going to the past where they were spending taxpayer dollars on special interest giveaways.

There are people, in all of our districts, who are scratching their heads trying to figure out how they are going to send their kids to college so they can compete in a global economy. The President wants to slash or eliminate college affordability programs for 1.5 million students.

Now, that's why Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee supported investments that will make additional Pell Grants available so that people who are working hard, playing by the rules, and want their kids to advance can send their kids to college. This isn't a radical idea.

This was a bipartisan consensus on the Appropriations Committee. But those who are offering these cutbacks don't agree with Republicans and Democrats who believe in making investments so that people who play by the rules and work hard can send their kids to college.

There are people in our districts who are trying to figure out how they are going to pay for their skyrocketing home heating oil costs. The President wants to cut home heating oil programs by $379 million and take away assistance to 1.5 million people.

That's why Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee agreed that we should invest a fraction of that, $880 million to make sure that an additional 1 million people can pay their heating oil bills. Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, bipartisan, there are a few who say, no, no, we should continue giving tax cuts to big oil company executives rather than giving people the ability, helping people with the ability to pay their home heating oil costs.

There are people in our districts who can't figure out what to do if they get cancer, how they are going to have access to health care programs. The President wants to cut medical research at the NIH by $480 million and cut preventive health care services by $220 million. That's why Democrats and Republicans join together on the Appropriations Committee to invest $1.3 billion to improve health care access and help 1 million Americans receive treatment and increase investments in NIH.

This is about priorities, bipartisan common-sense priorities. This is about those of us on both sides of the aisle who believe that we should invest in strengthening America's families and a very small group who believe that we should continue to borrow to give away money to the special interests.

I want to conclude by reminding my colleagues how we go about making these investments, not by raising taxes. They are going to keep saying it and saying it and saying it. That's not how we do it. We cut 41 programs. We slashed earmarks in half. We saved $1 billion.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's plea. I will again remind my colleagues that Republicans and Democrats on a bipartisan basis came together in support of these investments in America's families. I do not recall the gentleman coming to the floor arguing for a 1 percent cutback when it was time to give rich oil company executives a $14 billion tax cut.

I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from California.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I would just say to the gentlewoman that in fact she may not be getting calls from people saying that it's harder for their kids to afford college, or that gas prices are getting higher, or that they're worried about their health care. But many Republicans and Democrats are getting those calls, which is why there wasn't a single Republican in the Appropriations Committee who voted against this bill.

The gentlewoman also said that we've got to be fiscally responsible. Well, that's why so many Republicans joined us in supporting this bill, because in fact this bill cuts 41 programs that didn't make sense any more, and reduces by half the number the dollar value of earmarks that we had in the past.

Madam Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. Hinchey), a member of the committee.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, it's time for a fact check for the American people. The gentleman said, well, we may have spent a lot of money; but now you're spending more.

Fact: This bill saves $1.1 billion over last year.

Fact: This bill slashes earmark dollar value 50 percent from last time.

Fact: This bill eliminates 41 programs that don't make sense any more. Facts count.

Madam Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan).

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Well, Madam Chairman, it is refreshing to hear some candor on the other side in their admission that there is a fringe. And that is, in fact, a matter of fact because there wasn't a single Republican vote against this appropriations bill in committee.

Now, those who define themselves on the fringe would suggest that the answer to America's problems is a 1 percent solution. We can rein in our deficit that they built up with a 1 percent cutback.

I don't know where they were, and I have a very high regard for their position, but I do feel an obligation to ask where were they in offering amendments to cut $13 billion in giveaways to the richest oil company executives making the largest profits in the history of humankind? Where was the 1 percent cut amendment then? Suddenly we could afford that, but we can't afford additional Pell Grants for the steelworker that the gentleman refers to.

Where were they with an amendment for a 1 percent cut in excessive payments to Halliburton, $1.47 billion in payments to Halliburton that have been found by the Federal Government to be fraudulent? Where was the amendment to cut those payments by 1 percent? We could afford excessive and fraudulent payments to Halliburton, but we can't afford additional investments in cancer research and access to health care for the American people.

