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Subcommittee Ranking Member Tiahrt Statement on the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Bill Mark Up


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, Jul 17, 2009 -

Ranking Member Todd Tiahrt Opening Statement

Full Committee Markup of the FY2010 Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Bill

July 17, 2009

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you.  I am pleased to be here with you this morning as we continue consideration of the fiscal year 2010 Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations bill.
 
I want to be clear at the outset that I have several amendments I intend to offer.  I think they are substantive amendments that deal with the public policy issues our constituents sent us here to debate.
 
I want to thank Chairman Obey for working with me on this bill.  He is a passionate advocate for many of the programs funded in this bill, and he has clearly put a great deal of thought into the bill that is before us.  I also want to credit him for trying to put together a bill that I could support – and if it weren’t for what I consider to be a wholly unsustainable allocation, we might have reached agreement.
 
However, as I travel through the State of Kansas and talk to the people who sent me here, it is clear to me that most Kansans – and I think most Americans – are wondering if this Congress and this Administration understand the long-term ramifications of the massive amount of spending we have incurred since January. 
 
The stimulus bill that passed spent nearly $800 billion we do not have.  When you add the interest that we will have to pay the Chinese and the Saudis and other foreign governments that buy our debt, the cost of that bill alone will have exceeded $1 trillion.
 
To put that bill in perspective, it is larger than the entire discretionary budget passed by Congress for fiscal year 2002, and nearly matched the size of the total discretionary spending this Congress approved for fiscal year 2009. 
 
And what do we have to show for that exercise?  Unemployment has hit 9.5 percent and is expected to rise above 10 percent.  We have massive amounts of money spent on programs – many funded by the agencies in this bill – that may be good in the long-term, but have absolutely nothing to do with bringing us out of the economic crisis we are in today. 
 
And most puzzling, of the $126 billion contained in the stimulus bill for discretionary programs under the jurisdiction of this subcommittee, only $7.7 billion has actually been spent.  In the case of one agency that received nearly $23 billion, only $200 million has been spent.  The reality is that bill was not stimulus.  Instead, it will only prolong the pain of this weak economy.
 
What it did, is create a tidal wave of spending that will hit next year. The argument was made by the President and the majority party that this was one-time spending.  I would like to believe that is true, because if it isn’t, the allocation for this bill will need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $220 billion – nearly $60 billion above where we are today.
 
That means at least a 35 percent increase in Labor/HHS funding just to sustain funding for popular programs like regular grants to local school districts, Pell grants, special education, and biomedical research at NIH. 
 
Some would accept that, if we had an extra $60 billion in the treasury. Although, if we did, I’d prefer return it to the people of Kansas, who among others in the 50 states, sent it here in the first place.  But the facts are that we do not have that money – it is borrowed money.  
 
It is mortgaged against the future earnings of the American people who will have to pay it back, and it is borrowed from foreign governments like China, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others who are now turning down the purchase of our long-term debt.
 
Just this week we heard about the House Democrats’ health “reform” bill that looks like it is going to cost well over $1 trillion – and it is laden with provisions that instruct the Congressional Budget Office to ignore spending.
 
We had a budget submitted to us by the White House that, for the first time exceeded $1 trillion in discretionary spending – and contains well over $3.5 trillion in total spending.  
 
Aside from the excessive spending in this bill, I have several other concerns.  I am concerned that the majority has eliminated the prohibition on federal funding for needle exchange programs.  I know there are others who disagree with me on this issue – but I am very concerned that we would use federal tax dollars to support the drug habits of people who desperately need help to free themselves from this deadly lifestyle.
 
I am concerned that the bill eliminates funding for abstinence education programs.  While I like the notion of teen pregnancy prevention, I think a critical element to that goal is to encourage a safe and productive life style through abstinence.  
 
My colleagues and I will have some amendments to address what we think are key shortcomings of this bill and of proposals the President has made relating to programs run by the agencies funded in this bill.  Our intent is not to be obstructionists, nor to be dilatory.  However, we will also not remain silent on these issues – these are issues important to our constituents, ones they want us to discuss, even though it is Friday.
 
Again, I want to thank Chairman Obey and the staff – on the majority side, Cheryl Smith, Sue Quantius, Nicole Kunko, Stephen Stiegleder, Albert Lee, Mike Gentilly, Amy Battaglia and Devon Klein; on my side, Stephanie Myers and Steve Crane, and of course AmyClaire Brusch from my personal office staff.  Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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