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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 3293, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

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Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 3293, DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010 -- (House of Representatives - July 24, 2009)

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, my good friend for whom I have great affection began his remarks by saying he's baffled. Well, I'm baffled and befuddled by the many actions that my good friend from Arizona persists in bringing to the floor of the House of Representatives.

Start with the fact--and the distinguished chair of the Appropriations Committee will outline the particulars of the bill--but start with the fact that there are no unfunded mandates in this particular provision.

So, once again, this point of order is not about unfunded mandates. It's about trying to block this bill without any opportunity for debate and without any opportunity for an up-or-down vote on the legislation itself.

I think that's wrong, and I hope my colleagues will vote ``yes'' so we can consider this important legislation on its merits and not stop it, as my friend would try to do, on a procedural motion.

Those who oppose the bill can vote against it on final passage. We must consider this rule, and we must pass this legislation today.

Now I have the right to close, but in the end I'm going to urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' to consider the rule, and take one final moment to ask my friend to consider what he does when he persists, as is his right as a Member of this body, in coming here repeatedly after every measure that he wishes to put forward.

What does he think he is doing to the legislative council of this office? There are 441 Members that ought to be able to access that body, and many of us find our legislation at the back of the track for the reason that we are coming here with what amounts to nothing but process motions that everybody has heard.

We have an expression here--and children use it frequently--``I got the memo.'' Or, ``I got it.'' We hear him on this particular subject. He can vote on it at any such time, but it is the Rules Committee that makes the determination as to what rules are going to be on the floor of the House of Representatives.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I stand duly chastised by my friend from Arizona. I am delighted that he took up his office's time and not the Office of Legislative Counsel's time in order to provide the amendments that I still consider to be spurious. Perhaps it is that he would urge not wasting his staff's time then. But there have been other times, by virtue of the repetition, that Legislative Counsel has been burdened, template or not. There are other Members in this body that exercise that abuse process, including another one that I am watching, and that is the use of privileged motions for purposes of legislating. Assume that every Member in this body wanted to use that prerogative, then we would never be able to get our work done. Yes, it is the responsibility of the majority to see to it that the business of the people of this country moves along.

I, again, want to urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on this motion to consider so we can debate and pass this important piece of legislation today.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

The resolution provides for consideration of H.R. 3293, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010 under a structured rule. The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill provides $160.7 billion for fiscal year 2010 and continues this Congress' commitment to fiscal responsibility by coming in $52 million below the President's request, and cutting 46 individual programs to ensure that taxpayer funds are used in the most effective way. This bill also includes $1.1 billion for activities to reduce improper payments, abuse and fraud in the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and in the Social Security Administration, which could result in over $48 billion in taxpayer savings over the next 10 years. During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that we not only spend taxpayer funds prudently but that we make the necessary investments to move our economy forward.

This bill provides $64.7 billion for the Department of Education to prepare America's youth for an increasingly competitive global economy and to ensure that all Americans have access to the education needed to succeed. Funds in this bill, combined with the funds in the Recovery Act, will provide States with $4 billion in grants under the School Improvement Fund which will target assistance to approximately 13,000 low-performing schools. This bill also boosts Pell Grants which help approximately 7.6 million low- and middle-income students pay for college each year. Further, it provides $653 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and other developing institutions and nearly triples new loan guarantees for HBCUs.

As we prepare our youth for the jobs of tomorrow, we must also protect and develop our current workforce. This bill restores the Department of Labor's capacity to enforce laws that protect the wages, safety and benefits of workers. It also helps those who lost their jobs during the course of this recession by providing $1.4 billion for training and supportive services. Of these funds, $50 million will be used to prepare workers in green industries, not only helping to provide Americans with decent, good-paying jobs but also helping the American economy be more competitive.

This bill, recognizing the incredible burden that this economic crisis has placed on countless Americans, also provides much-needed assistance to our vulnerable populations. It will help families stay warm through the winter by providing $5.1 billion for the low-income energy assistance program. It will boost nutrition, transportation and other supportive services for seniors by providing $1.5 billion for senior nutrition and other services; and it will relieve some of the pressure placed on the Social Security Administration by providing $11.4 billion to help the agency process the rising number of claims and reduce its current backlog.

Finally, as we in Congress work to pass health care reform in the coming weeks, this bill will help build the capacity of our health care system and provide funding for job training in the health care sector, one of the strongest and fastest-growing sectors in our economy. My colleagues are well aware that a whole lot of people, well over 47 million people in our Nation, are uninsured. In the district that I am privileged to serve, 25 percent of my constituents lack health care coverage. This bill provides $2.2 billion for Community Health Centers, which provide primary care to 17 million patients, 40 percent of which are uninsured. While such centers provide a vital service, there are still far too many individuals that go without any primary care at all, endangering their health and increasing the burden on taxpayers by getting treatment when their illnesses have become serious and their care several times more costly. In my home State of Florida, over 971,000 women are in need of publicly supported family planning services; yet only 35 percent of them are currently being met through public funding providers.

