McCaskill Votes to Fund Federal Health, Education, and Labor Programs
Adds provision to alleviate backlog at the Social Security Administration
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill late Tuesday voted to continue funding important federal programs related to education, health care, and labor for fiscal year 2008, including new federal dollars to help alleviate a growing backlog of cases at Social Security Administration (SSA). Despite a veto threat from the White House, the Senate voted Tuesday afternoon 75-19 to approve the Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008, which allocated funding for more than 300 federal programs and agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Head Start, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program.
McCaskill co-sponsored a successful amendment to the bill with Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to give the SSA extra funding to help reduce the agency's waiting time for people to receive a hearing on their benefit claim. Missourians are currently facing a 400 to 500 day wait for a hearing, a financially devastating wait for people - especially the elderly and those with disabilities - who rely heavily on Social Security income. The amendment, which will give SSA an additional $150 million to help with administrative costs, passed the Senate with a vote of 88 to 6.
"This bill funds dozens of programs that affect the day-to-day lives of Americans, whether it's early education, cancer research, access to health care in rural Missouri, or even Social Security benefits. Fiscal responsibility is essential to getting this country's finances in order, but we can find other ways to rein in our spending without cutting essential programs like these," McCaskill said.
After not vetoing a single spending bill during the first six years in the White House, pouring billions of dollars in the war in Iraq, and showing little fiscal restraint, President Bush announced he would veto the legislation because the price tag was too high at $10 billion per year over his budget request. But the president in his budget proposal zeroed-out or cut funding for programs important to Missouri, including the Community Services Block Grant and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, while continuing to spend $10 billion per month in Iraq.
"I hope the president will reconsider his plans to veto this bill," McCaskill said. "These programs are improving quality of life across this country, and it would be wrong to allow politics to get it in way."
Meanwhile, with the support 75 senators, the legislation is veto-proof in the Senate. The legislation now heads to conference where House and Senate members will reconcile the two bills produced by the bodies.
Specifically, the Senate-passed Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008 provides:
- Nearly $30 billion for cutting-edge medical research at the National Institutes of Health - a $1 billion increase over fiscal year 2007 funding levels.
- $228 million for Veterans Employment and Training.
- $2.16 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), which aids Americans who are unable to afford home heating and cooling costs. The funding restores $379 million in cuts to the program by President Bush.
- $172 million to increase access to quality health care through rural health programs.
- $7 billion for the Head Start program, which provides early education to children - a $200 million increase to the program.
- $2.2 billion in grants to local Community Health Centers to help advance access to health care nationwide - $250 million over last year.
- $14.49 billion to fund Pell Grants to help more students receive higher education - $826 million over fiscal year 2007.