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Retaining Chairmanship of the Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

RETAINING CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE LABOR, HHS, AND EDUCATION SUBCOMMITTEE -- (Senate - February 08, 2005)

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, in a few moments we are going to be moving to the class action bill. Senator Durbin is due to arrive to offer an amendment. In the intervening time, I would like to take a few minutes to discuss my decision to retain the chairmanship of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The Appropriations Committee has been considering the formation of a new subcommittee on intelligence. Under my seniority position, I would have been in a position to take that subcommittee assignment. I have had a very keen interest in intelligence, chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee in the 104th Congress, being coauthor of the homeland security bill, and the fight against terrorism is obviously our No. 1 priority. So, I have been very strongly tempted to take on that chairmanship.

It now appears that the status of that subcommittee is in doubt because the decision has been made to not make a disclosure of the total funding for the intelligence community. With the announcement of the President's budget, which is austere, we are facing major problems with the deficit and the President has come in with a very restricted budget, which impacts very heavily on the subcommittee that I have chaired now for many years.

The Department of Labor, for example, has cut some $400 million; the Department of Health and Human Services has been cut by $1.8 billion; the Department of Education cut by some $500 million. So that the total impact on the subcommittee has been a reduction of $2.4 billion, which is very difficult when you are talking about education and health and capital investments. Those are not expenditures, they are capital investments-as are programs related to worker safety.

The President has proposed some programs that are excellent. There is $45 million for a new gang youth initiative, which has been sponsored and spoken about by First Lady Laura Bush. There is $125 million for health care information technology, which is an increase of $25 million. This is funding the subcommittee had started some time ago to enhance technology and information. We have had an increase in community health centers of about $304 million. There is a new program for high school risk initiatives, for high school students who are at risk.

At the same time, there have been major eliminations. For example, the so-called GEAR UP program, which provides for the transition from the seventh grade on through high school, has been cut by more than $306 million. The vocational and technical education programs have been cut by $1.3 billion. Educational Technology State Grants have been cut by $496 million, and correctional educational programs have been cut by $26.8 million. There have also been major decreases in training; some $333 million is cut from employment and training programs; $29 million is cut from the Job Corps; $35 million from a program for ex-offenders has been eliminated.

There has been a decrease in Healthy Start. The Centers for Disease Control has been cut by $555 million, which is a little hard to understand at a time when we are calling on the CDC to undertake so many new actions. The program for low-income home energy assistance-a very vital program, especially for seniors who have to make decisions on limited compensation as to whether they will heat or eat-has been cut by some $182 million. Graduate medical education has had a decrease of $101 million. Perhaps of greatest concern-and it is hard to prioritize these cuts-has been the budget proposed by the administration for the National Institutes of Health, which has an increase of one-half of 1 percent, which will not maintain the research program of NIH.

I am joined on the floor by my distinguished colleague from Iowa, Senator Harkin, who has been with me as chair of the subcommittee for more than a decade. Senator Harkin and I have established what might be referred to as and others have called a model for bipartisan cooperation. We have hadchanges in the gavel on the chairmanship and they have been seamless. Our efforts on many important items, which I will not detail at this time have, I think, been very important for the health and education and labor of Americans.

We have increased NIH funding from $12 billion to $28 billion, which has provided for enormous improvements. There has been a march toward cures in Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many other illnesses. In the context of what is happening with these programs, I have decided to stay and fight rather than switch.

I am delighted to yield to Senator Harkin.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Pennsylvania.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I thank the distinguished Senator from Iowa for those very complimentary comments. It has been very gratifying for me to work with Senator Harkin for these many years as we have had the seamless exchange of the gavel.

I would not want my statement to suggest that there are not other areas of major concern as to the Administration's budget. The zeroing out of Amtrak is something which will have to be addressed by the Congress. There have been efforts made since Senator Baker, the then-majority leader, convened a meeting in his office with OMB Director David Stockman in 1981, and we maintained Amtrak's funding. Veterans will have to be reexamined, and many other items. I know we are going to move ahead on the class action bill.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a statement in further explanation of my decision be printed in the RECORD.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

Statement of Further Explanation

Since January of 1989, I have had the privilege of serving as either the Chairman or the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations. Since that time, Senator Harkin and I have fought to dramatically increase funding for the NIH, replace deteriorating and outdated laboratory space at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increase funds for elementary and secondary education and aid to disadvantaged college students, and provide for worker protection. These accomplishments have not come without challenges. The Subcommittee's allocation has limited our ability to increase programs as much as I would have liked, and dividing funding among many worthy programs has been a struggle. But I have enjoyed these challenges, the all night conferences with the House, and balancing the Congressional and Presidential priorities.

