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Mr. HARKIN. Madam President, I guess I am compelled to say: Here we go again. We have been down this road a few times before since we passed the Affordable Care Act. Let me see, my notes tell me it is 33--this makes the 34th time that someone on the Republican side has tried to do away with the Affordable Care Act. This is the 34th time, and they failed every time. But they are free to offer amendments, I understand that. I respect the Senator's right to do that, but we have already made our decisions on this and we are moving ahead.
I have said many times as the chair of the HELP Committee, if someone has suggestions on how to improve the Affordable Care Act, to make it work better, be more efficient, I am open to that. That should be allowed, and we should have a constant exchange on maybe how we can improve it. But this idea that we are going to repeal it? I would also say I wonder if my friend, the Senator from Texas, saw the last election. The Senator from Texas got elected, that is for sure, and I congratulate him on that. But the Presidential candidate of the Republican Party who said he wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act lost. President Obama, who was the President who initiated this and signed it into law won, I think quite convincingly.
So the American people basically have said it is time to move on with the Affordable Care Act. Yet here this amendment basically would repeal it.
I wonder if the Senator from Texas understands it is not just the Affordable Care Act his amendment would hit, it would hit a lot of other things. When we passed the Affordable Care Act there were authorizations for other programs that were included with it. When the amendment says we cannot fund any of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, I just made a note that we also reauthorized the Nurse Training Partnership Act. So a lot of the funds there go for training nurses.
Does the Senator really believe we should stop funding training for nurses in America at this time when we need more nurses and more nurse practitioners than ever before, at a time when our nursing profession is facing a kind of age cliff? We have a huge cohort of nurses now who are going to be retiring. We need to bring in new nurses. Yet his amendment would cut funding. He says nothing we can do could support nurse training yet in America.
Medicare fraud and abuse--fighting fraud and abuse in Medicare; that was also included in the Affordable Care Act. Again, they have tried frontal assaults on getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Now this amendment says we are going to not fund it. It would be strange. We have a law in effect but no funding to take advantage of it.
It is almost like some people on the other side of the aisle have an obsession with tearing down health care reform. I think it is unfortunate that some missed the results of the last election, so it is time to move on. This amendment really is the equivalent of repeal. It would turn back the clock on all we have accomplished in the past year. The administration would not be able to build the insurance exchanges or enforce the act's requirements on private insurers.
Again, if this amendment were adopted, it would mean we would go back to the good old days when the insurance companies were in the driver's seat, telling you what kind of health care you are entitled to and when you are entitled to it.
Ever since we passed the Affordable Care Act, and during the time we debated it on the Senate floor, we kept asking our friends on the Republican side: What is your alternative? Basically, what we got was the status quo: Let's just stay with what we have.
I think the American people got pretty fed up with what we had, where insurance companies could turn people down at the very moment when they got sickest; when people had preexisting conditions and could not get insurance or had to pay exorbitant prices for it.
I had a note, we had a family, the Grasshoffs, from Texas--the Senator's home State. They were unable to find coverage to pay for their son's hemophilia treatment. Why? Because they had reached their lifetime limit on insurance payments.
The Affordable Care Act bans lifetime limits, so now they can get treatment. More than 100 million Americans are currently protected by this provision. This amendment would take it away. So the Grasshoffs' treatment for their son with hemophilia would end, and they cannot afford to pay for it out of their own pockets. Keep that in mind when you vote on this amendment.
The Affordable Care Act allows young people to stay on their parents' policies, we know, until they are age 26. More than 3 million young people are taking advantage of this right now. Repeal would take that away from families. The adoption of the Cruz amendment would take that away because, obviously, we could not fund anything to help make this work.
I mentioned preexisting conditions--people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, previous bouts with cancer. Right now the Cruz amendment would say no. The insurance companies can say: No, we are not going to insure you or if we do, you are going to pay sky-high prices for insurance.
One of the big things we put in the Affordable Care Act was prevention and wellness programs that would prevent illness.
So we provided for free preventive services such as mammograms and colonoscopies, so people can get those without paying copays, sometimes as much as $300 to as much as several hundred dollars for these essential services. The Cruz amendment would put us back where we would have to pay for those preventative screenings.
The Cruz amendment would deprive States and localities of vital funding to combat chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, as well as funding to make sure our kids have access to lifesaving vaccines. Thanks to health reform, the Prevention and Public Health Fund is saving lives. The Cruz amendment would stop that.
I picked up a little bit of what the Senator from Texas said about young people; that their insurance rates are going to go sky high. Has the Senator ever heard of the marketplace? It is where people compete. Under the Affordable Care Act, all of these insurance companies now will have to go on the exchanges in the open market, with full transparency, and they are going to have to compete. We have not had that in the past, but under this we do. The Cruz amendment would take that away--a real market out there for insurance, for individuals, small businesses. They would have the same purchasing power and choice that only big companies had before.
I guess what is most important is these exchanges that we are setting up will bring coverage to 32 million Americans who do not have coverage right now. They live in the oppressive fear that they are just one illness away from bankruptcy, losing their homes, not knowing if they can afford another doctor visit.
Did anyone tell States to stop this, stop what they were doing to help serve our citizens? That is what this Cruz amendment does. The Cruz amendment would take us back to the days of the doughnut hole for the elderly because the Affordable Care Act closes that doughnut hole. We are closing it year after year; 6.1 million seniors have already saved more than $5.7 billion in discounts on drugs purchased in the doughnut hole. The Cruz amendment would stop that. It would increase seniors' drug prices by an estimated $3,500 per person over the next 10 years.
One of the key features we put in the Affordable Care Act was going after Medicare fraud, preventing Medicare fraud. We have increased criminal penalties, we have launched innovative technologies to detect and pursue those who would defraud Medicare, and we have put more cops on the beat to preserve Medicare funds for beneficiaries and not those who would scam the system. The Cruz amendment would stop all that, stop our efforts we put in there to get a handle on Medicare fraud.
Something that is very important to so many of us is what is happening in rural areas. Right now, under the Affordable Care Act, there are incentive payments paid to rural primary care providers in rural America--States such as North Dakota and Iowa and Texas. Right now the Cruz amendment would stop that incentive payment for primary care providers in rural areas.
I mentioned preventive services--right now every senior gets a wellness visit once a year. More than 34 million seniors got that last year, a free preventive service in Medicare so they can go in and get a wellness check to find out if they need to do something to take better care of themselves. They do not have to pay for that. The Cruz amendment would say if they want to do it now, they have to start paying for it.
Since this is kind of a blunt instrument, this amendment we have before us would defund all activities related to health reform, including paying the Federal employees who administer Medicare. Secretary Sebelius has informed us payments to Medicare providers would be significantly disrupted by this. You just cannot separate the Affordable Care Act from all the other provisions of Medicare that are being run by Health and Human Services or by CMS, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services.
Oh, yes, the Senator also talked about the deficit, reducing the deficit. I don't understand why someone would want to stop something which the Congressional Budget Office said would reduce the deficit. I guess we are going to reduce the deficit by increasing the deficit? That is sort of the logic of this amendment.
The Congressional Budget Office affirmed that the Affordable Care Act reduces the deficit by more than $100 billion in the next 10 years, and more than $1 trillion in the decade that follows. So the Cruz amendment would roll that back. I guess the Senator wants to reduce the deficit by increasing the deficit. Go figure that one out.
It is time to stop the silly games, but I guess it will continue. After all, in 1935 the Congress and President Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act. Seventy-five years later there are still some on the Republican side who would like to get rid of that.
I guess we will continue to have a few voices--not everyone--who will still be fighting the Affordable Care Act a year from now.
In 1965 Congress passed Medicare--the Republicans fought it bitterly, by the way--and 45 years later a few on that side are still trying to undo Medicare by voucherizing it, and that sort of stuff. I just have to say: Here we go again.
William F. Buckley was the founder of the National Review and sort of the godfather of the modern conservative movement in America. He was a very intellectual kind of guy. He was very intellectual and a good writer and speaker. I always enjoyed watching William F. Buckley. He once said: ``A conservative is a fellow standing athwart history yelling: Stop!''
Well, is that really the role? I think there should be a different role, and that is to stand with liberals, moderates, and everybody else to figure out what is best. We need to figure out what is best for moving ahead and not to just yell ``stop'' or repeal something. We need to do something that is so meaningful and so broadly supported, then figure out how to make it work the best.
