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Devastating Effects of Sequestration Cuts to Maternal and Child Health Programs and Research

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. DeLAURO. Thank you very, very much. There are not enough words to express our thanks collectively to you, Congresswoman Schakowsky, for calling this Special Order today.

As I was coming to the floor, I saw our colleague Carolyn Maloney, and our colleague Gwen Moore just completed her remarks, and we know the strength of her passion, and I know that waiting to speak today, as well, is Congresswoman Lois Capps.

The issues that we talk about today are not just about women; it's about our families and what's happening in the lives of our families. It has been such an incredible road for families today, given the nature of the recession and how deep that recession was and how basically people are trying to hang on and to try to make their way to take care of themselves and their families.

It's about maternal and child health. It's about their well-being. And I think that it is appropriate to talk about this now.

You know, we did just come through an election, and I think one of the things that we saw in this election is that the issues that face women and children and their families were front and center. Women collectively addressed these issues and began to perk up their ears and to look to see: How am I going to take care of my family? Who is watching out for me and for my family?

I know, as you are and my colleagues on this side of the aisle, we are very grateful for the decisions that they made, and now we have to make good on the promises that we made to families, and they are promises. We have a moral responsibility to address these issues of nutrition and health in this Nation. This is not something--when people want to say that there isn't any money to do these efforts, let's take a look at other areas where there is money and the enormous subsidies that we pay out to various interests and where we provide our Tax Code which we can use for good purposes but oftentimes may be used for a purpose that's contrary to the well-being of this Nation. Let's look to those places first before we start to look at cuts that affect the people in that photograph. They're real. They're not statistics. And this institution has that moral responsibility and that obligation to do well by them.

My colleague, Gwen Moore, talked about the WIC program, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, short-term program, science-based. It's a lifetime of good nutrition and health behaviors for at-risk women and children.

What we have here is the investment in this program. What does it do? It doesn't just sink to the bottom of the ocean. It means healthier pregnancies, healthier birth outcomes, growth and the development of young children. Over half the babies born in the United States every year and 9 million mothers every month participate in this program all across the United States.

My colleague, Congresswoman Moore, talked exclusively about the WIC program. I was going to do that, but let me take a different tack. Let me talk about the bounty in this Nation that you spoke about, my colleague. This is a land of plenty. We produce more food than any other nation in the world.

I will tell you about my congressional district, the greater New Haven, Connecticut, district. One out of seven people in my district go to bed hungry. They don't know where their next meal is coming from. Connecticut, statistically, is the richest State in the Nation. It is essentially because we have something called Fairfield County and the Gold Coast where there's a lot of affluence. But we also have cities like New Haven and Hartford and Bridgeport and others who have families who are at risk.

But what's happened with the issue when people talk about food insecurity, you know what it means, I know what it means, Congresswoman Capps knows what it means. It means people are hungry, and they don't know where their next meal is coming from. And we're now looking at food pantries that are out of food. There are all kinds of drives to fill up these shelves so that people who never thought they would have to use this kind of a service are in fact looking at the need to put food on their table.

And yet we look at a set of circumstances here in the programs that we have jurisdiction over where we would see $134 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or the SNAP program. What that means is when you have that massive cut there, millions of people are going to be jettisoned from the ability to feed their families and feed themselves. And that mother and child in that photograph are going to be without access to food. It is unconscionable.

And then I will just say one more point. The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which is a program for families who are not eligible for food stamps, their funding is dependent upon what happens in the food stamp program. So the young woman in Branford, Connecticut, who came to an event with me, in a blue-collar town, the young woman had a job as a human resources administrator, helped to invest pension funds, had three sons, 18, 14 and 10, she got up and said, I am not eligible for food stamps so I come to the food bank to get emergency food assistance. She and her family, three grown boys, eat one meal a day in the United States of America, a land of plenty. She had tears in her eyes. She wants a job. She wants to go to work. She hasn't been able to find one. Connecticut has 9 percent unemployment. So her family is eating one meal a day. It's outrageous. It's unconscionable.

We have the ability in this institution to change that so that our children don't go to bed hungry at night. That is not who we are. That's not where our values are. It is that moral responsibility. And if we move forward with what they're talking about in these deep cuts, this sequestration, all it is is letting people know about the deep cuts, and there will be even more cuts to food programs, nutrition programs, which will rob people of their lives and their ability to succeed. And it's particularly important for our children, our babies, our toddlers.

Let's have the courage not to make this happen and to pull back from these unconscionable cuts to our food and nutrition programs.

Thank you for doing this. God bless you.


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