Chair DeLauro Statement at FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services

2022-03-31 10:39

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2023 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services:

I want to acknowledge the Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Congressman Tom Cole, and all of the Members of the subcommittee who are joining today’s hearing both virtually and in person.

And I would like to welcome my friend and former colleague Secretary Xavier Becerra to his first in-person hearing of this Subcommittee as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). So, you joined us virtually last year, of course, but there’s nothing like being in person and being able to interact with people. So, a very, very, very, very warm welcome this morning. 

Today I am looking forward to discussing HHS’s fiscal year 2023 budget which builds on the historic progress we made in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations package. In the fiscal year 2022 Omnibus, we increased funding for biomedical research, public health, behavioral health, child care and early learning, prevention of child abuse and family violenc, and the list goes on. And through these investments, we are able to bring transformational change to millions of hardworking American families. 

Let me take a second here before I go on to say a thank you to my colleagues on both sides of the dais, who are virtual today and a really heartfelt thanks for our work together in passing the 2022 omnibus. And Congressman Cole, I want to say a particular thank you for your good offices in this I think we have a bill we can be enormously proud of and I would also say there weren’t a lot of folks who thought we were going to get across the finish line, but we showed them. And all done by March 8th – you know the deadline that they kept changing. So, thank you all very very much for your hard work. And again, a thanks to the staff as well for getting us there. 

We strengthened in the Omnibus bill the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by supporting the public health workforce, continuing to modernize public health data systems, creating a new funding mechanism to support core public health activities at the State and local level. 

We made strong, transformational investments in maternal health with increased funding for NIH research on maternal mortality through the IMPROVE Initiative, for the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and Maternal Mental Health Hotline, and for the CDC’s Maternal Mortality Review Committees, just to name a few. 

We expanded access to behavioral health with investments in the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Mental Health Block Grant and in Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics as well as a new pilot program to support Mental Health Crisis Response Teams, to ensure that individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis receive the medical treatment that they need. 

In addition, for the first time in 12 years, we included funding for Member projects to support hospitals and health clinics, mental and behavioral health projects, K-12 and Higher Education programs, and job programs in our home districts. 

And now, with the fiscal year 2023 budget before us, we are strengthening these historic investments and ensuring the seeds of change that we planted in last year’s bills grow deep, strong, and sustainable roots. 

I want to be clear – my goal is to pass fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills on time, which means sending them to the President by September 30. We’ve already had conversations and I plan to work with Ranking Member Granger, Chairman Leahy, and Vice Chairman Shelby to reach an agreement on topline spending levels, so each subcommittee can move forward with a renewed sense of urgency.  

In the immediate term, we need to provide additional emergency funding to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — to purchase lifesaving vaccines, antivirals, monoclonal antibodies, as well as continue support for the uninsured to receive vaccination and testing at no cost. 

Surgeon General Admiral Vivek H. Murthy wrote in the New York Times on Tuesday and I quote, “Now, for the first time, we cannot order enough vaccines to provide boosters for all Americans if a fourth dose is deemed necessary in the fall. If we need variant-specific vaccines, we will not have the funds to secure them, deliver them or administer them. Last week, we were forced to cut our shipments of lifesaving monoclonal antibodies to states by 35 percent — and we anticipate running out of monoclonal antibodies later this spring. We will not be able to continue making home tests available, and the critical surveillance efforts that help us anticipate new waves and variants will be compromised” end quote. 

Let me also add, that it is equally critical to support global vaccination efforts — both from a humanitarian perspective and our own self interest. Viruses do not stop at borders on a map. No amount of domestic preparedness can possibly contend with a continuing onslaught of new variants. As of today, only 1 in 10 people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated. To achieve the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of each country’s population — including health workers and the elderly — the United States must take a leadership role.

It is urgent that we act now to secure more funding to address the ongoing pandemic before the money runs out. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to come together to save American lives and to save lives across the globe.

And again it is urgent that we move in this direction. 

Mr. Secretary, I am pleased to see your long-term plan for pandemic preparedness. The President’s budget includes $82 billion over 5 years to invest in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the CDC, the NIH, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be able to identify a new potential pandemic and move quickly to develop a vaccine and deploy it within 100 days. 

We also need to tap the potential of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, otherwise known as ARPA-H, which we created in fiscal year 2022 in the Omnibus, to support transformative research projects to address debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, ALS, and many other health conditions afflicting millions of Americans every day. ARPA-H has tremendous potential to develop breakthrough technologies and advancements while continuing our important work to reduce health disparities. However, Mr. Secretary, you know my views on this, I must say that the decision to place ARPA-H within the NIH I believe is a mistake and will hamper the agency’s ability to achieve these breakthroughs. I believe that ARPA-H would be more successful in its unique mission if it were established as an independent agency within HHS. And I also believe that the proposed increase of only $274 million for the rest of the National Institutes of Health is insufficient and threatens the progress this Committee has made in the past several years through significant, sustained investments in biomedical research.

Beginning in fiscal year 2023, the President proposes to reclassify the entire Indian Health Service budget, approximately $9.3 billion, as mandatory. And I look forward to hearing more about the need and the rationale for this proposal.

Mr. Secretary, I am happy to see the President’s Budget continues to build on our investments in public health, maternal health, behavioral health, including significant increases for CDC’s core public health capacity, as well as increases for SAMHSA’s Mental Health Block Grant, Substance Use Prevention Block Grant, State Opioid Response grants, and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. 

The Budget includes targeted increases to improve mental health services for children and youth, including increases for Project Aware and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. It includes increased funding for Mental and Behavioral Health Workforce Training, which is critically important. 

These investments will help make quality care more accessible for those suffering from mental health disorders, as will the July rollout of the new 3-digit number — 9-8-8 —  for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This will be a dedicated number for individuals in crisis to receive help immediately. 

It is encouraging that this budget expands access to health care services for low-income women by providing $400 million, an increase of nearly 40 percent over the 2021 enacted level, to the Title X Family Planning program, which will improve overall access to vital reproductive and preventive health services and advance gender and health equity. I will keep fighting for more money for Title X and other reproductive health programs.

Within ACF, HHS is investing once again in refugee resettlement programs. This Administration is restoring our reputation in the world as a country that welcomes immigrants of all colors and faiths, as we did for Afghans in Operation Allies Welcome, and as I hope this Congress will come together to do for Ukrainians as well. 

Let me also tell you, Mr. Secretary, that I expect to see substantial progress this year in the Unaccompanied Children program. You know my position on this: HHS needs to build a sufficient network of State-licensed beds and it needs to shut down emergency intake sites. It needs to fund the services necessary to support these children and their sponsors as they recover from their traumatic journey and past, and as they navigate the asylum process and understand their legal rights. 

Mr. Secretary, we thank you again for being here today. I look forward to working with you over the next year and beyond and I look forward to today’s discussion. 

117th Congress