Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2008 --Continued--

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: Oct. 23, 2007
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008--Continued -- (Senate - October 23, 2007)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I would like to engage the distinguished chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education, Mr. Harkin, in a colloquy concerning funding for deafblind services and programs at the Department of Education. Would the chairman and manager of the bill entertain a question?

Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I would be happy to.

Mr. KERRY. As the Senator knows, tremendous progress has been made in addressing the needs of deafblind children and their families over the past two decades. Despite a doubling of the population of children who are deafblind over that same time period, the 46 State and regional project centers that support the deafblind community have not had a budget increase in over 20 years.

In fiscal year 2007, the national technical assistance and dissemination program at the Department of Education received $48.9 million for all disability technical assistance, of which $12.8 million is designated for deafblind programs and services. At a time when remarkable advances in medicine and technology are enabling many more of these infants and children to survive and live longer, it is important for Congress to recognize the need for increased support.

While the President's budget proposed baseline funding for this program, the House included a modest $2 million increase for deafblind programs for fiscal year 2008 in their Department of Education appropriations bill. The equivalent allocation in the Senate was, of course, lower than in the House.

I know the chairman recognizes the urgent help our States need to improve their services for families, to support the activities of the national technical assistance and dissemination center on deafblindness, and to strengthen personnel preparation programs.

Mr. President, I would ask the chairman if he would be willing to continue to work during the conference process to include a $2 million budget increase for deafblind funding?

Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I would say to the Senator from Massachusetts that I agree with his description of the challenges facing the funding for deafblind services and that it is my hope that we can find agreement with our House colleagues to retain the modest funding increase that appears in their bill.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank the chairman for his help on this issue.

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