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

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. HIRONO. I rise in opposition to the underlying bill.

Ours is a compassionate country. We have leaders who can put themselves in the shoes of Americans who are struggling, doing their best. We have compassionate leaders on both sides of the aisle. This is why it is so inexplicable that the underlying bill, as well as bill after bill brought by the Republican majority to this floor, makes cuts after huge cuts to people's programs--not corporate programs, not programs that hit Wall Street, but people's programs. And again today, in this agriculture spending bill, we are targeting cuts that hit women, infants, children and seniors in Hawaii and nationwide.

In my district in Hawaii, 19.5 percent of our residents experienced food hardship in the last year. Let me repeat: nearly one in five people in my district did not have enough money to buy food that they and their family needed in 2010. Today's bill would cut crucial nutrition programs for thousands of Hawaii's most vulnerable and hundreds of thousands all across the country. And while the richest in our country continue to get billions in tax breaks and the oil companies continue to get their billions in tax breaks, why are we balancing the budget on the backs of women, infants, children and seniors?

First, today's bill makes a $650 million cut to the women, infants and children, WIC, nutrition program for fiscal year 2012. This would cut as many as 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children from the program. WIC provides nutritious food, counseling on healthy eating, and health referrals to pregnant, postpartum and breast-feeding women and their children under age five. This program has had well-documented success in improving the nutrition and health of families in poverty. WIC has reduced low-weight births, anemia and hunger. Let's put ourselves in the shoes of 350,000 women and their children who depend on this program.

Second, the Emergency Food Assistance Program supports food banks on all of our islands and across the Nation to support the hungry. I have visited many of the food banks in my State, in my district; and we know that there is a growing need. There are many, many more families now relying on food banks; and yet this bill cuts $12 million from food banks at a time of great, great need. Let's put ourselves in the shoes of the hundreds of thousands of families all across our country who are relying on food stamps.

Third, today's bill cuts 20 percent from the Commodities Supplemental Food Program, which provides food packages to over 600,000 people nationwide, and 96 percent of these recipients are low-income seniors. You've heard others say ending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires for just 1 week alone would save $866 million. That is enough to support poor women, infants and children for the entire year. And when we say this bill brought to us by the Republicans literally takes food from babies to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, we are not engaging in hyperbole. This is what is happening in this bill.

Let's get our priorities in order. Balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable is totally indefensible when we are giving tax breaks to those people, the richest people in our country, corporations that are making billions of dollars. It's indefensible. And where do we live? Do we live on Wall Street? People who want this bill, I think they live on Wall Street. Well, those of us who are opposing this bill,

we live on Main Street. That's where the majority of our people live; they live on Main Street. They expect us to support those people--working people, families, women and children all living on Main Street.

I urge my colleagues to oppose these anti-people, wrong-headed, downright cruel cuts to low-income women, infants, children and seniors all across our country.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I rise in opposition to the irresponsible cuts this bill makes to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission budget and in support of the DeLauro amendment which allows us to debate this issue.

These cuts to CFTC indicate that the majority believes that CFTC can carry out its duties with even less funding this year than they had last year, or that their duties aren't of great importance to the American people to begin with.

For those of us who may have forgotten, the financial crisis was the result of some very bad bets, bets made by Wall Street firms in the unregulated $300 trillion derivatives market. The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the collapse of the mortgage market, and the bailout of AIG and other firms are all a result of these bad bets. The 14 million unemployed, the still weak job market, and the tremendous loss of hard-earned home equity and retirement savings are also a result of these bad bets. That is why we worked so hard this last Congress to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This act gives CFTC tremendous responsibility for making sure that the public never again has to bail out the Wall Street firms that rolled the dice with taxpayers ending up holding the bag.

CFTC's new responsibilities are important, and so is the job that CFTC already does. The current role of the CFTC is to regulate the commodity futures and options markets in the United States. What began as a market for buying and selling agricultural products has become a complex, wide-ranging market for financial contracts. These contracts are based on commodities like oil, wheat, livestock, metal, and cotton, the types of products that we all use every single day. We have to prevent unnecessary increases in the cost of these necessities, increases brought about by speculation.

Preventing speculative price increases for basic necessities is vital to consumers in Hawaii. As the only island State in the Nation, we must import 85 percent of our food and 90 percent of the oil we use for energy. We know what $6 a gallon gasoline is like in some parts of my district, and we constantly face higher prices than the mainland for food.

So I am strongly opposed to underfunding CFTC, the cop on the beat that watches out for price manipulation. Without a strong CFTC, prices will increase for our basic necessities while speculators pocket millions of dollars. Make no mistake about that. We know this is true because the oil executives, themselves, have told us this is so. At a recent congressional hearing, the Exxon CEO testified that oil should ``only'' cost--``only,'' that should be in quotations--$60 to $70 a barrel. Instead, the price has hovered around $100. Why? Because of speculation.

Clearly, to protect the public from fraud, manipulation, abusive practices, and systemic risks, we need to fully fund the President's request for CFTC. This bill not only cuts $30 million from the current CFTC budget, it seeks to deny the agency the vital resources that it needs to meet its new responsibilities under Dodd-Frank. This bill is a de facto repeal of Dodd-Frank. What the Republican majority can't do up front, which is repealing Dodd-Frank, they are seeking to do by the back door by making sure CFTC can't do its job as the cop on the beat.

To keep things in perspective, the Republicans are taking a meat ax to people's programs to address the $14 trillion debt, and yet they are perfectly happy to give Wall Street traders a $300 trillion unregulated playground. Talk about going backwards. Cutting the funding for an agency with such important responsibilities is a roll of the dice, and, again, the people of America will be the ones who lose.

Once again I ask: Where do we live--on Wall Street, which is where cutting CFTC is, or on Main Street, where the rest of us live?

I urge my colleagues to vote against the underlying legislation and the defunding of CFTC.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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