I kind of conclude where I began. If people have suggestions on how to make the Affordable Care Act work better, smoother, be more efficient, more cost effective, fine. That would be a good debate and discussion. Just to say: No, we are not going to fund it is an ideological approach. It is not based on budget considerations, it is not based on reducing the deficit, which I just pointed out. It is not based on a rational reading of the bill and what is happening out there in terms of setting up the exchanges and all the other things I mentioned. It is just an ideological approach. It is sort of tearing it down and sort of going after President Obama, I guess, one more time. I don't want to take the position that somebody cannot offer an amendment such as that. Sure, they can offer an amendment. They can do anything. However, reasonable, rational people in the Senate don't need to follow that. We need to do what is best for the American people and leave the ideology behind.
I hope the Cruz amendment will be seen for what it is, an attempt to repeal ObamaCare at this moment in time when we are on the cusp of actually having it fully implemented. States have already moved ahead. Even very conservative Republican Governors have joined in and said: Yes, we want to extend Federal Medicaid coverage in our States. Conservative Republican Governors are setting up exchanges. We are moving ahead. Now is not the time to say: Well, we are going to cut the funding.
Again, keep in mind, this doesn't just defund the Affordable Care Act. I said there were other things, such as the Nurse Professional Training Act, which we put in the Affordable Care Act, which would also be defunded. It was reauthorized along with the Medicare fraud and abuse and the area health education centers. There are a number of things that were put in with the Affordable Care Act that would also be defunded under the Cruz amendment.
I hope everyone will see the amendment for what it is, and I hope the Senate will soundly reject it.
With that, I yield the floor.
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Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, the spending package we are considering this week I think is a little bit unusual, to say the least. Five of the twelve Appropriations subcommittees get detailed, full-length spending bills: Defense, Military Construction, Agriculture, Homeland Security, and Commerce and Justice. The other seven appropriations bills are basically on autopilot, continuing resolutions. So with a few exceptions, whatever the government spent last year on programs in these seven subcommittees the government will spend this year.
I know for a fact this is not what the chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee wanted. She fought hard for an omnibus that would have included all 12 spending bills. I am very respectful of that. She fought hard for it, but this is where we stand right now.
I am speaking today because the programs under the jurisdiction of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, of which I am privileged to chair, would be put on autopilot. I suppose it comes as no surprise I think that is a terrible mistake.
The Labor-HHS bill--or Labor-H, as it is known in the terminology around here--is how we fund the National Institutes of Health, the preeminent biomedical research entity in the world. This bill is how we fund the child care and development block grant, which gives working families access to high-quality childcare. It is how we provide Federal funding to teach students with disabilities--the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act--it is how we help local school jurisdictions meet their constitutional obligation to provide a free and appropriate education to all kids, even kids with disabilities.
These services are critical to this Nation. It has been said before--actually, the first person I ever heard say it was a recently departed and beloved chairman, Senator Dan Inouye, who once said: The Defense Appropriations Committee is the committee that defends America. The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committee is the committee that defines America--who we are as a country, what we are about as a people, what we are going to do for the future of our children in America.
So we need to examine every year whether we are spending the right amounts of taxpayer money for these services. If that makes sense for the Defense appropriations bill, to take a look at it yearly, to see if we are spending the right amounts, if it is right for Homeland Security and Agriculture, why shouldn't the same level of oversight be applied to the Labor, Health and Human Services bill?
As a way of sort of describing where we are, this past December, we negotiated a fiscal 2013 spending bill with Republican and Democratic counterparts, House and Senate. So I, Senator Shelby, Congressman Rehberg, and Congresswoman DeLauro on the House side all read this bill through in December and signed off on it.
That was going to be in the omnibus bill. Well, as we know, we did not have an omnibus spending bill. So the talks were bicameral and bipartisan. They were difficult talks and we hammered out an agreement and we had a compromise. I got some of what I wanted and I lost some of what I wanted. But that is the nature of compromise. So with an exception, which I will explain shortly, the amendment I have just offered is what was agreed upon in December. No more money, not adding any money. But we are changing some of the accounts to better represent what we decided, both bicameral and bipartisan, should be priorities. That is the amendment I am offering. Again, I repeat, it is what we decided upon in December in terms of what our priorities ought to be. If we just go with Labor-H in a CR, all of that is wiped out. So what I am proposing to replace that is the autopilot version with a detailed bipartisan compromise.
