BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chair, as I have said before, the federal budget is a moral document. It reflects, in dollars and cents, our national priorities. My priorities as a member of this body are supporting middle class families, helping to foster job creation, and promoting education, research and innovation that will help our economy grow over the long-term.
Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, the Republican budget resolution before us today fails to meet these goals and moves us in the wrong direction. At a time when economic inequality has risen to its highest level in decades, according to the Census Bureau, and after more than a decade of stagnant wages for middle-class Americans, we need a budget that strengthens our middle class, not weakens it.
And, once again, for the second year in a row, Republicans want to end the promise of Medicare to our seniors. Instead, seniors would receive a voucher to buy either private insurance or traditional Medicare--but what's so egregious about this proposal is that the voucher will fail to keep pace with projected health care costs over time. This budget puts insurance companies in charge of seniors' health. Our seniors would be forced to pay thousands more out of their own pockets on premiums for a plan that provides the same benefits seniors on Medicare are currently receiving. What if they don't have those extra thousands? In my home State of New Jersey, for example, the Republican budget will increase seniors out of pocket expenses by nearly $6,000. Moreover, this plan reopens the ``donut hole'' for seniors' prescription drug costs, by $2.2 billion this year and $44 billion by the end of the decade. More than 1 million New Jersey seniors will be forced to pay more for preventive services this year if this plan is enacted--services that are currently covered by Medicare, including mammograms, colonoscopies, and annual physicals.
This budget plan abandons investments in research and innovation--exactly the kind of investment we need to grow and sustain our economy over the long-term. This budget plan is a direct assault on Medicaid--it slashes $810 billion over 10 years. It turns Medicaid into a block grant and leaves it to already cash-strapped States to decide what to do next.
This budget plan cuts education funding on all levels--from pre-K through college--by $166 billion over the next decade. My home State of New Jersey, for example, will lose $8.4 million this year for Head Start--this will eliminate more than 1,000 enrollment slots for underserved children. Another 3,100 slots would be eliminated in Fiscal Year 2014. More than 20,000 New Jersey students would be negatively impacted by cuts to Title I. And for college-bound students, this plan freezes the maximum Pell Grant level and takes no action to prevent a doubling of interest rates on student loans starting this summer. We should be investing in education, not gutting it.
This budget cuts highway funding by 25 percent, weakening our ability to support our economic recovery and putting thousands of jobs at risk. This budget slashes food stamps by $133.5 billion over 10 years during a time when millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.
While this budget all but dissolves the safety net, it maintains the costly tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. How can we justify billions of dollars in tax breaks to the ``Big 5'' oil companies--which made more than $1 trillion in profits over the past decade--while tens of millions of Americans are still looking for work?
Despite all of these cuts, this budget resolution still fails to balance the budget over the next decade.
Getting our Nation's fiscal house in order is a task my colleagues and I take seriously. Of course, we always should be looking to remove wasteful spending and ineffective programs. I have supported, and will continue to support, thoughtful budget cuts that reduce the deficit by eliminating unnecessary spending and costly tax giveaways to industries reaping enormous profits. At the same time, though, we must also preserve investments in infrastructure, science, and education, along with safety net programs that assist the most vulnerable among us in obtaining housing, health care, and food. The budget before us today fails to strike this essential balance.
There are better ways, and I will be supporting alternative approaches that take a more balanced approach to our Nation's fiscal challenges. They protect the most vulnerable members of our society while making the investments in research, education, and innovation that are absolutely critical to sustaining our economic recovery. These alternatives invest $50 billion to fund jobs that address our urgent transportation needs. They include $5 billion to help keep cops on the beat and firefighters on the job. They protect Social Security from privatization and promote tax relief for working families. They invest in research and development and science education. And, at the end of the day, these alternatives achieve a balanced budget in 10 years.
I urge my colleagues to vote against this budget resolution and support one of these viable alternatives.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT