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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, last week, the FARRM Bill failed. It failed in large part because of Republicans' nasty attacks on America's nutrition and anti-hunger programs.
Notwithstanding the experience of last week, in this rule the House is considering debating the agriculture appropriations bill, a bill that not only underfunds the WIC program, but actually makes it more difficult for low-income women to receive breastfeeding counseling.
Mr. Speaker, it's as if the Republican leadership hasn't learned from its mistakes. WIC is a critical program that provides food and nutrition counseling for low-income, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as for newborns and infants. It is an important and successful program. It is a key program that helps pregnant and breastfeeding women stay healthy through proper nutrition and actually helps prevent many health issues associated with poor nutrition.
Despite the program's 39-year successful track record, the Republicans decided to include WIC in their sequester plan. Unlike SNAP--which, thankfully, was excluded from the sequester and every single major deficit reduction plan--the WIC program was subjected to the sequester. And the FY 2014 agriculture appropriations bill includes a major cut to the WIC program.
The cuts to WIC in this bill could result in over 200,000 pregnant mothers and infants losing access to nutritious food. And tapping into the reserve fund isn't going to cover everyone; 55,000 moms and kids will go without the nutrition that they need.
And WIC is so severely underfunded that the breastfeeding counseling program--a cornerstone of this program--is zeroed out. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this House of Representatives would promote such anti-women, anti-mother, anti-child legislation. After all, this is the same House that allowed an all-male Republican majority in the Judiciary Committee to write and promote legislation that attacked a woman's right to choose. And by the way, President Obama is threatening a veto of the agriculture appropriations bill in large part because of these draconian cuts. I would say to my Republican friends: stop your assault against poor people in this country.
Now, this agriculture appropriations bill would be bad enough on its own. It would be better if the Appropriations Committee would redraft the bill at pre-sequester funding levels so we're not forced to choose between programs like food safety and WIC, for example.
But what is particularly egregious about this rule that we're considering is what is not included. What's not included is a fix to the upcoming doubling of the student loan interest rates. Congress is going to leave for the 4th of July recess on Friday; yet interest rates are scheduled to double if Congress doesn't act before July 1.
We need an immediate fix to this problem; but instead of working to prevent penalizing millions of students who are looking for help paying for college, the Republican leadership is forcing the House to debate tired, retread bills like offshore drilling expansion that have no chance of becoming law. Instead of pushing legislation that helps banks and lenders make even more money, we ought to help the middle class, we ought to help our students.
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