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

Location: Washington, DC


* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the Conference Report on H.R. 3010, which provides Federal funding for health, education and worker programs.

* On healthcare, the bill takes a huge step backward in efforts to maintain basic health care services for the people in this country who are uninsured or underinsured. It eliminates the Healthy Communities Access Program, which helps health centers and public hospitals provide care for the uninsured. The bill cuts rural health care program funding almost in half, and it wipes out almost all of the Title VII health profession training programs that institutions like the CU Health Sciences Center need in order to provide critical training and education for medical students and residents who aim to practice in rural, low-income, and under-served areas.

* And while the bill eliminates or cuts funding for several programs, it also fails to adequately fund others. The bill virtually provides no new funding for community health centers to cover rising health care costs at existing centers or to expand care for the uninsured even though the president called for a doubling of these centers. The National Institutes of Health, which works to find cures for many diseases, gets a paltry .5 percent increase in funding, the smallest percentage increase in 36 years which is not even enough to keep up with inflation in research costs. State and local health departments will be hobbled in protecting the public against infectious and other diseases because the bill cuts the Preventive Health Block Grant by 24 percent. Further, grants that help health departments improve their preparedness against bioterrorism and other public health emergencies are cut, and the Ryan White AIDS programs funding is frozen, even though the number of people living with HIV/AIDS has been rising by more than 6 percent each year.

* Many of the education provisions are equally as troubling. The Republican majority has imposed a decline in funding for the Department of Education while requiring local school districts to implement federal mandates under the No Child Left Behind Act. Though I am pleased to see some of the programs such as vocational programs that were cut in the President's budget were restored in this bill, I am concerned by the low levels of funding for several education programs.

* Our Nation has seen a decreased number of students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, disciplines, and in turn fewer Americans are seeking careers in STEM fields. The Math and Science Partnership provides grants to recruit STEM majors into teaching, and links current teachers with state agencies or universities to improve teaching skills. This program, coupled with its counterpart at the National Science Foundation, works to improve the quality of teaching in math and sciences that will excite students to study these disciplines. I am disappointed to see only $184 million for this program. Unless we make a serious investment in these programs we will continue to see the decline in the number of STEM majors and those seeking these careers.

* I am also concerned by the funding levels provided for Part B state grants under IDEA. Last Congress we passed an authorization for IDEA that sought to reach full funding of the program by 2011. This Conference Report provides the smallest increase in funding for IDEA in a decade and actually decreases the federal contribution from 18.6%, already far below the 40 percent full funding would provide, to $18 percent. It is clear through these numbers that we are not doing enough to help states provide adequate education for disabled students.

* This bill is another example of the Republican majority's misplaced priorities. In fact, Republicans will spend more on tax cuts this week, $70 billion, than they will on all education and labor programs over the entire coming year, $68 billion. The conference report is only the most recent evidence that Republicans are out of touch with the priorities of the American people. It cannot support it.

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