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Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PALLONE. I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I think it is easy for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to forget that this bill deals with programs on which the most vulnerable in our society rely.

My Republican colleagues are proposing about $650 million in cuts to the WIC Program. This action would essentially kick 200,000 to 350,000 women, infants and children off the rolls. Now, the Republicans claim that getting our fiscal house in order requires shared sacrifice. However, they are only requiring the sacrifice of those most in need. In fact, the cost of funding this program for 1 year is less than the revenue that would be generated by ending the Bush tax cuts to millionaires for just 1 week. Now you tell me, is that considered shared sacrifice?

If we want to talk about being fiscally responsible, then there is almost no better investment and choice we can make than the WIC Program. For every dollar invested in WIC, $1.77 to $3.13 in health care costs are avoided in the first 60 days after an infant's birth. Doesn't this alone make fiscal sense?

The WIC Program is preventative. It's preventative in terms of public health nutrition. It is a mission-driven program that seeks to improve birth outcomes, improve the nutrition of women and children, and provide nutrition education and food packages tailored to meet the needs of low-income women and children. I can't think of anything that is more preventative in nature and that ultimately saves money.

WIC serves approximately 8.9 million low-income pregnant women, new moms, babies, and children under 5 who have been determined to be nutritionally at risk. Are these really the people that my Republican colleagues want to carry the burden and weight of shared sacrifice?

What do the Republicans expect? I mean, do you honestly expect your constituents to find relief if they're not willing to provide even the most basic of services? You don't even want to provide basic services for people in need. Where are they going to get relief in this economic downturn that we face right now?

If my Republican colleagues continue to pursue this kind of action, they're going to have hundreds of thousands of hungry and malnourished women and children on their consciences--and I really mean that, on your consciences--and that's not something that I am willing to accept.

I urge my colleagues to vote against this appropriations bill and to give the necessary support to our Nation's most vulnerable members.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New Jersey is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Chairman, I am listening to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and I am really saying to myself, who are they kidding? They are saying that this effort to cut the CFTC is for deficit purposes because, of course, all agencies have to be cut in the name of cutting the deficit. But you have to look at everything, every cut and every agency in terms of what it actually does.

And we all know, we all know what the GOP is up to. The Republicans side with big banks and Wall Street and big insurance companies and Big Oil and against the middle class. So here we go again. They are siding with the Wall Street speculators and the profiteers by cutting the CFTC.

Well, what does the CFTC do? It is responsible for policing commodities trading and speculation, including oil and food products. Well, I have to tell you, last week we were at home, we weren't in session, and what did I hear from my constituents? All of them are very concerned about the price of oil going up and about the price of food going up. So you are basically taking money out of the middle class people's pockets.

The average American has got to pay more for oil because of speculation. And more for their food. And it hurts the economy because if people have to pay more money for that, then industry, for example, has to pay more if they want to function, because the oil costs more. And it has a downward effect on the economy. It not only impacts individual people and our constituents who can't afford to pay more for gasoline and for food, but it also has a downward impact on the economy itself because it means that businesses don't expand, they don't invest, and as a consequence we don't recover from the recession.

The Agriculture appropriations bill reduces CFTC funding by $136 million. That's from the President's request. What it essentially does is cripple the agency's ability to do its job. And make no mistake about the Republican intentions. They're defunding. And that's the same as deregulation. And deregulation will allow the speculators and profiteers to engage in the same reckless actions that caused the financial meltdown on Wall Street. The end result with commodities is higher gas prices and higher food prices. The Wall Street speculators get rich while everyone else pays at the pump and the grocery store. The speculators treat the markets like a casino, but the risk of another market meltdown is harm to everyone else.

Some industry experts say that speculators have added $15 to a barrel of oil. Goldman Sachs put the figure higher at $27 a barrel. The bottom line is that the Dodd-Frank bill brought more oversight to Wall Street and provided resources to empower the CFTC to police speculators. The Republicans are trying to cripple the CFTC by slashing its funding so much that it would force layoffs of one-third to one-half of its staff. They're not doing this because they're trying to save money, save the taxpayers' money, trying to the reduce the deficit. They're doing it because they want to cripple this agency, force layoffs of one-third to one-half of its staff.

In case there are any doubts about the Republicans' motives, they're also pushing legislation that would delay all the reform measures in Dodd-Frank. Terms like derivatives, leveraged positions, future markets, buying long and buying short, these are foreign to many Americans, but it's a vocabulary of practices that can be abused as easily as they are used. Most Americans know that allowing Wall Street bankers to run wild contributed to financial chaos and the recession. What they need to know and what we're stressing more and more on the floor is that allowing commodity traders to run wild contributes to higher gas and food prices.

I am shocked, frankly--I shouldn't be, but I am--that my colleagues on the other side, when you go home, didn't you hear complaints about higher gas prices? Didn't you hear people complaining about higher food prices? That's what I heard when I went home. People want us to stand up for them. They want us to stand up for the little guy. They don't want us to stand up for the speculators. They don't want us to stand up for those people that caused the recession to begin with. And by doing this, all you're doing is prolonging the pain--the pain for the average American who's got to pay these higher prices and the downward impact on the economy. Because we know in the last couple weeks that the economy is struggling once again. We were starting to recover. But now signs are not good. So why in the world would you try to contribute to the same problem that caused this recession to begin with? A very simple answer: All you care about are the big banks, Wall Street, the big insurance companies, and Big Oil. The special interests. That's who you're for, and that's who you're always going to be for.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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