DeLauro statement at subcommittee markup of FY 2019 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill
I want to start today’s discussion by going back a few months. In March, we passed a great Labor-HHS-Education bill. Members on both sides of the aisle were justifiably proud of that bill.
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 -- take credit for those investments. And we should. We should be proud of helping more people have affordable and safe child care; of helping low-income students become the first members of their family to go to college.
We helped Americans who are suffering with substance abuse to enroll in treatment and counseling. We supported more NIH grants that could hold the key to curing cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
Democrats and Republicans were proud to support last year’s Labor-HHS-Education bill. Rightly so!
So, I must ask. Why not do that again?
There is an additional $18 billion of non-defense discretionary programs for fiscal year 2019. So, proportionally, the Labor-HHS-Education bill should see a $5.5 billion increase. If the committee allocated those funds to Labor-HHS-Education, we could write another meaningful bill. Instead, zero.
The committee could continue to provide an annual increase of $2 billion for NIH, instead of settling for less. Unfortunately, under the House majority’s bill, more than 20 of NIH’s institutes will receive an increase of only 1.2 percent. Only one-point-two percent. That is less than inflation. For the majority of NIH’s institutes and centers, this bill would cause them to go backwards. One example is the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which supports research to benefit 30 million Americans with Diabetes, 3 million Americans with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as 650,000 Medicare patients with End-Stage Renal Disease. NIDDK would be limited to an increase of 1.2 percent.
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 do any of those things.
We also do nothing to address the crisis on the border, created by President Trump and his heartless zero-tolerance policy. Families are seeking asylum and the Trump Administration is detaining them and separating children from their parents, inflicting trauma and potentially life-long scars on these children. I read a story about woman who said federal officials took her child while she was breastfeeding her. And now, the President is talking about building internment camps to house 1,000 to 1,500 of these children? It is unspeakable. We are going to need to do a lot more to help, house and protect these children, and hopefully halt the President’s disgraceful policy. And even if you support the program, then where is the funding for the unaccompanied children?
So, for many reasons, I am disheartened to see this level-funded still. With this bill, the Majority cheats America’s families, who are struggling with stagnant wages and rising health care costs.
In fact, this bill cuts Medicare and Medicaid operations by half a billion dollars. 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 uphold our promise to seniors, a promise President Trump and the Republicans repeatedly made. So, why are we cutting anything from Medicare or Medicaid?
This bill is another attempt to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act. And now, Republicans are going after protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Last week, the Trump Administration moved to once again allow private insurance companies to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions. Afterwards, Senate Majority Leader McConnell said, and I quote, “Everybody I know in the Senate—everybody—is in favor of maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions.” Yet, Congressional Republicans endorsed the move.
This bill also cuts $289 million from the Department of Labor, including a rescission of $200 million from Dislocated Worker job training. Today, the single biggest economic challenge facing working people is that they are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. Families are struggling to put food on the table and pay their bills. They cannot think about putting their kids through college. They cannot think about a vacation. They cannot think about retirement security. So, we should not be undermining an agency as essential as the Dept. of Labor, nor programs as important as job training, not when so many still struggle to make ends meet.
This bill would eliminate $118 million in funding that help keep our kids safe in school, namely SAMHSA’s Project Aware State Grants and the Department of Education’s School Safety National Activities. Project Aware helps to refer school-age youth with serious mental illness to treatment and counseling. Meanwhile, the Department of Ed’s School Safety program improves student safety and well-being.
Why are we eliminating programs that try to make our schools safer? The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 14 people. It was four months ago. The school shooting in Houston, Texas killed 10 people just one month ago.
And why are we still not funding research into gun violence? Children are dying. We could be doing so much more to help shed light on this. We must. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos heads the School Safety Commission. She said they will not take up the issue of guns, among the 27 different factors that they are looking at.
We must 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.
Where are our values? The Majority gifted a $1.5 trillion tax cut to wealthiest Americans. Now, we cannot afford to help our children reach their potential? It is wrong.
That is only part of what is wrong with this bill. There are the riders. Yet again, this bill attempts to block funding for the Affordable Care Act. It attempts to block funding for Family Planning. It even includes what I call a 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 new report which found that a chemical in Monsanto’s products—including Round-Up—to be a possible carcinogen. By blocking NIH from funding, it appears the Majority is shilling for Monsanto. I hope that is not the case because this Monsanto Rider is unacceptable.
Too much of this bill is unacceptable.
Again, we could write a bill if we choose to allocate the money that is all but owed to our children, students, seniors and to the American people.
Next week, we will offer a set of amendments. We will address what this bill fails to: wages and workers, the Affordable Care Act and health care costs, the crisis at the border, mental health and school safety, women’s health and seniors. We will hope to restore the potential of this bill and to fight for people and the issues that matter to them. We have done it before. I hope our colleagues in the majority choose to join us to do it again.