This year when the Senate passed a resolution to create an Appropriations Subcommittee on Intelligence it was at a time when the policy position of the Senate was to have an Intelligence budget that was unclassified. Subsequently, the decision was made to maintain the status quo and keep the budget classified. Since it would be difficult to create an Intelligence subcommittee with a classified budget, it may not be possible to do so at this time. However, discussions are still underway and if such a subcommittee were to be created, given my seniority on the Appropriations Committee, I would have the opportunity to chair that subcommittee. I have given serious consideration to taking that chairmanship. I believe that heading the Intelligence subcommittee at a time when this Nation's intelligence community is being restructured is very significant and is something in which I have great interest.

I am reluctant to give up the Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education and the reasons for my reluctance are many.

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH

I have been on the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee since I first came to the Senate in 1981. At that time the funding for the NIH was something less than $3.6 billion. As I begin my 25th year, the current budget is $28.6 billion. Senator Tom Harkin and I have had a significant impact on this budget and as a result of our leadership and persistence we achieved our goal of doubling the medical research budget from FY'98 to FY'03.

But doubling the NIH budget is not enough. One of the most important reasons to continue my Labor-HHS Chairmanship is to continue to increase support for the NIH. Science has made great strides in extending life expectancy-in the early 1900s, 47 years was the average life span-today 77 years is the norm. Polio, smallpox, and other infectious diseases no longer kill or cause suffering to large numbers of people. Deaths due to heart disease have been cut by more than half since 1950. Cancer deaths in both men and women have decreased and some cancers like multiple myelomas have been reduced from a death sentence to a chronic condition as a result of new drugs developed through biomedical research. But there is still an enormous challenge. Heart disease continues to be the number one killer and cancer is now number two.

Last year, I lost two of my closest friends as a result of breast cancer-Carey Lackman Slease and Paula Kline. While the best medical teams worked on their cases-no cure could be found. Several times a week, I receive calls from friends and constituents asking me to contact the NIH to see if there is any cutting edge treatment for diseases that affect them or their families. And while there are some successes there are many losses-like Carey and Paula.

We also receive many requests from constituents and advocacy groups asking me to hold hearings to focus attention on their particular ailments in the hopes of receiving increased medical research for their disease. There is a long list of maladies that people suffer from where there could be cures: autism, Parkinson's, scleroderma, muscular dystrophy, osteoporosis, cervical cancer, lymphoma, prostate cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer, pediatric renal disorders, glaucoma, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord injury, arthritis, a variety of mental health disorders, hepatitis, deafness, stroke, Alzheimer's, spinal muscular atrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease-diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, heart disease, infant sudden death syndrome, schizophrenia, polycystic kidney disease, Cooley's anemia, stroke, primary immune deficiency disorders.

The tragic aspect of these deadly diseases is that they could all be cured, I do believe, if we had sufficient funding. Continuing my Chairmanship will permit me to fight for increased dollars to find these cures.

STEM CELLS

In December of 1998, I held the first Congressional hearing on the issue of human embryonic stem cells. The Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee provides funding for biomedical research at the NIH. At that time, no federal funds were going to this critical research. As Chairman, I have been able to focus attention on the promise of these stem cells to alleviate suffering and save lives. In 2004, NIH funded $24.2 million in the area of human embryonic stem cell research. I continue to lead the effort to provide additional funding for stem cell research without arbitrary restrictions. To continue to focus attention and provide resources for the incredible potential of stem cell research to save lives, it is critical for me to remain as Chairman of the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee.

WOMEN'S HEALTH

I have long held a strong interest in issues related to the health of women. As Chairman, I supported the creation of an Office of Women's Health at the NIH to ensure adequate research into diseases and maladies affecting women; supported the funding of the first Healthy Start Demonstration sites to improve the health of pregnant women and their babies, now funded at $104 million; supported increases in family planning programs, funded at $288 million this year, that empower women to make healthy reproductive decisions; and supported increases in rape prevention and domestic violence prevention. These programs remain important to me. To continue to nurture these programs, it is important for me to remain as Chairman of the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION

In 2000, I visited the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, GA. I was surprised by the dilapidated state of the buildings where you had eminent scientists working in deplorable conditions. Expensive scientific equipment was housed in hallways and under leaky roofs. At that time, funding for facilities at CDC was only $17.8 million. The Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee began to focus resources in 2001 to reconstruct the infrastructure of the CDC, whose critical public health mission is to protect the American people from outbreaks of disease. In 2001, we were able to provide $175 million and we have provided over $250 million in each of the last three years. This effort continues as several substandard facilities remain. To continue to provide the resources for critical infrastructure at the CDC, it is important for me to remain as Chairman of the Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee.

