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Making Appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education--Conference Report--Resumed

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today in opposition to the conference report to accompany the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. This bill does not reflect our Nation's shared priorities and is a far cry from representing Wisconsin values. The people of Wisconsin value quality education for their children, affordable and decent health care for their families, and sound job training for workers. This bill falls short on all three accounts.

For the first time in a decade, the LHHS bill cuts total Federal education funding. Funding for No Child Left Behind programs would be cut by $779 million bringing it to its lowest level since 2002. Funding for Title I, which serves low-income, disadvantaged students and schools across the nation, would receive $9.9 billion below the authorized level, its smallest increase in 8 years. And again, Congress fails to live up to its promise to provide 40 percent of the costs of educating students with disabilities: the bill cuts the Federal share of special education spending from 18.6 percent to 18.0 percent, just as our school districts are struggling to keep up with rising costs. Funding for Pell grant awards, which help make higher education affordable for many students, is frozen at $4,050 for the fourth year in a row, funding for Even Start and Education Technology is slashed, and funding for the National Youth Sports Program is eliminated, leaving almost 1,500 Wisconsin young people without summer enrichment programs they have come to count on. The list goes on and on.

And education is not the only investment shortchanged. Some of the largest cuts in the LHHS bill are in programs that help shore up the health care safety net for people lacking other access to care and that address shortages of healthcare providers in underserved urban and rural areas. The conference report cuts funding for community health centers, which serve the uninsured and underinsured, to a lower level than provided in either the House or Senate versions of the bill. This amount would not allow a single new community health center to open in the coming year. Funding for the Bureau of Health Professions, which helps recruit qualified health professions throughout the country, would be cut by $185 million, including the elimination of geriatric education centers and health education training centers. Rural health programs would be cut by $137 million, including the elimination of the healthy community access program and rural emergency medical services.

In addition, funding levels have not kept pace with our need for investment in lifesaving biomedical research. The National Institutes of Health's budget would receive a funding increase of less than 1 percent, the smallest percentage increase to NIH since 1970. NIH will have to reduce the numbers of research grants awarded by 355. The bill would provide no increase in Federal funding for Alzheimer's research threatening the progress of promising research on that devastating disease. Less money would be available to support new research grants, attract talented, young researchers to the promising field of Alzheimer's research and fund clinical trials to test new drugs to treat the disease--and this is just one example of the damage to vital research that the LHHS conference report would do.

Labor programs are not immune from the slash and burn approach to appropriations embodied in the conference report before us. They are cut by $430 million. At a time when five percent of Americans, and four and a half percent of people from my State of Wisconsin, are unemployed, this bill wrongly reduces adult job training by $31 million and youth job training by $36 million. Instead of helping the unemployed find work and providing training to upgrade the skills of those who have jobs, this conference report turns its back to them.

I know we can do better for our children and families. I supported the Senate version of this bill, which was bipartisan and passed by a vote of 94-3. Unfortunately, this conference report falls far short; it is neither bipartisan nor bicameral, and actually provides $1.4 billion less than last year's level. In fact, LHHS is the only fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill to receive an overall cut in funding from last year.

I want to thank Senators Specter and Harkin for working tirelessly to improve this bill. I also want to thank them for the modest increases they provided in the CMS Survey and Certification program, the ombudsman program, as well as their work to restore Perkins funding. However, I cannot support a bill that forces our schools, our health care system, and our workforce to do more with less. I urge my colleagues to join me in rejecting this conference report.

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