I want to emphasize this point. This amendment is not my Labor-HHS bill. Now, obviously if I had my druthers, I would have spent dollars as I wanted them to be spent. But compromise does not work that way. This amendment includes the priorities from the other side of the aisle and from the other side of the Capitol. It was a give and take. Even though there are things in the amendment I would like to change, it is vastly superior--vastly superior--to putting all of these programs on autopilot and doing this year exactly what we did last year and the year before, because we were on autopilot last year too.
Let me point out two things that are different in this amendment than what was in December. I said it was the same but there are two things different. The agreement we hammered out in December, with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats in the House Appropriations Committee, included money for the Affordable Care Act, for ObamaCare. This amendment I am offering today took that out, just took it out. Even though we had agreed upon $513 million for that in December, this is not in my amendment. I want to make that clear.
The second major difference between the December bill and this amendment is the total cost. As I said, the December bill would not fit within our new budget cap. We have a new budget cap since December. So this amendment fits within that budget cap by a very small, across-the-board cut of 0.127 percent. That is one-eighth of 1 percent to every program in the bill. I did not do an across-the-board cut on some at the expense of others. No. We just did it on everything, .127 percent. So the programs that would have received increases in the December bill still get the increases, just minus .127 percent. The programs that were cut in the December cut will still get cut, they will just be cut by .127 percent more. But other than those two changes, no additional health reform money, no other kinds of cuts. The amendment is basically identical to what we agreed upon in December. So I want to take a look at it and see why it is better than what I call the autopilot version or the continuing resolution.
Let's start first with education. Title I is the cornerstone Federal program for helping all students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, helping them meet high academic standards. More than 90 percent of the school districts across America receive title I funds. My amendment, the one that is before us, has $107 million more for title I. What is in the bill before us has absolutely no increase, zero.
We were able to bump that up again by an amount equal to .127 percent, as I said. It is basically the same. That is title I. Special education, I mentioned IDEA, we have a $125 million increase in the amendment I am offering; in the CR, no increase whatsoever.
National Institutes of Health, we are especially proud of this. The omnibus, the Senate CR that is before us, has $71 million more than last year. This amendment bumps it up to $211 million. So the CR has $71 million, we have $211 million for an NIH increase.
Childcare. The underlying CR includes $50 million more than last year. My amendment would increase that to $107 million. That means the childcare subsidy for working families of 10,000 additional children, families who basically depend upon this so they are able to go to work.
AIDS drugs. The Ryan White AIDS Drug Assistance Program provides lifesaving drugs to people living with HIV. My amendment includes $29 million more for this program. The CR has no increase whatsoever.
So far I mentioned only some of the larger programs in the bill. My amendment addresses dozens of smaller priorities as well. At the full committee markup of the Labor-H bill back in July of last year, Senator Inouye, who was chairman at that time, promised Senator Murkowski that the final fiscal year 2013 spending bill would include $10 million for suicide prevention among Alaska Natives and Native Americans. I did not make that promise, but it was made by the chairman of the committee. I am honoring that promise. I honored it when we negotiated this in December. We included that $10 million. That is in my amendment also.
Again, a small increase for suicide prevention is not possible in a CR. But it is in my amendment. If we approve it, that funding will become law.
TRIO Program. It is an important program to many Members on both sides of the aisle. It has had broad support. The TRIO Program makes the dream of a college education possible for low-income students. As we know, this goes basically to students who are the first in their family to go to college. So if your parents had not gone to college, they would be eligible for TRIO, based upon income levels.
The bill we negotiated in December included an increase for the TRIO Program. Again, that is not possible in a CR, the bill that is before us. But it is in my amendment. If Congress approves it, TRIO will get a $14 million increase this year. I just did not have it on my chart.
I could go on and on. There are a lot of things. Food safety, lead poisoning screening for kids in this country, lead poisoning screening, diabetes prevention, worker safety. These are important priorities. They are all addressed in my amendment, because we addressed those in December. But they are not in the bill before us.
Again, let me sort of sum up what we have here in this amendment. It is the same total cost as what is in the bill before us, no additional money. It was a bicameral, bipartisan compromise that we hammered out in December. There is more money for NIH, childcare, education, I mentioned things such as TRIO, I mentioned things such as IDEA and others. I think it fulfills our constitutional duty to be good stewards of the public's money, to do adequate oversight on appropriations, and to mold and shape, again in a bipartisan, bicameral method, to work it out.
