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HARKIN: WHY I WILL VOTE NO ON THE FY 2006 LABOR-HHS BILL
“At this time of year, many of us remember Charles Dickens’
classic tale, A Christmas Carol – the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who
learns the true meaning of the holiday season and opens his heart to
those less fortunate than he.
“Unfortunately, here in the Republican-led Congress, life does not
imitate art. Ten days before Christmas, Congress is poised to deliver a
cruel blow to the most disadvantaged members of our society. And sadly,
unlike in Dickens’ tale, there is no sign of remorse, no nagging
conscience, no change of heart at the end of the day.
“The Labor-HHS appropriations bill funds programs like Head Start,
community health centers, special education, and job training – the
programs that help the neediest in our communities. Most people who are
watching today would probably expect these programs to get an increase
this year, or at least be level-funded.
“But that is not the case. Incredibly, the bill before us would cut funding for these programs by $1.4 billion.
“In education, this bill:
Cuts total federal education funding for the first time in a decade.
Reduces funding for No Child Left Behind Act programs by 3 percent
($780 million), for a total that is $13.1 billion below the authorized
level. Provides the smallest increase for Title I in 8 years, for a
total that is $9.9 billion below the authorized level. This means
denying full Title I services to 120,000 children who are currently
eligible to receive them. Freezes the maximum Pell Grant award for the
fourth year in a row despite rising tuition costs. Cuts the federal
share of the costs of special education for the first time in a decade,
and shifts a bigger burden to states and local districts.
“It’s the same story in health. This bill:
Slashes the Bureau of Health Professions by $185 million, making it
even harder to recruit qualified health professionals in many parts of
the country. Won’t allow a single new community health center
competition in fiscal year 2006. Provides the smallest percentage
increase to NIH – less than 1 percent – since 1970 and cuts the number
of new research grants that NIH will be able to fund. Cuts rural health
programs by $137 million. Eliminates 9 vital health care programs
including trauma care, rural emergency medical services, health
education training centers, the healthy community access program, and
geriatric education centers.
“Here’s a map showing all the States that will lose geriatric education
centers, just two weeks before the 78 million baby boomers in this
country begin to turn 60 (January 2006). In Iowa, we have a center at
the University of Iowa School of Medicine that trains physicians,
osteopaths, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, chiropractors, and social
workers. There’s a big need for this center, because Iowa has the
highest proportion of citizens over the age of 85, of any state in the
United States. But this bill eliminates it.
“Now let’s look at labor programs. This bill:
Cuts total labor funding by $430 million, or almost 4 percent. Cuts
adult job training by $31 million and youth job training by $36
million. Slashes the Employment Service by $89 million, or 11 percent.
“Furthermore, this bill will literally leave the poorest people in
America out in the cold. It provides no additional funding for LIHEAP
(the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), even though fuel costs
“In Iowa, natural gas prices are up 40 percent. Hawkeye Area Community
Assistance in Southeast Iowa reports that LIHEAP funds are likely to
run out in mid-January – one of the coldest months of the year. But
this bill fails to keep up with the overwhelming need.
“Now, you might be thinking: a $1.4 billion cut is pretty bad. But that’s just the start.
“Congress is getting ready to pass a defense appropriations bill that
will include an across-the-board cut of at least 1 percent against
virtually every federal program.
“One percent might not sound like a lot. But remember that $1.4 billion
cut in the Labor-HHS bill? Get ready to double it. It turns into a $2.8
“Here’s what a 1 percent cut would mean for education: It would deny
full Title I services to 160,000 children who are currently eligible to
receive them. Whatever happened to the idea of leaving no child behind?
This bill makes a mockery of that goal.
“Here’s what a 1 percent cut would mean for medical research: It would
slash the number of new grants that NIH could fund by 8 percent, from
9,612 to 8,822. That means 790 potential medical breakthroughs that
won’t get tested.
“I could go on and on, but I won’t.
“Today is December 15 – ten days before Christmas. Throughout much of
the world, it’s the season of giving. But here in Congress, it’s the
season of taking away – taking away education programs, taking away job
training, taking away home heating assistance, taking away rural health
programs. And worst of all, taking away hope.
“We’re saying to the low-income families that are working and
struggling to pay their heating bills, put food on the table, keep
their families together, make it through the winter: “Merry Christmas!
Hang your stockings! Congress is bringing you a big lump of coal!”
“I don’t understand how anyone can vote for this bill – especially at this time of year.
“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to defeat it. It’s a terrible bill.
The House defeated it once a few weeks ago and passed it by just two
“We need to reject this bill and insist that the Republican leadership
provide enough funding to write an acceptable bill. They have the power
to do it. They run the White House and both houses of Congress. What’s
“If Senators pass this bill, and deliver this cruel present to the
poorest people in America ten days before Christmas, it’s on their
conscience. But I’m voting no.”