H.R. 803, "The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act"

Floor Speech

By:  John Conyers, Jr.
Date: March 14, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 803, ``The Supporting Knowledge And Investing in Lifelong Skills Act.''

I join with the National Skills Coalition, a national network of business leaders, union affiliates, community colleges, community-based organizations, and public workforce agencies who oppose H.R. 803. This bill eliminates more than thirty-five federal job programs. H.R. 803 gives states too much discretion to decide who would receive jobs services, and what kinds of programs would be offered. I also agree with the National Skills Coalition that consolidation, in and of itself, will not produce reform.

Block granting 35 programs, including those designed to serve adults, youth farmworkers, dislocated workers, and other disadvantaged populations without any independent evaluations of whether or not these programs would benefit from consolidation is bad public policy.

I am particularly concerned that H.R. 803 would have a harmful impact on job and training opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens, including the long-term unemployed, veterans, individuals with disabilities, low-income youth, and adults from underserved communities.

H.R. 803 eliminates the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program, and other supported employment programs that benefit people with disabilities.

We must ensure that every veteran who has served our nation with distinction can return home and be able to quickly find a good job at a livable wage. Therefore, we in Congress, in good conscience, should do everything in our power to strengthen funding for WIA programs that help veterans find jobs--not eliminate them.

Clearly, at risk youth and adults lead more productive and law-abiding lives, when they have the dignity and hope that comes with being employed. H.R. 803 also completely eliminates the priority of service delivery for low-income adults and youth. Youth will now have to compete against adults for Workforce Investment Fund funding. This is not the time to eliminate training opportunities for low-income adults and youth, especially during one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression.

I must respectfully ask the following question: what job programs have my friends on the other side of the aisle put forward to create jobs for our nation's veterans, and the millions of Americans who are currently out of work? I have not seen one direct job-creation program being proposed by conservative lawmakers, and I continue to see fierce opposition to any direct job creation programs proposed by President Obama and my other colleagues in the House of Representatives.

H.R. 803 is simply another example of ``you're on your own,'' ``fend-for-yourself'' public policy that is bad for business, bad for the economy, and harmful to the unemployed.

Respectfully, I would request that Congress give serious consideration to legislation that would create millions of ``fast track'' jobs for unemployed veterans, youth, and adults. We can put America back to work now rebuilding our nation's infrastructure, schools, housing, and communities. I therefore urge Congress to pass a comprehensive direct job creation bill now, like the program I have proposed in H.R. 1000, ``The Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment And Training Act.''

I urge this body to vote ``no'' on H.R. 803.