Senate Democrats

Democrats Invest in the Priorities of the American People

Democrats Invest in the Priorities of the American Middle Class, President Bush Opposes these Efforts and seeks Even More Funding for Iraq

After spending roughly half a trillion dollars on his failed Iraq policy and increasing the federal debt by more than $3 trillion, President Bush is picking a partisan political fight with Congress over spending.  Even before seeing a single appropriations bill, the President threatened to veto legislation that exceeded his budget.  Unfortunately, that budget would shortchange the middle class and America’s future, while spending billions more for Iraq and wasteful tax breaks for multi-millionaires.  Democrats believe that it is long past time to put the middle class first, change course in Iraq, and focus on our needs here at home.

Democrats are seeking to invest in initiatives that address the long-neglected priorities of middle-class Americans.  These investments, combined, would require $22 billion more than the President’s $2.9 trillion budget, an increase of only eight-tenths of one percent.  This is roughly equivalent to the amount that U.S. taxpayers spend on Iraq in two months.  In addition, President Bush asked Congress for an additional $46 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan, and other national security programs, bringing his supplemental spending request to $196 billion for fiscal year 2008 – $196 billion on top of the $450 billion in emergency funds we have already borrowed for the Iraq war.

The Democrats’ investments are consistent with the Democratic budget resolution, which balanced the budget without raising a penny in taxes.  The President falsely asserts that the $22 billion increase above his request reflects a Democratic desire to grow the government.  In fact, $19 billion of the increase is used only to restore the President’s irresponsible budget cuts, many of which would harm working families and weaken our nation in the future.   

Health care investments:

·          Increasing funding for veterans’ health care to treat the estimated 5.8 million patients in 2008, including more than 263,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (there is approximately $2.5 billion difference between MilCon/VA appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Funding NIH research on cancer, diabetes, and heart disease by enhancing NIH’s ability to provide leadership and financial support to biomedical researchers, resulting in medical discoveries that improve the health and save lives of Americans (there is approximately a $1.2 billion difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Reversing proposed cuts to military hospitals — a need exemplified by last year’s discovery of neglect at Walter Reed Army Medical Center(there is approximately a $486 million difference between Defense appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request for the Veterans Health Administration);

·          Training qualified health care professionals, particularly important since many areas/fields are faced with shortages reaching crisis proportions (there is approximately a $1.3 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Funding primary prevention activities and health services that address urgent health problems in local communities through the Preventive Health and Health Services block grants (there is approximately a $99 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);

·          Keeping America’s food safe by increasing funding for the FDA in light of an obviously broken and shortchanged food safety system, which has resulted in a decrease in inspections of foreign and domestically produced food (there is approximately a $37 million difference between the Agriculture appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request); and

·          Improving service for our nation’s veterans throughincreased funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration to hire additional claims processors to address the backlog of almost 400,000 disability claims and to ensure that veterans do not have to wait as much as six months to have their claims processed (there is approximately a $131 million difference between MilCon/VA appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).

Education initiatives:

·          Fighting drugs and violence in schools throughthe Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFSC) program, which has been the primary funding source for school-based drug and violence prevention and intervention, contributing to a 23 percent decline in drug use over the past five years according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (there is approximately a $200 million difference between Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);

·          Providing services to children with disabilities through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act(there is approximately a $748 million difference between Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request); and

·          Providing Head Start to more young children.  Due to inadequate funding, Head Start currently serves only about half of all eligible preschool children and fewer than five percent of eligible infants and toddlers.  Increased funding will help provide America’s neediest children with cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills to help prepare them for success in school.  The Democratic appropriations for this program would cover over 40,000 more children than the President’s proposal. ($300 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).

Homeland security priorities:

·          Strengthening law enforcement by supporting efforts to address violent crime and crimes against children and empowering neighborhoods and community organizations to work with law enforcement to create safer communities (there is approximately a $1.82 billion difference between Commerce-State-Justice appropriations bill for State and Local Law Enforcement and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), including COPS hiring, and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Strengthening border security and immigration enforcement,including hiring new Border Patrol agents (there is approximately a $2.2 billion difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Improving the capabilities of fire departments and better equipping firefighters — a need underscored by the fact thatnearly28 percent of firefighters lack adequate self-contained breathing equipment and 36 percent of first responders do not have portable radios (there is approximately a $405 million difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request); and

·          Improving aviation security through the purchase and installation of explosive detection devices at U.S. airports (there is approximately a $89.4 million difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request).

Community investments:

·          Strengthening local communities through Community Development Block Grants.  CDBG supports a wide range of physical, economic, and social development activities – with spending priorities determined at the local level (there is approximately a $1.02 billion difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill for the Community Development Fund and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Helping families afford heating and air conditioning.  Providing weatherization grants for homes to reduce heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices.  These grants would be applied to energy efficiency improvements to insulation, windows, water heaters, air conditioning and space heating, and electric appliances (there is approximately a $96.6 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Reducing poverty while helping those in need become self-sufficient through the nationwide network of Community Action Agencies.  These agencies, located in 99 percent of our nation’s counties, provide services, including Head Start, literacy and job training programs, health care, child care and after-school programs (there is approximately a $670.43 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill for Community Services Block grants and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Addressing the housing needs of seniors and disabled Americans (there is approximately a $272 million difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Helping 7,500 homeless veterans find housing by providing additional vouchers for affordable housing (there is approximately a $75 million difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill (for the HUD portion of the program) and President Bush’s budget request);

·          Developing technologies to bring enough geothermal energy to the market for 5.5 million homes (there is approximately a $25 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill and President Bush’s budget request); and

·          Investing in water and sanitation projects to provide for water infrastructure, flood protection, improved levees, and enhanced hurricane protections – especially along the Gulf Coast (there is approximately a $577 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill funding for all Army Corps of Engineer projects and President Bush’s budget request).

Labor priorities:

·          Working to expand the Middle Class by supporting efforts to provide quality job training and education programs and job placement services for adults, veterans, and at-risk youth (there is approximately a $900 million difference between the Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill funding for employment and training services, including funding for JobCorps, and President Bush’s request); and

·          Improving the lives of American workers by strengthening the ability of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to hold employers and mine operators accountable for the health and safety of the men and women in their employ while on the job (there is approximately a $25 million difference between the Labor-HHS-Ed appropriations bill funding for OSHA and MSHA and President Bush’s request).