There are some who say, gee, if we pass this, the House will not take it. I do not know why not. They agreed upon it in December. I do not mean the whole House, but the House Appropriations Committee, under the chairmanship of Chairman Rogers, agreed on this in December. It was all signed off on. So I do not know why they would not accept it. They did not put it in their bill when they sent it over here. Okay. They did not. Well, there are some other things they did not put in the bill when they sent it over here too. So I think it is incumbent upon us to do our duty, to make sure we look at these programs and decide where we want to bump some up, maybe some we want to cut down, some we want to modify. That is what we did in December. Well, we finished in December. I think we started working on it back around July, if I am not mistaken. We finally got it worked out in December.
If we had had an omnibus, we would have had this. I would not be here today offering this amendment. Again, to those who say: Well, if we had this, the House would not accept it, is that a reason for us not to do our duty? Is that a reason for us not to do what is right and just and fair, because someone says maybe the House will not take it? I mean, the House would have some serious explaining to do on why they would not take it since it was already in the December compromise that was reached.
I would point out again that the defense bill, the Defense appropriations bill that is here is what they agreed upon in December. If that is the case, then why cannot we do Labor-H and all of the things that we fund the same as what we had in December also? That is my basic point here.
As I say, we did make a couple of changes. One change we did is we took out the funding for ObamaCare, which I think is a good deal. I mean, ObamaCare is something we have to continue to implement. It is going to save us a lot of money. It is going to make lives better for people all over America, already is making lives better for people with preexisting conditions, people with very intricate diseases and conditions that need to be managed, young people who are staying on their parents' policies until they are age 26, the elderly who get their free health screenings every year under Medicare. So it is already making a big impact. I am a big supporter of ObamaCare. I want to make sure it gets funded and implemented. But the fact is that we could not do that. Well, that is no reason then not to increase NIH and childcare development block grants, IDEA, TRIO Programs, a host of other things. If the will of the body was that we could not do anything to implement ObamaCare, then at least let's do our duty and agree to meet the goals and meet the targets we set in December in our negotiations.
We laid the bill down earlier. As I said, it is basically what we had in December. I am hopeful that Senators and their staffs will take the time to look through it and see what is in there, because I think they will come to the same conclusion. No more money than what we have in the CR. It is basically the same with the exceptions I mentioned of what we did in December. We will have a better result, a better platform going forward the rest of this year and next year by not doing a CR but by doing this bill in a bill form, just as we have done for other bills in this appropriations measure.
Again, I want to thank Chairman Mikulski for fighting so hard for this. I know she has done everything possible. But, again, sometimes it falls to an amendment that we have to do to get things done. I am hopeful my friends on the other side of the aisle again will take a serious look at this and support this amendment. As I said, I see no real reason not to support it.
I mean, I am anxious to see if someone has some arguments as to why we shouldn't support this since, as I said, we had hammered out this agreement over a long period of time last fall. We always spoke about how we want to work in a bipartisan fashion, we want to accept the results of bipartisan negotiation.
That is what we did last year. I think we started probably around July, had an August break, at least by September--probably started in July, then September, October, November, December we worked it out in a very bipartisan fashion, although I didn't get everything I wanted in the bill.
If my friends on the other side of the aisle now want to say: No, we are not going to accept this, what is the use of engaging in long, hard, difficult, strenuous bipartisan negotiations where we reach an agreement and they respond: Well, we don't care. We are not going to support it anyway.
I have taken great pride in working with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion last year on the reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration bill, the drug user bill, the drug safety bill. We worked long and hard on these for probably almost 2 years and were able to get them through. There were other bills I have been involved in where we did good bipartisan negotiating, and that was the same as this.
This is not something I rammed through and said: This is my bill; take it or leave it. That is not the way I work. I have been the chair or ranking member of this subcommittee since 1989. It is a great subcommittee because it meets the human needs, social needs, educational needs, and, yes, biomedical research needs and disease control needs, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also funded under our subcommittee.
It keeps Americans safe. The Defense Committee keeps us safe from foreign entities, other entities that would want to do us harm militarily. Homeland Security does the same.
This committee keeps us safe from diseases. It keeps us safe from illnesses. It provides for the kind of research which has overcome so much in the last 20 to 30 years and the great strides we have made in cancer and other chronic diseases. We have made great strides because we have invested in them. This is what the subcommittee does.
