U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today opposed the Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill during a subcommittee vote on the measure, citing the following reasons:
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill includes nearly $4 billion to fund ObamaCare. Shelby adamantly opposed the program's creation and strongly supports full repeal.
"I firmly support the full repeal of ObamaCare and will not support a Labor/HHS Appropriations bill that includes further discretionary funding for the program," Shelby said. "According to last week's NY Times poll, two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of ObamaCare. The American people clearly do not want what ObamaCare will inevitably bring: higher taxes and lower quality of care. We should not mortgage our children's future for non-essential, unproven programs that grow the size and scope of the federal government."
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill transfers $1 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to the Department of Health and Human Services. ObamaCare authorized and permanently appropriated funding for the Prevention Fund over 10 years, sending funding automatically to the Department without any further congressional action. Consequently, there is little accountability or transparency because funding is automatic.
"The Prevention Fund is a $1 billion slush fund for the administration to support highly questionable and unproven programs in the name of prevention," said Shelby. "Instead of funding politically-motivated activities, Congress should support evidence-based prevention and wellness programs that receive the necessary scrutiny and oversight through the appropriations process to ensure they are working effectively."
Over the past three years, the Prevention Fund has used taxpayer dollars to support a variety of questionable activities, including:
A public relations campaign to promote ObamaCare programs
Grants to lobby local officials on raising taxes on sugary beverages
Printing flyers to promote the importance of spaying and neutering pets
A program to set national standards on appropriate television viewing time for children
CMS Health Insurance Exchanges
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill includes an increase of $547 million to support the implementation of the new federal health insurance exchanges. The size and scope of these exchanges are currently unknown due to uncertainty regarding whether a state will setup its own individual exchange. Only a handful of states have moved forward in light of the Supreme Court's pending decision.
"It is illogical to pour money into programs that may be ruled unconstitutional should the Supreme Court decide to overturn ObamaCare," said Shelby.
ObamaCare Growing the Size of Government
In the two and a half years since ObamaCare was passed, the administration has hired over 1,250 new federal workers to implement the law. The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, alone, plans to nearly triple in size by the end of Fiscal Year 2013 to 713 employees.
"The administration has received billions in ObamaCare-related funding to implement a law that over two thirds of Americans oppose," said Shelby. "It is time to put an end to unchecked government expansion."
Healthy Food Financing
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill includes $10 million to fund the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) for a second consecutive year. The HFFI puts the federal government in the business of providing grants to build grocery stores in so-called "food deserts." Experts have raised questions about the effectiveness of combating obesity by only improving access to grocery stores. In fact, a NIH study stated that there was no relationship between what type of food children ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within 1 ½ miles of their homes. To date, no study has found a relationship between improving access to healthy foods and improving health outcomes.
"We need to combat the epidemic of obesity with evidence-based, proven programs," said Shelby. "The federal government cannot persist in its funding of activities with no proven track record. Continuing to do so will result in a lack of investment in tried-and-true initiatives."
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
The NLRB continues its assault on business through politically-motivated regulations and union giveaways that stifle job growth and economic investment in the United States. In January, the President recess-appointed three members of the board, side-stepping the Senate's constitutional role to advise and consent. At a time when we should be focusing on job creation, the National Labor Relations Board has been enacting a pro-union agenda that will have a chilling effect on employment.
The Obama Administration's NLRB has proposed two controversial rules, both of which were struck down in federal court:
Ambush Elections -- the NLRB issued a rule that would accelerate the union election process. The rule sets shorter time limits for hearings and filings, giving employers and employees little reaction time to union formation and limiting employer participation in the process.
Poster Rule -- the NLRB issued a rule that would require employers to post notices explaining collective bargaining rights to workers in an attempt to assert authority that the NLRB does not possess.
"This is a classic example of bureaucratic overreach," said Shelby. "Last year the NLRB wanted to tell a private company where they could build a facility. This year they want to limit employers' ability to respond to a union's formation. Few federal agencies have worked as hard to disrupt the free market as the NLRB. Congress should not continue to fund an agency that enacts a radical, anti-business agenda at the expense of workers and the economy."
