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Further Conference Report on H.R. 3010, Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to oppose the second FY 2006 Labor, Health Human Services and Education Conference Report.

I opposed the first conference report last month because it inadequately funded virtually every area of need and slashed $1.5 billion from our country's critical health, human services, education and labor programs. This new, but definitely not improved conference report slashes $1.6 billion from these programs actually increasing the total cuts to these agencies by $90 million.

While I was pleased to see increases in the Title VII programs and other important health programs, this bill did not provide new funds for these programs, it simply robbed Peter to pay Paul. In this case, the Republican leadership has apparently decided that its more important to provide federal funding for Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs than it is to fully prepare ourselves for the threat of a pandemic flu, such as the Asian bird flu.

The new conference report eliminates $120 million for pandemic flu preparedness in order to fund these increases with the promise that they will make up for it in other bills. However, you can't cram for a pandemic. We need to have the funds in place to prepare our public health system for the threat of pandemic influenza now.

Further, the Republicans have been considering making an additional 1 percent cut to all of the programs funded by this bill. If they do that, it will double the cuts in the bill, bringing the total cuts to $3 billion. That is $3 billion less for critical education, job training, health, and energy assistance programs. When you combine these cuts with the Republican spending cuts bill that they passed as a part of Reconciliation, programs that help the poor, the sick, the elderly and other Americans who need our help the most will be cut by $48 billion over the next 5 years.

When you compare these massive cuts for the most vulnerable to the incredible $56 billion Republican tax cut giveaway for millionaires that Republicans passed last week, there is no question where the Republicans priorities are.

When in the span of 2 weeks, the Republicans give the top 1 percent of Americans who are millionaires an extra $32,000 a year and cut unemployment insurance and employment service offices to help the unemployed by $229 million and cut Head Start by $11.2 million and cut Community College training grants by 50 percent and cut the international assistance grants to eradicate child labor by $20 million it is clear what the Republican priorities are.

While the Bush administration has never fully funded the No Child Left Behind Act, this bill goes a step further by actually cutting total federal education funding for the first time in a decade--cutting No Child Left Behind so that it is now $14 billion below the authorized level, slashing special education, safe and drug free schools, education technology grants and freezing the maximum Pell grant award for the fourth year in a row despite rising tuition costs.

At a time when we are trying to prepare our country for the aging of the baby boomers and threat of pandemic flu, this bill cuts funding for healthcare. It cuts the CDC's budget by $249 million and provides the smallest percentage increase to NIH in three decades. And if the Republicans make a 1 percent cut to all of the programs, NIH will get a real cut.

The bill before us today would also freeze funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, LIHEAP, at $2.18 billion, counting both basic formula grants and emergency grants--the FY 2005 level. LIHEAP serves about 5 million households, the majority of which have at least one member who is elderly, disabled, or a child under age 5. The conference report is freezing LIHEAP even though consumers are expected to pay 52 percent more for natural gas, 30 percent more for home heating oil, and 11 percent more for electricity this winter.

The Republicans won't fully fund LIHEAP because they have other priorities. Their budget makes that quite clear. Tax cuts for millionaires, tax cuts for the giant oil companies, weakening environmental regulations for their business cronies. Those are the priorities for the Republican-controlled Congress. Funding for education, health care and low-income home energy assistance so that seniors on fixed incomes, and poor families can heat their homes this winter, are not their priorities.

I urge a ``no'' vote on this bill.


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