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Public Statements

Effects of H.R.1 on Women and Children

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I am here representing 150 million women in the United States of America, and they are bewitched, bothered, and bewildered by what the Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, in H.R. 1, has done to women.

Women all over America have to balance their family budgets, so they know our United States of America needs to get its fiscal act together. They also know we need to live in a more frugal time. They understand that. But what they do not understand is that in H.R. 1, with what the House did, the entire burden has come from a very limited amount in discretionary spending. When you take off defense, homeland security, women and children are actually thrown under the bus. Well, they are mad as hell, and they don't want to take it anymore. So the Democratic women today, in the hour we have been given, are going to lay out the consequences of what H.R. 1 means.

Now, we in the Senate, and we, your appropriators--of which there are many women on the committee: Landrieu, Feinstein, Mikulski, Murray--we know we have to bring about fiscal discipline. The Senate Appropriations Committee has already worked to reduce the appropriations in the Senate by $41 billion. Now that is really meat and potatoes. So we feel we have already given an option, but, my god, enough is enough.

Let me give you just the top 10 reasons why H.R. 1 is bad for women and children and examine why we are ready to negotiate so we do not have a shutdown of the government. We need a final settlement on the budget for 2011.

Let's just go through them. One, it defunds the entire health care reform law. That is bad for saving lives and saving money. It also eliminates title X family planning money. It jeopardizes breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for more than 5 million low-income women. They even went after Head Start. Even little kids in Head Start had to take it on the chin. It is going to cause 218,000 children to be kicked off of it. But they go further. For the group who says they are pro family, family values, and that they have to defend life, yet they slash the nutrition programs for pregnant women by $747 million, affecting 10 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and children. They also cut funding for prenatal care, and they went after afterschool programs.

They cut funding for Pell grants. They terminate funding that helps schools comply with title IX. They cut funding for job training, which hurts over 8 million workers, many of them getting new training for the new jobs for the new economy. And something very near and dear, I know, to the Presiding Officer: they went not after Social Security in terms of the benefits but went after the people who work at Social Security--the Social Security offices where they work on everything from the regular Social Security benefit to the disability benefit. If H.R. 1 passes, over 2,500 people at Social Security will be laid off. In my home State, they were out in the streets in front of the Social Security headquarters saying: What about us? We come every day. We give you the actuarial information on how to keep it solvent. We make sure checks are out there on time, and in snowstorms we are showing up to make sure everything works. But at the end of the day, we are going to be told we are nonessential.

This whole nonessential drives me crazy because, ironically, Members of Congress are considered during a government shutdown. Well, if we are going to be essential, we need to get real about how we come to an agreement on this Continuing Resolution.

So, Mr. President, we in the Senate feel we have given $41 billion already, and we think H.R. 1 just goes too far. It goes too far by leaving so many things off the table.

Now I want to talk about health care reform. We had many goals during health care reform, one of which was to expand universal access. Again, the Presiding Officer has been a champion of that, a stalwart defender of the public option, and a stalwart defender of the single-payer system. As we worked on it and came up with a compromise, what was very clear was that there were certain things we just had to do. One was--whether you were for the public option or not, whether you are for a single-payer system or the system we have now--we knew we had to end the punitive practices of insurance companies.

We knew in the health care reform bill we also had to improve quality measures that would actually save lives and save money. We also knew that if we had a strong preventive care benefit, we, once again, through early detection and screening, could minimize the cost to the insurance companies and the Federal budget and also the terrible cost to families who face all kinds of problems but particularly cancer. So that is why we passed the health care reform.

Over in the House, they thought it was going to be really cool to say: We could repeal health care--remember, they said ``repeal and replace.'' They have only talked about repeal because they do not know how to replace. So they decided, through H.R. 1, to defund it, to take the money away. So let me just outline very quickly what we think it means to women and children.

First of all, we ended gender discrimination by the insurance companies. Before we reformed health care, women were charged 40 percent more in many instances for health care premiums as compared to men of comparable age and health care status--40 percent more. There was a gender tax of 40 percent put on by the insurance companies. We ended that.

The second thing is that the insurance companies were treating simply being a woman as a preexisting condition. So we went to the floor, and with the great guys of the Senate we passed the preventive health care amendment. We wouldn't let them take our mammograms away from us. We also made sure our children could have early detection and screening in schools. And, because it is not about gender, it is about an agenda--we included men in these preventive health services as well.

Now, if we agree to that element in H.R. 1, we will take away the preventive health care benefits. They guarantee coverage of preventive care and screenings, such as mammograms for women under 50. We cannot go back.

It would also repeal the quality measures, such as the famous Pronovost checklist developed in Maryland by a Hopkins doc. When used at just Michigan hospitals alone, it is a simple, low-tech way to lower in-house infections in hospitals. In Michigan hospitals, it has saved 2,000 lives and has saved the State $200 million each year.

We can do this. There are so many things that are important in the health care reform bill. We cannot defund it.

As we move ahead in what we hope will be a negotiation and a settlement, we, the women of the Senate, will not surrender the women and children of this country. We will not let them be thrown under the bus and run over by H.R. 1.

Mr. President, I now yield the floor to one of our very able advocates, someone who has been a stalwart defender of childcare in our country, Senator Patty Murray.

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