It also provides for education, making sure kids who come from the poorest families and poor areas also receive a fair shake in education funds, programs for students who go to college, Pell grants and student loans. It is incumbent upon us, as we can't continue to have continuing resolutions on this type of bill. Times change, circumstances change, and we need to modify the bill and do things which recognize some of the new realities. This is what we have done. I am hopeful we can get support for this amendment. I don't think it is a heavy lift at all for anyone to support this.
I said, and I will repeat, repeat, repeat and keep repeating: There is no new money, no more than what is in the underlying bill. It is basically the same as we hammered out in December through long negotiations.
Hopefully, it may be a little easier for my Republican colleagues, as there is not any money in there for the implementation of ObamaCare. This is something I didn't agree with, but that is life and one of the compromises one has to make. The other items in this bill are vitally important to the health, the welfare, the education, and safety of the American people.
I hope the amendment will pass, and I ask my colleagues for their support.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that an explanatory statement and a detailed funding table accompanying the amendment be printed in the Record.
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Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I wish to speak on the bill and comment on the amendment.
First of all, I want to say to the Senator from Iowa how much I admire him and the fantastic job he has done on behalf of the poor, people who didn't have health care, and the disabled people who had no voice in Washington. I want the Senator to know I am so sorry he is retiring. I really am. The Senator is neither shy nor retiring in the leadership role he played and the very pragmatic solutions he came up with over the years.
If I may ask, how long has the Senator chaired the subcommittee on Labor-HHS?
Mr. HARKIN. Before I respond specifically to the question, let me also state how proud I am of the Senator from Maryland and her long service, now the longest serving woman in the history of the Senate, and her devotion to the underprivileged, to those who lack a voice and a vote in the Senate. There is no one stronger for them than the Senator from Maryland.
It has been a pleasure of mine to work with the Senator through all these years. I can honestly say I don't remember any time we have ever disagreed on anything.
Ms. MIKULSKI. The Senator is correct. If I might comment back, we sound like two war horses at the VFW Hall. The next thing, if it wasn't prohibited, we would be doing shooters on the Senate floor.
Mr. HARKIN. I appreciate the Senator's sentiments. One of the things which makes me feel comfortable about retiring is knowing this committee is left in good hands, and I mean that, really good hands.
To answer the Senator's question, I have been either chair or ranking member of this subcommittee since 1989. When the Democrats were in charge I was chair up until 1995, and then Senator Specter was chair from then until 2001. Following that, I became chair for about a year and a half or two. It went back to Republicans, and I picked it back up again in 2007. Since 1989, I was chairman or ranking member of the subcommittee.
Ms. MIKULSKI. This would be, in 2014, essentially the Senator's diamond jubilee, 25 years.
Mr. HARKIN. Yes.
Ms. MIKULSKI. We could exchange a lot of things about diamonds, but that would be quite a benchmark.
This is what I am going to say: What we would like to do is return to regular order where the Senator could have brought his bill to the floor all by itself--not in the midst of a threat of a showdown, shutdown, lockdown. He could have brought it up with his ranking member. Now you have the Senator from Kansas, Mr. Moran, and we have open, public debate, transparent, going through category after category: education, special education, funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Labor, all of those things.
The Senator's subcommittee is one of the most robust, other than defense, and second in size in expenditure. It funds the entire Department of Labor, the entire Department of Education, and the entire Department of Health and Human Services. Under that, there are spectacular agencies and independent agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, which is literally headquartered in my hometown of Baltimore.
It has, I would say, 40 percent of the domestic expenditures which meet compelling human need. It also funds the kinds of programs we need for the workforce of the future and our research of the future.
The Senator deserves to have his day. Anyone who wishes to analyze it, scrutinize it, amend it, improve it from both sides of the aisle should do this.
I say to my colleague, what I want to do is get this bill through this Senate, working with my colleague Senator Shelby, who has been my ranking member over the years and who is so well versed on the agreement. Essentially, the ideal situation would have been regular order where we would have passed our bills before October 1. You could have been on the Senate floor.
Now we are in something called a continuing resolution where the entire Federal Government is in one package. Everybody is trying to parse it, understand it, and they should. This is not the way to govern. We shouldn't be threatened with these deadlines and kind of an ultimatum-type situation.
