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Hearing of the House Budget Committee - Republican Budget Cuts


Location: Washington, DC

Today, during Budget Committee consideration of further Republican budget cuts, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a motion to preserve the Social Services Block Grant program and the services it provides to seniors and some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

As noted in Talking Points Memo, "before the vote, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) unveiled a sign dubbing the bill "Wreckonciliation' -- a play on the measure itself, which is being advanced under Congress' obscure budget reconciliation rules."

"It will wreck one life after another," Doggett said. "Whether it's preventive health care or whether it's Jenny and the food she relies on through the Meals on Wheels program."

Rep. Doggett's full remarks follow below:
I think what Americans need to know about this debate is that our Republican colleagues are telling us that the only way we can move forward is with more tax breaks for those at the top and the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society can be better handled by the states and by Main Street. We have in this motion to preserve the Social Services Block Grant program, a program that has given the states additional resources that was signed into law by President Reagan and has had bipartisan support up until this month.

Now, they say there are problems with the program. They want more effectiveness, they want better measurements, they think the states ought to have more skin in the game by putting in matching funds, they suggest other improvements that might be made with reference to other federal programs. Those may all be very good ideas. As I said at the outset, I think sometimes these block grant programs are block headed--that's the way I feel about the block granting of Medicaid that is being proposed in the same resolution.

If you find a problem in government, Republicans' answer when they say "reform" is to "repeal." That's what they propose today. They're not looking to improve this Social Services Block Grant. They're not looking to get more accountability, better measurements or more effectiveness. They have a real simple answer to the bipartisan program that began with President Reagan: eliminate it, cut it out, terminate it. That's what they do in today's resolution.

And the suggestion is we can rely on private entities to take care of some of these problems? Let me read to you what Catholic Charities told this committee: "Everyday thousands of individuals who are disabled, children, preschoolers, homeless, elderly, or at risk of being abused are receiving services because of SSBG funding...we reject the notion that those most vulnerable among us should feel the greatest impact of future reductions [in the budget]."

And I think we should reject that. Catholic Charities, private contributors, they do some great work. But they need this to be able to accomplish their purpose. The suggestion was we need to tighten the eligibility requirements… they've gotten out of control. I can tell you that if a child comes in as a victim of abuse, we don't need to ask how much their parents make. We need to reach out and care for that abused child and help them get their life back together. That's some of the work that this block grant does in state after state that ought to be supported.

The suggestion is that we're just going to overtax people to pay for these vital services for the vulnerable. The effective tax rate for Exxon from 2008 to 2010 was 17.6%-- we're not talking about whatever might have been in the statute--the statute is just there to give their lawyers a way to find a way around it and they've done a very good job of doing it. They don't pay a rate of an independent service station. They pay special rates, and I can tell you from the price I've had to pay at the gas pump, all these tax incentives sure haven't kept gas prices reasonable up to now.

The suggestion is that well, some of these folks need to have more skin in the game. I can tell you that Donald, and Jenny, and Mary--they've got skin in this game. Their lives are at stake in this game. The Meals on Wheels program says they will be devastated if these cuts are made.

It is a choice.

I think this whole bill is misnamed. It's not reconciliation--it's WRECKonciliation because it will wreck one life after another whether it's preventive health care or whether it's Jenny and the food she relies on through the Meals on Wheels program. I think we should reject the wreck and adopt the motion.

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