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STATEMENT OF SENATOR TOM HARKIN ON THE LABOR-HHS APPROPRIATIONS CONFERENCE REPORT
“My friend, Senator Dan Inouye, once told me that his bill, Defense
appropriations, defends America . . . and my bill, Labor-HHS-education
appropriations, defines America. You can look at this bill and see what
our values and priorities are.
“Well, the bill that emerged from conference this week certainly
reflects the Republicans’ priorities. But it does not reflect the
priorities of the American people.
“The Republicans’ bill reduces federal investments in education for the
first time since the Newt Gingrich era. It cuts Head Start, and
shortchanges the No Child Left Behind Act by a whopping $13 billion.
“It cuts total health care funding by nearly $900 million. And
essentially level-funds the National Institutes of Health for the first
time in 35 years.
“The Republicans say they are making “tough choices.” But this rings
totally hollow, because the whole point of these cuts to education and
healthcare is to make room for another $60 billion in tax cuts,
overwhelmingly for the wealthy.
“Just as disturbing is what is not in this bill. The Republicans
completely eliminated the nearly $8 billion that I put in the Senate
bill to finance emergency preparations for an avian flu pandemic.
“I have been doing everything in my power to prod the administration to
get moving on avian flu. Now we are left with vague assurances from the
Republicans that they’ll get around to paying for an attack on avian
flu at some future, unspecified time.
“This continued procrastination is just unfathomable. I mean, what part
of “inevitable pandemic” don’t the Republicans understand?
“Think about it: Japan came up with its plan to fight avian flu in
1997! This week the Chinese announced a plan to vaccinate 14 billion
birds. And, here in the U.S., we have no money to buy vaccine for a
single human being.
“So we are playing catch-up ball, and every day matters.
“Every day we wait is another day that we are not stockpiling antiviral drugs.
“Every day we wait is another day can’t purchase vaccine.
“Every day we wait is another day that other countries get in line ahead of us.
“Frankly, I am at wit’s end trying to prod this administration to
action. Look at this calendar. Look at all the days and months that
have been squandered:
“Way back on April 20, Senator Specter and I wrote to Secretary Leavitt requesting a plan to fight avian flu.
“April and May passed, and there was no plan.
“June and July passed. No plan.
“In August and September, avian flu was confirmed in humans all across Asia. Still no plan.
“In October, avian flu spread to Europe, and I attached my avian flu
amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriation bill. Still no plan from the
“This month, finally, the administration announced a plan. We ought to
get moving on it. But instead, this week, the Republicans struck all
avian flu funding from the Labor-HHS bill. So once again, we are
“This is the height of irresponsibility. It puts us further behind the curve. And it puts the American people at risk.
“So I won’t mince words. We need to defeat this bill when it comes to
the floor. And we need to force the Republicans to come back to the
table and fund the American people’s priorities – not yet another round
of tax cuts.”
THE LABOR-HHS-EDUCATION CONFERENCE REPORT
The Senate and House will soon consider the FY 2006 Labor, Health and
Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference Report. This
bill is the most recent evidence that working and middle-class families
are paying the price for Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest
Americans. Overall, the conference report cuts labor, education, health
care, and human services by $1.3 billion from last year.
Health care initiatives face $976 million in cuts including a $249
million cut to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and deep
cuts to programs to improve healthcare access such as Rural Health
Outreach grants, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, and training
for Health Professionals. Programs such as the Rural Emergency Medical
Services and the Healthy Communities Access Program are eliminated
altogether. As a result of these cuts, not one new community health
center will be created next year.
The bill also includes the smallest percentage increase for the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1970, which will hinder
promising medical research and disease prevention initiatives.
This bill cuts education funding for the first time in a decade. The
Department of Education is cut by $59.1 million, and No Child Left
Behind Programs are cut by $780 million. There are cuts to Even Start
literacy services, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Technology Grants,
and the maximum Pell Grant is frozen for the fourth year in a row even
as college costs are skyrocketing. And, for the first time in 10 years,
the federal government will slide backwards on its commitment to
students with disabilities.
LEAVING FAMILIES OUT IN THE COLD
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is frozen at
last year’s level, despite Department of Energy predictions that many
families will see a 50 percent increase in fuel costs this winter.
AVIAN FLU PREPAREDNESS
Senator Harkin and Senate Democrats led the fight to prepare for a
possible avian flu outbreak by including nearly $8 billion in federal
funding for avian flu preparedness in the Senate version of the Labor H
bill. The proposal would have allowed the United States to stockpile
vaccines and antiviral drugs, invest in our vaccine infrastructure,
improve our global surveillance, strengthen state and local public
health departments, improve hospital preparedness and surge capacity,
expand outreach and education efforts, and increase surveillance of
Although the Administration offered a plan nearly identical to the
Harkin measure a few weeks later, Republicans stripped the Harkin
amendment from the final version of the bill. Without this funding,
preparations for an influenza pandemic will be further delayed.