We are going to try to do the best we can. The Senator has made his point and done it robustly. He produced a great bill, along with Senator Shelby, in terms of coming out of the subcommittee, and then fashioned it. It is not only great on content, policy, but it has the sense of receiving value for the dollar as well and keeps an eye on that.
At the same time, we were able to fashion a bipartisan agreement, but you couldn't move the bill. Here we are now into this larger issue. My job is to get this bill through the Senate, working with Senator Shelby. This is our job.
I am going to say to Senator Harkin and to all Members on both sides of the aisle, we need to get back to regular order. We can't be doing big bills nobody understands, that everybody is suspicious of. We need to be able to do this the way the founders of the Appropriations Committee wanted us to, committee by committee, out in the open, with full and open debate where we could focus on the content. When we bring Commerce-Justice-Science, we can focus on the Justice Department, focus on Federal law enforcement, and focus on science programs.
We can look at Labor-HHS, which has such an enormous labor impact on our economy and an impact on the future of our economy. Remember, research and development, the workforce of the future, through education, Pell Grants, are all of the great things on this bill.
As the Senator proposes this amendment and the Senate works its will on this amendment, I want to say get the job done. Let's get the bill passed and then let's solve the sequester problem, which has a Draconian shield hold over us. Let's get rid of brinkmanship, shutdown, showdown politics.
Let's return to our regular order where we may produce bills, debate them in the full sunshine of the Senate--and not only do a good job, but the American people can understand what we are doing. There aren't just views on policy. This is America. That is what a democracy is and what a parliamentary body is. We should be able to bring process and procedure. This means following a regular order with our legislation.
I thank the subcommittee chairman, Senator Harkin, for his advocacy in the last 2 years. He and Senator Shelby worked together to produce a great bill. We are where we are, and I hope we do all we can to pass the bill and return to regular order.
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Mr. HARKIN. Madam President, I want to respond to my friend from Alabama, and he is my friend, and he knows that very well. We have traveled together. Our spouses are friends, and he is a dear friend of mine. We have worked together, as he said, going clear back to our House days. But I am disappointed that my friend opposes this amendment. If there is one thing that has been clear in my association with the Senator from Alabama through all these years, I think it is that he has been an unrelenting champion of NIH research. I am told the University of Alabama at Birmingham ranks 11th in terms of NIH funding. That is even higher than the University of Iowa, by the way.
So my amendment, as my friend knows, would put in a $211 million increase for NIH funding that goes around the country. It doesn't just go to Maryland, although some goes to Maryland, but a lot goes around the country. So this does that.
Then I would say to my friend from Alabama, during the negotiations from last year, the Senator from Alabama offered an amendment during our full committee markup--that was last July--that would require the Department of Labor to delay both the wage rule and the comprehensive rule regarding H-2B visas. I opposed the amendment, but I included it because it was, again, part of a bipartisan, bicameral agreement.
The Senator is right that this agreement was never signed off on high--I guess by the Speaker of the House or the majority or minority leader here in the Senate--but usually they have been very accommodating if the Appropriations Committee agrees and we all agree on what is called the four corners: the Republican House, the Democratic House, the Republican Senate, and the Democratic Senate. Basically, we would move those bills.
So, again, this amendment that was offered by my friend from Alabama that would require the Department of Labor to delay both the wage rule and the comprehensive rule regarding H-2B visas is in this amendment, even though I oppose it, because it was part of a bipartisan agreement. The only way this provision can take effect is by approving my amendment because it is not in the CR. Since my friend from Alabama offered this amendment, I think he considered it to be important, he fought for it, but it won't take effect in a CR.
I would also remind my friend and others that the cost of this amendment is the same as in the underlying substitute.
My friend said there were other things in the bill in December that were not finalized. That is true, I say to my friend. That is very true, there were other things. But these were called riders. Some were Republican riders, some were Democratic riders. Are they in this bill? No, because they weren't agreed to. They were there, but they were never agreed to--and for good reason. Some of them were, obviously, very closely held by Democrats and some very closely held by Republicans, so there just wasn't agreement.
I am just saying that in the amendment now before us are the things on which we did agree. So the Senator is right. Some of the things that were out there on the riders we didn't include because they simply were not agreed to in December. I am just saying that what is in this bill is what we did agree to in December.
With that, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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