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REPUBLICAN-LED CONGRESS SERVES UP A BILL ONLY THE GRINCH COULD LOVE
“At this time of year, many of us remember Charles Dickens’ classic
tale, A Christmas Carol. In the play, the selfish Scrooge comes to
understand the true meaning of the holiday season, and opens his heart
to the poor Cratchet family and those less fortunate than he.
“Unfortunately, here in Congress art does not imitate life. Congress is
poised to deliver a harsh blow to those least fortunate in our society;
but unlike the classic holiday tale, in Republican-led Congress there
is no remorse, no nagging conscience, and no change of heart at the end
of the day.
American families are in for quite a Christmas surprise this year. Let’s be clear about what is going on here:
“Later this week we will be asked to vote on three bills: the Labor-HHS
Appropriations bill, the Reconciliation package, and a Defense
“The Labor-H bill – which funds programs like Head Start, community
health centers, education initiatives, and community service programs
serving the neediest among us – is cut by $1.5 billion.
“Skyrocketing fuel costs have caused huge demand for heating
assistance. 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.
“And then there is the Reconciliation bill – cuts to food assistance
for needy families, child support enforcement, and Medicaid services.
“And as if that weren’t enough—there’s another thing coming— a Defense
spending bill with across the board cuts that will make things even
“Right before Christmas we say to the poor in this country, we say 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: ‘Hang your stockings! Congress is coming
with three lumps of coal!’
“And why are we doing this? To make room for a new round – that’s right
a new round – of tax cuts for the most fortunate. Over 50 percent goes
to those making over $1 million – 90 percent goes to people making over
$100,000 a year.
“These are the choices. These are the priorities of this Congress. I
don’t understand how we can do this—especially at this time of year.
You would think our consciences would really bother us. But it is just
business as usual around here. America can do better.”
# # #
A BILL ONLY THE GRINCH COULD LOVE
The Revised Labor-HHS-Education
The Senate and House will soon consider the revised FY 2006 Labor,
Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference
Report. This bill still comes up short in virtually every critical area
of need and further evidence that working and middle-class families are
paying the price for Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Overall, the revised conference report cuts labor, education, health
care, and human services by $1.5 billion from last year.
Health care initiatives face $466 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 Access to
Emergency Devices, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, and training
for Health Professionals.
The original conference reports slashed rural health programs by $200
million. The House leadership claims that the new conference agreement
fixes those cuts. Don’t be fooled. The new conference agreement retains
70 percent of the cuts to rural health programs.
Programs such as the Rural Emergency Medical Services and Healthy
Communities Access Program are eliminated altogether. As a result of
this bill, not one new community health center will be created next
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.