Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Conference Report is a Bad Deal for America
Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement in opposition to the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Conference Report:
“Today the House did the right thing by rejecting the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Conference report and I commend them. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and this time I hope conferees come back with a bill that represents the priorities of the American people. This ill-fated bill was bad for America because Republican conferees stripped $8 billion in funding for avian flu preparedness and cut almost $1.5 billion in critical funds for education, health care, and job training initiatives. The vote reflects the misguided priorities of the Republican Congress that would shortchange vital health care, education, and labor programs in order to cut taxes.
“Together, America can do better. The recent spread of bird flu to Europe and the news yesterday of another human death in China from this deadly virus proves we cannot afford to drag our feet any longer. The Senate approved almost $8 billion in emergency spending in this bill, yet the Republican conferees want to further delay and possibly deny altogether critical funding that would better prepare and protect our nation from this deadly threat. Every day we delay funding, we fall further behind other nations who are working to prepare and protect their populations from this looming crisis. The time to act is now.”
The Labor-HHS-Education Conference Report
The FY 2006 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference Report is the most recent evidence that Republicans want working and middle-class families to pay the price for Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Overall, the conference report would have cut labor, education, health care, and human services by $1.3 billion from last year.
Health care initiatives face $976 million in cuts including a $249 million cut to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and deep cuts to programs to improve healthcare access such as Rural Health Outreach grants, Maternal and Child Health Block Grants, and training for Health Professionals. Programs such as the Rural Emergency Medical Services and the Healthy Communities Access Program are eliminated altogether. As a result of these cuts, not one new community health center will be created next year.
The bill also includes the smallest percentage increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 1970, which will hinder promising medical research and disease prevention initiatives.
This bill cuts education funding for the first time in a decade. The Department of Education is cut by $59.1 million, and No Child Left Behind Programs are cut by $780 million. There are cuts to Even Start literacy services, Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Technology Grants, and the maximum Pell Grant is frozen for the fourth year in a row even as college costs are skyrocketing. And, for the first time in 10 years, the federal government will slide backwards on its commitment to students with disabilities.
Leaving Families Out in the Cold
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is frozen at last year’s level, despite Department of Energy predictions that many families will see a 50 percent increase in fuel costs this winter.
Avian Flu Preparedness
Senator Harkin and Senate Democrats led the fight to prepare for a possible avian flu outbreak by including nearly $8 billion in federal funding for avian flu preparedness in the Senate version of the Labor H bill. The proposal would have allowed the United States to stockpile vaccines and antiviral drugs, invest in our vaccine infrastructure, improve our global surveillance, strengthen state and local public health departments, improve hospital preparedness and surge capacity, expand outreach and education efforts, and increase surveillance of migratory birds.
Although the Administration offered a plan nearly identical to the Harkin measure a few weeks later, Republicans stripped the Harkin amendment from the final version of the bill. Without this funding, preparations for an influenza pandemic will be further delayed.