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill includes $288.3 million for the National Labor Relations Board, a 14.5 percent increase since President Obama took office in 2008.
Race to the Top
The Race to the Top Program provides competitive funding to states and school districts as an incentive to implement education reform plans. The program only benefits students in certain states and has no demonstrated impact on education outcomes. The Race to the Top program, nevertheless, is touted as the centerpiece of the Administration's education reform agenda.
"It is critical that federal education funding ensure that all students have access to a quality education," said Shelby. "However, the Race to the Top program turns that notion on its head by investing in a competitive program that only benefits students in states that implement the administration's prescriptive education agenda."
This bill includes $600 million for the Department of Education's Race to the Top program.
Mathematics and Science Partnerships
The Fiscal Year 2013 bill includes a $50.7 million reduction in the Mathematics and Science Partnerships program, which aims to improve the performance of students in the areas of math and science by enhancing teachers' subject-matter knowledge and their teaching skills. Due to the reduction, funding will no longer be distributed to all states, but awarded on a competitive basis.
According to the most recent performance report ranking 15-year-olds from the 34 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranked 25th in math and 17th in science.
"Reducing funding for math and science education as the United States continues to fall behind other countries in these areas will further erode our students' ability to compete for the jobs of the future. Investments in math and science education that will benefit students across the country are critical to our nation's continued economic prosperity in a global environment."
Statement of Senator Richard C. Shelby
Labor/HHS Subcommittee Markup
June 12, 2012
"To cite Ernest Hemingway, there are two ways to go bankrupt. Gradually, then suddenly. We are headed towards "suddenly." Federal spending is leading this nation off a fiscal cliff.
"While we will never balance the budget on the back of discretionary spending, we need to take steps now to reduce our discretionary obligations. This should begin with defunding the discretionary Affordable Care Act provisions in this bill.
"The majority of Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act or what it will inevitably bring: higher taxes and lower quality of care. In fact, a June 7th New York Times poll stated that more than two-thirds of Americans hope the Supreme Court will overturn some or all of the law. I firmly support full repeal of the health care reform law and will not vote for a Labor/HHS Appropriations bill that includes Affordable Care Act funding.
"In Fiscal Year 2013, the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill provides nearly $4 billion in new discretionary funding for Affordable Care Act-authorized programs. This is in addition to the $35 billion in mandatory spending that has been funded on autopilot over the past two years alone.
"There is no reason after spending $35 billion, that we should support double-dipping into the discretionary budget for additional dollars as well. On top of this massive increase in federal spending, the Affordable Care Act is expanding the footprint of the federal government, hiring over 1250 employees to work solely on implementation in the past two years.
"It is foolish to believe that another federal entitlement would ever save this nation money. How could a law pay for insurance coverage for millions of new people and extend the solvency of Medicare while simultaneously reducing the deficit? The answer is simple -- it cannot.
"The Fiscal Year 2013 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill includes funding for Affordable Care Act programs we do not need and cannot afford. This includes:
A $547 million increase for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue implementation activities;
$1 billion for the Prevention Fund that is designed to fund innovative public health strategies, but instead has been a slush fund for political programs by Secretary Sebelius or used as a funding offset for the President. Just a few weeks ago the Secretary spent $20 million on a public relations contract to promote the benefits of the health care law. Hardly innovative or preventative.
$10 million for the Healthy Food Financing program which has the federal government providing grants to build grocery stores. I ask my colleagues, does building grocery stores sound like a job for the federal government?
"In this grave fiscal climate we should not fund programs we know are going to force our country deeper into debt. When the federal government has to borrow money to spend money, we should not mortgage our children's future for non-essential, unproven programs that grow the size and scope of the federal government.
"Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your work on this difficult bill. However, I cannot support a bill that provides billions of discretionary dollars to further fund a massive government expansion that will devastate our federal budget and have catastrophic effects on our current health care system.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman."