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Departments of Labor , Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008, - Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first of all, I commend my colleague from Missouri for her wonderful comments as it relates to health care. Also, as to the bill in front of us, I thank the distinguished Senator from Iowa for his passionate commitment to the right things as it relates to the values and priorities for our families: health care, education, and focusing on things that really matter to families every day.

I specifically come to the floor, though, because we just saw a vote in the House of Representatives that was just completed regarding the children's
health care legislation. Unfortunately, it fell short of the override we need to have happen in order to be able to provide health insurance for 10 million children in America--10 million children of working families who are working very hard. They don't want to be on public assistance and Medicaid so that their children can get coverage; they want to work. They are working, but they are not in a position to be able to afford private health care coverage and they don't have it at work. So we are, through the children's health care program, rewarding work and rewarding the families of America who want to make sure their children have health insurance.

It is my understanding that there was just a vote that fell short. There were 273 colleagues in the House of Representatives--and I commend every one of them.

All of those who have worked so hard on both sides of the aisle in the House and the Senate should be commended again. Certainly, our leader, Senator Reid, the Speaker, Senator Baucus, Senator Grassley, Senator Rockefeller, Senator Hatch--all of our bipartisan colleagues should be thanked for their efforts one more time.

I come to the floor to say that we are not done. We are not done. The people of this country are appalled at the lack of understanding of what average families are going through today. This President will be shortly asking us to approve another $200 billion for the war in Iraq--that will be paid for by our children, by the way, because it is not paid for; it goes on the national deficit, so our children and grandchildren will be paying for it--but says no to a program that is fully paid for, that invests $7 billion a year in making sure the children of America have health insurance. Seven billion dollars versus $200 billion, on top of another half a trillion dollars that has already been spent, on a war the American people want to stop as it is currently constituted. They want to change that mission and focus on things that will certainly keep us safer.

So I come to the floor to, first of all, commend everyone who has been involved to this point. I am very proud to be a member of the Finance Committee, where we worked very hard to put together a bipartisan agreement. But we are not done. This is a mainstream program supported by the broadest possible coalition you could have, from the business community and the large pharmaceutical companies to Families USA and to organized labor and child advocates and health care organizations. This is mainstream. This is the broadest possible coalition. Unfortunately, I regret to say it has been defeated by misinformation presented by folks who think that if they repeat long enough that somehow this covers people making $83,000 a year or repeat long enough that illegal immigrants are covered, that it somehow makes it true. Now, as the distinguished Chair knows, even in looking at the issue of documented or undocumented immigrants, even those who are here legally were asked to--were basically put in a position not to be able to receive children's health care help.

So to be able to address all of this misinformation that is out there, there is a real issue about that which needs to be fixed. So we have seen lack of information, misinformation, and more that has gone on with this proposal. In the short term, it seems to have worked, but it will not work in the long run because the reality is this is the right thing to do. It was passed 10 years ago by a Democratic President and a Republican Congress. I remember that debate. I was in the House of Representatives at the time in 1997. This was a positive step forward to support families working hard every day, trying to make sure they can put food on the table, pay the mortgage, buy the school clothes, and then have children's health care, have health care for their children, maybe be able to take them to the dentist so they don't end up with an abscessed tooth and the outrageous situation that happened with a child who died whom we all read about in the paper.

This is about moral values, priorities. When this President now comes to us asking for another $200 billion for a war that is not paid for, that is putting brave American men and women in the middle of a civil war in Iraq every day, I want to have him answer the question: Why?

Why, Mr. President, is it all right to add $200 billion more to the debt and ask our children and grandchildren to pay for it, yet you are not willing to stand with the children of America, 10 million children in America who are counting on us to be able to make sure they can get basic health care? There is something fundamentally wrong with this.

I urge colleagues to join with us. We are not going to stop until this is addressed because it is the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, and from a fiscal standpoint it is the right thing to do.

When children can't go to the doctor, their family can only use the emergency room or the child gets sicker than they otherwise would because they only have the emergency room to go to. They can't go to a doctor. The hospital pays, and then who picks up the tab? Every business that has health insurance. So from a practical economic standpoint, it makes sense. Certainly from a moral standpoint, it makes sense.

I think this is one of the proudest moments we have had in the Senate, of people of diverse backgrounds and philosophies coming together, putting the ideology at the door, and saying: You know what, this is about children. I don't know how many times I heard the chairman of the Finance Committee, the distinguished chairman, say: This is about the kids. Just keep focused on the kids. And because we did that in this Chamber, we came up with something we can all be very proud of.

The American people want to know that we reward work in this country and that we understand that families who are desperately concerned about health care for their children ought to be able to have a right to be able to purchase an affordable policy that will allow them to have their children get the health care they need.

So I appreciate our distinguished chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee allowing me to speak. I am deeply disappointed, along with people all across America, at the vote that just happened. But we are not done. Ten million children and their families are counting on us, and we are not going to stop until they have the health care they need.

I yield the floor.



Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise to engage in a colloquy with the distinguished senior Senator from Michigan and the distinguished chairman and ranking member of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee. As this body debates this spending bill, I would like to start by thanking Senator Harkin, Senator Specter and the other members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations for supporting the Workforce Investment Act in this bill. The Workforce Investment Act is a critical program for workers across the country in need of training and education benefits.

WIA brings essential resources to my home State of Michigan, where hundreds of workers are ready and willing to begin job-training programs that make them more employable for high wage, quality jobs. The House-passed Labor-HHS spending bill includes a $335 million rescission of WIA funds as proposed by the administration. This potential cut would devastate the various efforts in place to reinvigorate Michigan's economy and workforce right at the time when our Governor is making great strides towards the goal of doubling the number of workers trained for high-demand jobs in the State.

In Michigan, we are using WIA dollars to create scholarships for workers who want to attend State colleges, we are counseling workers on skill development and the importance of furthering their education, and we are performing skill assessments that help workers decide what level of training they should pursue. All of these services need to be available to workers in my State.

Michigan workers have been hit hard by layoffs and I am proud that the committee has decided to support workers in my State and in all States with the resources and benefits that they need so that they can continue to support their families. I hope to see this body continue to work towards full restitution of these funds in a final bill. It is the right thing to do for our Nation's workforce system.

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