WORKER PROTECTION

The Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee has jurisdiction over the principal federal agencies responsible for protecting the American workforce. These "worker protection" agencies include: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the National Labor Relations Board. The jurisdiction also includes the Employment Standards Administration, which is charged with enforcing minimum wage and overtime laws, child labor protection, and administering workers' compensation benefits. In addition, the Employee Benefits Security Administration oversees private pension, health and welfare plans, and would administer proposed Association Health Plan legislation to assist small businesses in purchasing affordable health coverage. Under the leadership of Tom Harkin and myself, we provided $1.5 billion for these agencies this year. Continuing my partnership with Senator Harkin will ensure sufficient dollars will be available to protect this nation's workers.

ASBESTOS

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have a longstanding commitment to crafting a legislative solution on asbestos compensation, and once enacted, to ensuring that it is expeditiously implemented. As chairman of the Labor-HHS-Ed Subcommittee which oversees funding for the Department of Labor, I will be in the unique position to ensure that an administrative system is established promptly, and that claims are processed fairly.

EDUCATION

In the area of education, I know from personal experience the opportunities that are created through a high-quality education. As a Senator, I have sought to make the American dream a possibility for each and every American, whether it means great public schools for America's children, affordable alternatives at our Nation's outstanding colleges and universities, high-quality career and technical education programs, or investments in Head Start and other early care and
development programs.

In my role as Ranking Member or Chairman of the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I have helped increase the budget of the U.S. Department of Education from $24.7 billion in FY95 to $56.6 billion in FY05, an increase of 129 percent. This was made possible by the strong, bi-partisan working relationship I have with Senator Tom Harkin, my partner on the subcommittee.

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

Since 1995, the Subcommittee has increased Federal support for K-12 education by more than 100 percent, and most of the increases have been provided in programs that provide significant flexibility to States and local schools so they can direct funds to the areas that will best support improved student achievement and to eliminate the achievement gap in this country. Today under the No Child Left Behind funding is $24.4 billion, up more than 40 percent or $7 billion, since the Act was passed by Congress in December 2001. As Chairman of the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I am proud to have played a part in the many positive developments in the area of education, but more work needs to be done.

I believe that the future of the United States will be shaped by the minds, skills and abilities of today's students, and it is my hope and intent to help make sure that they are prepared to make that future even brighter than it is today.

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES EDUCATION ACT

We have made substantial progress in meeting our obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. When the law was enacted in 1975, the Federal Government promised to be a 40 percent partner in meeting the extra costs associated with improving educational opportunities for students with disabilities. For the first 20 years after the law was signed, the Federal contribution hovered around 8 to 9 percent. I am proud to report that over the past 10 years we have improved on that record by raising the Federal contribution from 8 percent to 19 percent almost halfway to the 40 percent goal. As Chairman, along with my partner Tom Harkin, we will continue to ensure that the Federal contribution continues to increase and that students with disabilities are assessed with suitable tests, provided the supports they need to achieve at the best of their ability, and supported in their transition to employment and further education.

PELL GRANTS

During the past decade, the Pell Grant program has helped millions of students with the cost of furthering their education. By raising the Pell Grant maximum award to $4,050 in FY'05, up $1,710 over the FY'95 award maximum, millions of low and middle income students have received more grant aid that assists them with the increasing price of a post-secondary education. Appropriated funds have more than doubled over the FY'95 level, and, as a result, more than 5.3 million students currently receive grant assistance to make post-secondary education more affordable. As Chairman, I will continue to make sure that every qualified student desiring to attend college can afford to do so and work in a profession of his or her choosing, without overbearing student loan payments.

CONCLUSION

Continuing my Chairmanship on the Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee will give me the opportunity to continue to target funds to programs and projects that are of great value to the State of Pennsylvania. These dollars have created jobs; increased the biomedical infrastructure of the State making it more competitive; provided health care facilities and supported seed monies for local programs related to abstinence, mental health, education and bioterrorism.

I have been contacted by 281 individuals or organizations requesting that I continue my Chairmanship. The reasons for their requests are many: labor groups are asking for my continued support on worker protection programs; biomedical research groups are asking me to once again champion increased medical research dollars; women's groups are requesting my continued support for women's health and family planning programs; education groups urge me to continue to increase Federal support for elementary, secondary and higher education.

The Chairman of the Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee will face many challenges in this Congress. The most difficult will be finding funding for the Congressional and Presidential priorities within the current fiscal environment and achieving the proper balance so that all priorities can be met.

Continuing my Chairmanship would afford me the opportunity to protect the programs and priorities that I have long championed

http://thomas.loc.gov

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