I would respect my colleagues if they showed more consistency. But there has not been that consistency. It is not about spending. It is about spending on the wrong things and the wrong priorities.

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Mr. ISRAEL. I thank the gentleman.

I will conclude, Madam Chairman, by suggesting that the mainstream view, the view that has been endorsed on a bipartisan basis by mainstream Republicans and Democrats on the Appropriations Committee and the American people is that we should make investments in education. The fringe view: more oil money for oil companies.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Well, another fringe offering. Now we're down to .5 percent. The solution to America's problems is now down to .5 percent. The solution to America's problems is now down to .5 percent, less Pell Grant money so the kids can go to college, higher fuel bills in the winter for people who can't pay their fuel bills. I never saw a .5 percent reduction in funds to Halliburton. I never saw a .5 percent reduction in the $13 billion in giveaways to Big Oil company executives, who are making the world's greatest profits. But now suddenly, when it comes to reducing people's heating bills or reducing their college costs, we want them to have another .5 percent burden because the burden they have just isn't enough.

This is déja 2 vu all over again. It was a bad idea on the amendment before this. It was a bad idea on the amendment before that. It's still a bad idea, it's just down to a .5 percent bad idea.

Madam Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan).

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chair, I would just pose a question to the gentlewoman from Colorado and would yield to her for a response.

I am just curious as to how public education is funded in the State of Colorado.

I will yield to the gentlewoman.

Mrs. MUSGRAVE. The public education system in Colorado is funded by tax dollars, primarily coming from property taxes.

Mr. ISRAEL. Thank you. Reclaiming my time, the gentlewoman's proposal would impose an across-the-board cut in No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a Federal program that local school districts must honor. It is a huge unfunded Federal mandate. And I don't know about the gentlewoman's school districts, but I know that my school districts come to me all the time saying, Washington is forcing us to do these programs, but they're not giving us the money that they promised, which means that we have to raise taxes.

And so I would respectfully suggest to the gentlewoman that a .5 percent cut in this bill is a .5 percent property increase in her congressional district, because those poor school districts don't have the ability to say yes or no to those programs. They've just got to provide the services and find the money for it.

We don't think that local property taxpayers should have to bear that burden. We believe, along with every single Republican in the Appropriations Committee, that the Federal Government should assist in those programs.

Madam Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff).

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Chairman, I would yield to the gentlewoman if she cares to answer this: The committee report states that the committee recommends $15,027,000 for prevention grants to reduce the abuse of runaway youth. Does the gentlewoman advocate a .5 percent reduction in a $15 million budget to prevent the abuse of runaway youth, which was supported unanimously in the committee?

Madam Chairman, I will yield to the gentlewoman.

If the gentlewoman can't answer, I will ask her to give us an answer to this: the committee report, unanimously approved in committee, recommends $42,430,000 for community-based child abuse prevention.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will suspend. Members are reminded to address their remarks to the Chair.

Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I ask the gentlewoman whether she is advocating a .5 percent reduction in a $42 million line item for community-based child abuse prevention. I would be happy to yield to the gentlewoman for an answer.

Mr. PRICE of Georgia. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ISRAEL. I will yield to the gentlewoman for an answer, since it is her amendment. I will not, at this time, yield to the gentleman.

I would like to yield to the gentlewoman, since it is her amendment.

Mrs. MUSGRAVE. If I may answer your question, first, I would like to point out that, I just realized this, up here to my right in the front of the room, in the front of the Chamber, there is a dictionary. Perhaps the gentleman would like to look up the word ``cut.'' Perhaps the gentleman would like to look up the word ``rationalization.'' Because the gentleman knows that there is still an increase of 4.3 percent in this bill, even with this modest amendment.

You know what? You can rationalize anything. You can be altruistic with someone else's money. We need to curb spending.

Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I reclaim my time.

Madam Chairman, I am using the terms the gentlewoman insists on. I am reading directly from the committee report. The committee report states that there is $26,848,000 for adoption opportunities. Because we all want to reduce the number of abortions in the United States, so there is $26,848,000 for adoption opportunities. The gentlewoman's amendment would, as I understand it, reduce by .5 percent the amounts that are in this bill.

