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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I rise in reluctant opposition to this bill. I say reluctant, because I along with many of my colleagues in the House have a proud tradition of supporting it.

I salute the distinguished chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee. The gentleman from Ohio follows a tradition of excellence on both sides of the aisle in the leadership of this committee. Before him, our committee was led by John Porter of Illinois who acted in a very bipartisan way addressing the needs of America's families. Before that, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Obey) chaired the committee. Before that, Mr. Natcher who chaired it for a long time. Mr. Natcher again acted in a very bipartisan way. He used to say of this bill, this is the people's bill. He knew full well that this is the one piece of legislation that addressed the aspirations of the American people, that tried to allay the concerns that kept them up at night, the economic security of their families, meaning the security of their jobs, the security of their pensions, the health and well-being of their families as well, and, of course, the education of their children, our investment in America's future.

So it is very sad to see the place that we are today. And why are we here? We are here because a very, very skimpy, in terms of investments in America's future. And generous in terms of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, budget placed us in a place where the allocation for this subcommittee was one that made decisions very difficult. We say of this bill that it is ``lamb eat lamb.'' There is no way you can go into the bill and say, well, if we want to spend more money on education, we will just take it out of what? Children's health? Pension security? There is no good place to take money from in order to try to improve the situation or mitigate for the damage that has been caused by the cuts. Imagine, as our population growing and with inflation, this bill is about $6 billion effectively in cuts over last year; and, without even those considerations, $1.6 billion over fiscal year 2005.

Economists will tell you, and we all know just because we can observe it ourselves, that one of the best investments we can make for America's future, for America's competitiveness and for the self-fulfillment of the American people and our children is our investment in education. In fact, economists will tell you that nothing brings more money back to the Treasury or grows the economy more than the education of the American people, early childhood education, K-12, higher education, postgraduate and lifetime learning for our workers. All of that is considered in this bill. All of that is shortchanged in this bill.

For one example, No Child Left Behind legislation. By the President's own legislation, not my figure, President Bush's figure, this bill for the fourth year straight cuts No Child Left Behind in terms of the authorization. We are now $40 billion in shortchanging No Child Left Behind, leaving millions of children behind. How can that be right? And children in title I, children who need special help in terms of reading, many of these children, 3 million of these children will not get help with reading and math that they were promised because this bill gives it $9.9 billion less than it deserves.

Remember, these are investments. How are they paid for? They pay for themselves because they return to the Treasury more than any tax cut and any kind of tax credit, any other instrument you can name. Educating the American people is a very wise investment.

The list goes on about the problems with the underfunding in terms of education. But the point to be made is in these cases, we have given the States a mandate to do a particular job, to reform education, and we have fallen $40 billion short in the money to match the mandates. No wonder people are squawking about No Child Left Behind. The money was not there to match the mandate.

And then on the issue of health care, there are so many examples of where this bill falls short. I will just focus on one, the National Institutes of Health. Many of us were part of the challenge to double the National Institutes of Health funding through the nineties. It seemed like a big task. We were determined to get it done. We realigned our priorities so that it would happen. We had a cooperative President in the White House, and it has happened.

But now in this bill, it will receive the lowest increase, .05 percent; but that represents a cut when we take into consideration inflation, and what it translates to is over 500 grants, since 2 years ago, 500 fewer grants will be able to be made.

People look to the National Institutes of Health with almost a reverential approach. They have the power to cure. Research is the answer for so many families in America. Every one of us, every family, is just one telephone call away from receiving a diagnosis or learning of an accident, which necessitates research at the National Institutes of Health.

And yet we are shortchanging the National Institutes of Health, which also has a pragmatic, practical aspect to it because, in order to be preeminent and excellent in science, we must be number one; and we cannot be number one if we must compete with a shortchanged budget for the National Institutes of Health. The list goes on, these disparities, whether we are talking about the cut in the bill that trims 84 percent, or $252 million taken from the health professions training.

This is one place where we can address health disparities in our country because by doing this, we will reduce the number of minority students who can enter the health professions. We will reduce the number of students, medical students, who will become primary care physicians. We will reduce the number of physicians who will be able to attend to the health needs of rural America, which is a very important aspect of the life of our country.

The bill cuts funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we all know, by $100 million. It underfunds Head Start; freezes child care moneys; fails to raise the Pell grant by $100, as promised; freezes funding for most Ryan White programs to combat AIDS; and slashes the Community Services block grant in half. The list goes on and on. That is opposed to what this committee used to do and what this bill used to do.

In the late 1980s and the 1990s, especially in the 1990s, this subcommittee rose to the challenge of HIV/AIDS as it was making its assault on our country, with increasing the research, care, and prevention program initiatives in the bill. It has risen to the occasion by increasing funding drastically for breast cancer research and prostate cancer research and the rest. And now what are we doing but effectively giving a cut to the National Institutes of Health.

No bill better illustrates, I think, how America is great, because America is good, than this bill, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, because we met the needs of the American people. We did before, but not today. No bill illustrates how out of touch our budget priorities are, how completely out of touch the Republicans are in terms of meeting the needs of the American people. The bill should be about crucial investments in the future of America. They are grossly underfunded.

Mr. Chairman, this bill does not meet the needs of America's children. It does not meet the needs of America's workers. It does not meet the needs of America's seniors. It does not deserve our support.


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