Chair DeLauro Statement at the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services Hearing

2021-04-15 10:18

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee's hearing on the FY 2022 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services:

I would like to congratulate a former colleague and dear friend Secretary Xavier Becerra to his first hearing as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Today we’re looking forward to discussing HHS’s fiscal year 2022 budget priorities, the Department’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the Biden-Harris administration’s overall response to the many longstanding problems and inequities in our healthcare system that this pandemic has underscored and exacerbated this past year. 

This is the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee’s first budget hearing on the Biden-Harris administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request.

In the coming weeks we will also hold budget hearings with Secretary Miguel Cardona, Department of Education, on April 27, Secretary Marty Walsh, Department of Labor, on April 28, NIH Director Francis Collins, along with other NIH IC Directors, in May, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, along with other CDC leaders, in May as well. 

In addition, in May the subcommittee will hold a hearing with Public Witnesses, as well as a hearing for House Members to highlight their requests for 2022. 

The subcommittee will circulate further information in the coming weeks on hearings in May once the dates and details have been confirmed. 

Mr. Secretary, as I am sure you are very well aware, you are taking over leadership of one of the most important Departments in the federal government. And it is at an immensely critical time for this country, as we recover from simultaneous public health and economic emergencies. 

This administration has made a strong start. And you certainly deserve credit for the many public health and economic recoveries that are currently taking shape.

In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic this administration increased daily vaccine doses to more than 3 million doses per day, which puts us well on the way to achieving the President’s updated goal of 200 million doses in his first 100 days. Tuesday’s news of the pause on the Janssen/J&J vaccine may complicate our vaccination efforts but we must have confidence in all of our vaccines as we combat COVID-19. I’m grateful that this administration is committed to following the science.

President Biden also took decisive action to respond to the economic crisis by proposing the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion relief plan to help American families.  

More recently, the President proposed a bold plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, including the care economy, which forms the backbone of the overall economy. The President’s proposal includes an additional $25 billion for childcare facilities and $400 billion for home-and-community-based care, including resources and support for the millions of workers—mostly women of color—who provide these important care services for our loved ones. This new investment will build on the $50 billion that the Congress provided for childcare through the American Rescue Plan and the December emergency supplemental appropriations bill.  

And now, the administration is once again taking the lead by submitting a Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for HHS with investments in health and human services that would improve the lives of millions of American families.

The investments are vital. After a decade of sequestration constraints and two-year budget deals, we are finally beginning to address the needs of our nation’s families, children, and under served communities. We are finally beginning to address systematic shortfalls in our health and human services programs through the American Jobs Plan, the forthcoming American Families Plan, and annual discretionary appropriations. Many of the issues that have become all the more apparent in the wake of this pandemic, issues like the maternal health crisis, the childcare crisis, the mental health crisis, and the gun violence crisis, had already reached a breaking point even before the pandemic began. Which is why I am glad to see that this administration is doubling funding for gun violence prevention research, which is a priority that I fought for and succeeded in securing for the first time in 20 years in 2019. 

This budget proposal and this administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a great step in the right direction. But we are not running a mile here, we are running a marathon. Our public health infrastructure utterly collapsed under the weight of this pandemic. And while this budget addresses some of the failures that occurred in this system, there is still more work to be done. We need to consider, how are we going to address the failures that cause 700 American women to die in childbirth each year?  How are we going to address the failures that have led to 1 in 20 U.S. adults suffering from a serious mental illness? How are we going to address the failures that are pushing more women out of the workforce every day because they do not have access to quality, affordable childcare? This budget includes a record $8.7 billion for the CDC and $10.7 billion to address the opioid epidemic. It also includes $19.8 billion for HHS’s childcare and early education programs, an increase of $2.9 billion, to expand access to quality, affordable childcare, Head Start, and preschool. And it includes $1.6 billion to address the mental health crisis as well as $200 million for maternal health. These are significant investments that are desperately needed to address critical problems and I am confident this budget continues to move in the right direction. Combined with the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, this budget will improve the lives of the American people. Mr. Secretary, it is time to be ambitious. We need a budget and a role for government that invests to give us a better future.  

Let me focus for a moment on women’s health. Thank you for releasing proposed regulations this week to end the Title X gag rule. This action will ensure that people across the country have access to affordable reproductive health care and life-saving cancer screenings. More than 1,000 health centers left the Title X program due to the gag rule. In my state of Connecticut, New Haven is now the only place in the state where people can access Title X providers. We look forward to this rule being swiftly finalized so we can begin to repair the damage of the past four years. 

I hope you build on this progress by dropping the Hyde Amendment from your full budget. The time has come to reckon with the status quo and view this issue through the lens of racial equity. As I have said before, while the Labor, HHS, Education bill has carried the Hyde amendment every year since 1976, 2021 is the last year. The Hyde amendment is a discriminatory policy, that denies low income women access to abortion and that particularly hits low-income women of color. 

The inequities in our country’s health care system that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic — all further expose the impact of the Hyde Amendment. Now is the time to empower all women to be able to make deeply personal life decisions without politicians inserting themselves into the doctor’s office.

I also want to raise the issue of the unaccompanied children currently in our care at the US-Mexico border. I recognize, Mr. Secretary, that you inherited a difficult and challenging situation, as a record number of children are fleeing traumatic circumstances and are seeking to be reunified with family in the United States. I am encouraged by your commitment to return this program to its human services mission of protecting vulnerable children. However, I will continue to push for a more transparent program. Oversight and monitoring of these facilities, especially with these large numbers of children, will be more important than ever. I want to emphasize, as I have emphasized for many years, the need for HHS to comply with the Flores agreement and to provide legal services, health and education services, and post-release services for these children. The Trump administration tried to turn HHS into an immigration enforcement agency. They separated children from their families. We need to do better. I am committed to working with you to ensure you have the resources to take care of these children, which includes housing them in state-licensed shelters that meet all standards of care and placing them with sponsors as quickly and safely as possible.

Mr. Secretary, we have made a lot of progress in recent months, but there is still much more to do. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed the already serious failures in our public health system, it is time to be ambitious, it is time to meet the moment, it is time to do whatever it is we can not only to put our country back on track but also to build the infrastructure for the future and chart a better, and a more equitable course forward for all Americans. 

I and the committee look forward to working with you over the next year and beyond and I look forward to today’s discussion. 

117th Congress