DeLauro statement at full committee markup of FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill
Thank you. Let me acknowledge Chairman Frelinghuysen and Chairman Cole, as well as Ranking Member Lowey.
I want to start by focusing on the importance of our work here today. The Labor-HHS-Education bill supports some of the Nation’s most critical programs, which touch individuals and families throughout their lifespan, from Early Head Start to Social Security. The bill supports NIH research, CDC public health infrastructure, Community Health Centers, and Meals on Wheels. It helps students go to college with Pell Grants and Work Study. It ensures that workers are not exposed to unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. The Labor-HHS-Education bill provides every American with a better chance at a better life, with a good education, a good job, and a healthy life.
My parents were local politicians in my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut. They did not write omnibus legislation. They taught me that the job of an elected official is to make government work for people, especially those who are struggling. That was their brand of politics. That is why I was so proud of what we all accomplished in March, when we passed a great Labor-HHS-Education bill. Members on both sides of the aisle were justifiably proud. We made many good investments—in biomedical research, opioid treatment, public health, child care and early education, Higher Education, and more. Our colleagues in this room—both Democrats and Republicans—took credit for those investments. And we should. We should be proud.
So, I must ask. Why not do that again? Unfortunately, I am disheartened that the Majority’s bill shortchanges the people who elected us. As we all know, there is an additional $18 billion of non-defense discretionary funding for fiscal year 2019. Labor-H is one-third of non-defense discretionary spending. So, proportionally, the Labor-HHS-Education bill should see a $5.5 billion increase. Instead, a zero increase.
Everyone in this room would like to provide another increase of $2 billion for NIH. Unfortunately, under the Majority’s bill, more than 20 of NIH’s institutes will receive an increase of only 1.2 percent, less than inflation.
We could choose to expand worker protections and job training. We could choose to reach more kids through Head Start. We could choose to help college students afford the ever-growing cost of higher education with larger Pell Grants.
But sadly, this bill does not.
This bill also does nothing to address the crisis on the border. I believe that the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy created a humanitarian crisis that is an outrage. It is unspeakable in the cruelty that has been afflicted on children and their parents. This manufactured crisis is child abuse, very simply, child abuse. The Trump Administration has separated as many as three thousand children from their parents. And, that is only an estimate. They do not have a clear understanding of the path forward, with no plan for reunification. There is no plan. There never was a plan. If there was a plan, there would be no need for DNA tests.
Where are the lists? Of children, and who their parents are, or parents and who their children are.
Think about it. You go to the cleaners, you get a claim check. You put your luggage in storage, you get a claim check. You go to a restaurant and you give them a coat, and they give you a claim check. The Trump Administration has no claim check for these children. And in some of the cases, there are reports that parents have already been deported. Yet, for these children, there is no clear plan to get them back to their parents. Some children will potentially never see their families again.
I introduced a resolution to condemn this policy of government-sanctioned child abuse. 181 Members have co-sponsored. I have also sent several inquiries to HHS Secretary Azar to get answers. But, so far, the questions remain. I had a conversation on Monday with Secretary Azar. But, we still have not received cost estimates, still have not received answers on important questions.
I am sure our colleagues on the other side will insist that previous Administrations have engaged in this cruel and inhumane separation policy. But nothing could be further from the truth.
We cannot ignore this. The Appropriations Committee has a unique responsibility since we provide resources for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which now has custody of these children. We must conduct oversight. I have asked for hearings—no response. And, this bill does not reckon with the Administration’s crisis. I have asked Director Mulvaney and Secretary Azar for cost estimates. I have not heard the Majority asking those questions. We are abdicating our responsibility, our moral responsibility, on this issue.
And more broadly too, we are short changing the American people and the problems they face.
Further, this bill fails to address rising health care costs. Instead, it cuts Medicare and Medicaid operations by half a billion dollars, breaking our promise to seniors. This follows the Majority’s corporate tax cut bill, which continues to be a dream for the wealthiest and a nightmare for the rest. We should not be cutting from Medicare or Medicaid.
This bill is another attempt to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. I will also note that Republicans are now breaking their promise to Americans with pre-existing conditions. The Majority endorsed a move by the Trump Administration to once again allow private insurance companies to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions. How does that help address rising health costs? It does not.
This bill fails to fund research into gun violence. Why? Children are dying.
And, it fails to address stagnant wages or insufficient worker protections and training. Instead, its cuts $289 million from the Department of Labor, including a rescission of $200 million from Dislocated Worker job training. It fails to do more for our children. Right now, only 3 out of 10 eligible children have access to Head Start. Fewer than 2 out of 10 eligible children receive the child care they need. And despite Congress’s long-time promise to pay 40 percent of the costs of educating students with special needs under I-D-E-A, we are providing less than 15 percent.
In short, this bill fails.
Then there are the riders. For example, there is one I call the Monsanto Rider. The Monsanto Rider would block funding for the World Health Organization’s cancer agency—the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The research agency released a report which found that the chemical glyphosate in Monsanto’s products is a probable carcinogen. By blocking NIH from funding the IARC’s research, it appears the Majority is shilling for Monsanto.
That is far from the only rider. There is one to block funding for the Affordable Care Act and another to block funding for family planning, to highlight two of the worst examples.
It does not have to be this way. We should be building on our investments from March. What is our excuse for not doing so? That we funded health and education programs last year? That we are only willing to invest in children every *other* year.
For all these reasons, I will oppose this bill. The Majority is shortchanging our responsibility to address: stagnant wages, rising health care costs, besieged women’s health, insufficient worker protections and training, and economic insecurity for our seniors. And as I mentioned, this bill fails to address the President’s crisis on the border.
So, we will offer amendments to restore the vital promise of this bill. We must make government work for people who are struggling. Otherwise, what are we doing here?