Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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“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 Appropriations bill.

“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 worse.

“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.”

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The Revised Labor-HHS-Education

Conference Report

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

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 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.


Paid for and authorized by Citizens for Harkin