So, Madam Chairman, I ask the gentlewoman again, and I will yield to her, is she advocating a .5 percent reduction in the committee recommendation of $26,848,000 for adoption opportunities?

I will yield to the gentlewoman, since it is her amendment.

If she cares not to take the time, I will ask the gentleman. I will yield to the gentleman if he can answer this, Madam Chairman. I would yield to the gentleman, if he would choose to answer this question.

The committee report recommends $9.5 million, out of a $2.5 trillion Federal budget, $9.5 million for the adoption incentives programs. I would ask, Madam Chairman, whether the gentleman supports a .5 percent reduction in adoption incentives.

I would also ask, Madam Chairman, this: the committee recommends a total level of funding of $141 million for the Community Based Abstinence Education program. That is the level of funding that the committee, on a unanimous basis, Republicans in the mainstream and Democrats in the mainstream, agree on.

I will yield to the gentleman, Madam Chairman, if he can say is it the position of the fringe that we should actually cut by .5 percent $141 million for Community Based Abstinence programs.

I will yield to the gentleman, Madam Chairman.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Thank you, Madam Chairman.

I would just state at some point, two plus two has to equal four. It can't equal what you want it to be; it has to equal four.

These are the amounts of funding that are in this bill, reported by Republicans and Democrats. Every single mainstream Republican, every conservative Republican on the Appropriations Committee, supported these numbers. The gentlewoman says, no, no, we have to shave .5 percent from these numbers.

I am still waiting to hear whether a single Member on that side would publicly say that they want to cut adoption programs, abstinence programs, runaway youth programs, child abuse programs.

I will yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Ohio.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, I appreciate all these donkeys on posters. We won't say anything about the 3 trillion elephants that ought to be on these posters, the $3 trillion in debt that part of this fringe has supported when they wanted to spend more money on Halliburton, more money on tax cuts for big oil companies, didn't see any amendments to cut those amendments. Now we see amendments to cut or reduce the amount of spending and investment in other funds.

I would, Madam Chairman, through the Chair, ask the gentleman that if we were, you know, I guess in Washington two plus two can equal whatever you want it to be if you listen to other side, Madam Chairman. But I would like to, using the gentleman's own definition of cuts and no cuts and using his posters, I would ask the gentleman, Madam Chairman, and I'd be happy to yield to him through the Chair.

The gentleman seeks a cut, an actual cut, in Abandoned Infants Assistance. Now, this isn't a cut in any increased investment, I would say to the Chair. In fact, funding for Abandoned Infants Assistance is at $11,835,000 for abandoned infants, and if the gentleman would read the report, he would note that it says this amount is the same as the fiscal year 2007 funding level. No increase here.

Madam Chairman, I would ask the gentleman through the Chair whether he is standing on this floor advocating an actual cut in the Abandoned Infant Assistance Program match.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Madam Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ISRAEL. I yield to the gentleman from California if he would like to answer that specific question.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Thank you. You know, the question before us is $11.8 million, as I mentioned to you before, is a cut from $12.5 million. So the question I would ask you back is, well, why is it not $12.5 million?

Mr. ISRAEL. I reclaim my time. The gentleman has argued that a cut's really not a cut because the rate of spending is increasing. The rate of spending does not increase in this program, Madam Chairman. It is the same spending as last year, which means that the gentleman's cut is an actual, concrete, specific, documented reduction in Abandoned Infants Assistance from last year.

Madam Chairman, I would go on to another program and through the Chair ask the gentleman if he would like to, since he was unable to give me a yes or no answer on the last example, I will provide another one.

Madam Chairman, I will yield to the gentleman if he would like. Is the gentleman advocating an actual cut in community-based child abuse prevention? Because the funding for community-based child abuse prevention is not increased in this budget, not by a penny, and so the gentleman's cut actually reduces it below last year's level.