While my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will throw--and have thrown--insulting accusations and deceitful claims, what we should be talking about today is how to further support the essential community providers, such as Planned Parenthood, during a provider shortage in this country rather than making it harder for women and families to access vital health care.

For 8 years, the Republican administration placed the needs of the wealthy and the privileged before those of the middle class and the poor, and now we are paying the price. I have listened to my Republican colleagues for the past week beat the drum of fiscal responsibility. Quite frankly, this is laughable at best.

These are the same people who claim to be deficit hawks, but quite frankly, the real truth is that Republicans instituted tax cuts for extremely wealthy people in this country and new spending programs that took our Nation from surplus to debt. And my colleagues on the other side of the aisle participated in decreasing taxes for wealthy people at a time when we were at war. It was the only time in the history of this country when we were at war that we decreased taxes. And then when we did it, we did it for the best of us in our society, as far as wealth is concerned. The Republicans lecturing us on fiscal responsibility is like Al Capone lecturing about crime on the street. It doesn't pass the laugh test.

With our economy in turmoil, Democrats are picking up the pieces of the Bush administration and restoring this Congress' responsibilities to protect our Nation's health and social safety nets to ensure equal access to a quality education and to develop a globally competitive workforce.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I am challenged to answer my good friend from Texas before I yield to the distinguished chairperson of the Appropriations Committee.

The mantra that I just heard from my colleague asks a legitimate question, where are the jobs? I can't attest to everyplace in the United States of America, but I do know this about the area that I'm privileged to serve.

Four months ago, 400 school teachers received slips indicating that their jobs were going to be lost. Since that time, money provided from the stimulus package has come into the system. When I was home this past weekend, I was very pleased to read that 124 of those school teachers have been called back to work and that it is expected that the next tranche will allow for all of them to be called back to work. It's a special concern to me, because one of those persons was a young lady that worked with me when she was in high school.

So, some things are turning. Some jobs are being created. But I would not have the American public believe that the recession began when Barack Obama became President. The recession began in December, and the job attrition was taking place then. We are in a transformational posture in this country of ours, and we are going to see the kind of uptick in jobs at the time that the stimulus takes full impact.

I would like, at this time, to yield 5 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey), who has worked actively to try to get us in a position where we can answer that ``where are the jobs.'' And my question is, Why did they lose so many before they started asking the question, Where are the jobs?

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, when I was a child, there was a radio program called ``Let's Pretend.'' It came on Saturdays. I really enjoyed that program, and I'm beginning to enjoy my colleagues who pretend as if other days didn't exist. Twelve billion dollars was put in the exact same program that the previous speaker spoke about just past. Not one Member of the Republican Party voted for it. Come on, gang. Let's stop playing ``let's pretend.''

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Mr. HASTINGS of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

I will take just one moment to make it very clear that there is nothing that's being done by the President of the United States or this Congress that is going to destroy the free enterprise system in the United States of America. The free enterprise system cannot be destroyed by any of us.

The proposals that are being offered on a variety of measures, and particularly this one, increases opportunity for the least of us and those in the middle that have been hit the hardest by our colleagues on the other side. They can name it anything they want to. It doesn't have to be class warfare. People can come up here and talk all they please. Middle class Americans have carried the weight of this country for a substantial period of time.

Now we're in two wars and we find ourselves in a position of having to try to right an economy that allows, among other things, that we had taken a surplus and turned it into a deficit. That is irrefutable.

President Obama has been in office 6 months. Let's give him a little bit more time. Let's give this Democratic Congress the time, as we are undertaking right now, to do something that hasn't been done in quite a while, and that is to complete the appropriations process, which is our principle work here on behalf of the American people.

Mr. Speaker, for years, Republicans thought that they could ignore our children and ignore the poor, ignore the middle class, ignore the unemployed and ignore the uninsured, and somehow our Nation would magically prosper. Footnote right there: All of these people that keep talking about health care, all of these folks who say we can't do health care, I have been here 17 years and we haven't done it. One thing I know for sure is, if we do nothing, health insurance rates will rise and the cost of health care will increase.

Well, Mr. Speaker, now we are seeing the repercussions of the philosophy of the past. Our economy is in grave distress. Everybody knows that. Millions are out of work. My colleague asked, Where are the jobs? There is no one in the House of Representatives that would not do anything and everything that he or she could to ensure that every American is employed. Much of what's in these programs will help many of those Americans.

Our Nation's schools are falling further behind than their overseas' counterparts right in our face and have been, and these are the people that said leave no children behind. They didn't only leave children behind, they lost them and couldn't find them.

Now, while my Republican colleagues continue to play politics with this measure, I remind them that we are facing grave problems in this country. We must put the empty, divisive rhetoric aside and pass the bill so that we can provide real relief for those struggling in this economy, shoring up our Nation's health and social safety nets by protecting our workforce and increasing access to the education and training opportunities that are vital to our country's long-term economic recovery and success.

And no, America, no free enterprise is going to be lost. And no, America, there is no reason to fear. The fear would come from the people that caused us to be in this position in the first place.

I urge a ``yes'' vote on the previous question and the rule.

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