Madam Chairman, does the gentleman advocate to his constituents a cut in community-based child abuse prevention? And I would yield to the gentleman if he desires to respond.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. Thank you for yielding. You know, I was trying to do the math on the previous one. I guess the question before us is this: can the program you described before, because I'm a little behind on my math here, that was $11.8 million, can it survive on $11.78 million? Is that going to mean the end of the world as we know it? Is that going to mean that this program is devastated? Are you telling me that there is not a quarter of a percent that any agency or any program in government can find that they can do their job as well?

Mr. ISRAEL. Reclaiming my time, I'm suggesting that it was more than a quarter percent when it came to a $13 billion tax cut for the biggest oil company executives on Earth, and it was more than a quarter percent cut when it came to excessive fraudulent payments to Halliburton.

But when it comes to runaway youth, domestic violence, law and order, abandoned infants, anti-gang programs, I would rather that the money go to those investments rather than to special interests.

So I would ask, again, to the gentleman through the Chair, is the gentleman advocating a cut in adoption opportunities because the adoption opportunities program, Madam Chairman, is funded without an increase at the same level as last year. Would the gentleman agree, Madam Chairman, that the cut that he proposes means an actual cut in the program for adoption opportunities from last year's level? At least can we agree that two plus two equals four or four minus two equals two. Can we at least agree on that, Madam Chairman?

And I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. I guess that means that you have proposed a cut in that program if it's already below where it was. So I guess you had proposed a cut in that program. So I would ask you, I guess, if you cut that program, you must have some reason that you believe that it should be cut.

Mr. ISRAEL. I reclaim my time one more time, and then I will reserve the balance of my time. The gentleman has offered an amendment to actually cut programs. We have listed, Madam Chairman, a variety of programs that didn't receive one penny of increase in this budget, in this appropriation, and I've asked the gentleman will the gentleman acknowledge that his amendment is an actual cut on these programs: adoption assistance, abstinence, anti-gang activities, safe and stable families, domestic violence. Is it actually a cut below last year's level? Yes or no, and I would yield to the gentleman for a yes or no answer.

Mr. CAMPBELL of California. If you already established it as a cut below last year's level, then yes, it is. But I would ask the gentleman that, is the gentleman proposing to increase the deficit, which, with this amendment, the deficit would go down and taxpayers would have more money?

Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, reclaiming my time, this amendment and this appropriations bill saves $1.1 billion.

ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN

The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman will suspend.

The Chair must ask Members to bear in mind the principle that proper courtesy in the process of yielding and reclaiming time in debate, and especially in asking another to yield, helps to foster the spirit of mutual comity that elevates our deliberations above mere argument. Members, when yielded to, should defer to the yielding member when he or she reclaims the time.

The gentleman may continue.

Mr. ISRAEL. I thank the Chairman, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chair, I don't know if every single Republican on the Appropriations Committee who supported this bill would appreciate being called big spenders or fiscally irresponsible. I am very pleased that the mainstream of Republicans and Democrats worked together on this.

I don't know where all the talk was about fiscal responsibility when we were appropriating $13 billion in tax cuts for big oil companies and spending money on fraudulent payments and no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

Madam Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Lee), a member of the committee.

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Mr. ISRAEL. Madam Chairman, we have heard in this debate that the other side is not really cutting programs, they are cutting the rate of growth of programs. But we provided about a dozen programs that get no increase in this budget, that in fact will be cut from last year's. So the fact of the matter is that these cuts are real, and these cuts hurt families.

Now, this is all about choices, and it goes back to this. Not a single member of this fringe group who disagrees with their own Republican caucus that supported this bill in the Appropriations Committee came to this floor to argue for a 2 percent cut, a 1 percent cut, a 5 percent, a .5 cut. When it came time to give $13 billion to the big oil companies, then there was plenty of money to go around.

But now the argument is we can't afford to give people who want to send their kids to college an increase in Pell Grants. Not a single amendment was offered by this fringe group when it was time to provide Halliburton with dollar after dollar after dollar so that $1.47 billion was found to be fraudulent and excessive. I didn't hear a single one of this fringe group come to the floor and argue for cuts.

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