(Washington, D.C.) – Tonight, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke on the Senate floor to outline her concerns with the Republican budget resolution, which sets spending priorities for Fiscal Year 2005.
Last week, Murray used her position on the Senate Budget Committee to try to increase investments in Washington state priorities. She offered amendments to:
- fully-fund the No Child Left Behind Act,
- improve port security,
- and prevent cuts to veterans healthcare.
All of her amendments were defeated on party-line votes in the Committee. Now that the budget resolution has moved to the Senate floor, Murray outlined her concerns in a speech to her colleagues.
Senator Murray’s remarks follow:
"Mr. President, I've served on the Budget Committee for 11 years. I've served through recessions and economic expansions, during periods of surplus and deficit. I know what responsible budgets look like because I've worked with chairmen from both parties to create them. Unfortunately, this Republican budget does not do the things we must do to create jobs, improve our security, and meet our country’s needs.
That's why I'm speaking out on the floor today. It's why I offered amendments in committee last week, and why I'll be offering amendments here on the floor this week.
This is a critical time for our country, and we need a federal budget that will meet our needs. Today we're facing many challenges. We must support our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, we must improve our security at home, we must recover all the jobs we've lost, and we must address the growing deficit.
This budget resolution should help us meet those challenges, but instead it offers the wrong priorities. It favors tax cuts over our nation's security, boardrooms over classrooms, and deficits over job creation.
This Senate Budget Resolution is Bad for Washington State
And this budget offers too little help for families in Washington state. My state still has the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation. This budget does not give Washington families the support they deserve as they work to turn our economy around and build for the future. Washington residents deserve a real federal commitment as they work to create jobs, provide health care, and improve our security and transportation. But on the issues important to my state, this budget comes up short.
I'm particularly disappointed that the President's budget doesn't fulfill the federal commitment to secure our ports, to care for our veterans, to invest in education, to improve healthcare, or to provide the infrastructure we need to move our communities forward.
Not only is this budget bad for Washington state, but it's also bad for our country's economic future – lining up massive deficits for years to come. While many in the Majority speak of the need for "fiscal discipline," the rhetoric doesn't match the reality. This budget continues the fiscal policies that have put our nation's priorities in jeopardy. Two weeks ago, Americans learned that the Majority's policies are threatening America's retirement security in order to pay for their own irresponsible fiscal policies.
Rather than backing away from a misguided economic policy that has cost millions of jobs, the Administration now appears ready to cut Social Security benefits for millions of hardworking Americans.
I am not willing to tell the people of my state that they must suffer because of the fiscal mistakes of this Administration – or this majority in Congress. Mr. President, I want to turn to a few of my top concerns with this budget – port security, veterans, education, healthcare and transportation.
In Washington state, we depend on our ports. One in 4 Washington jobs rely on international trade, and our ports are critical economic engines. Unfortunately, America's ports are vulnerable. A terrorist attack launched on – or though – our ports could bring our commerce to a standstill – threatening lives, jobs, and our economic future. We have an obligation to improve the security of our ports.
Unfortunately, this budget tells our communities that the federal government will not be a full partner in port security. This budget sticks our local ports and communities with unfunded mandates – at a time when local and state budgets are already stretched thin.
The President's budget undermines port security in four ways: First it eliminates Operation Safe Commerce. Second, it underfunds the Maritime Transportation Security Act by 93 percent. Third, it does not provide the Coast Guard with the funding it needs to meet its growing missions. Finally, the President's budget cuts port security grants by 63 percent.
Last week, during the Budget Committee mark-up, I offered an amendment to stop the President's cut to port security grants. My amendment failed on a party-line vote. This fight is not over. I will continue to push this White House to pay its share of port security instead of passing the bills onto our local communities.
Mr. President, this budget also shortchanges our veterans. Washington state is home to more than 670,000 veterans. They rely on the services they were promised when they signed up. But the President's budget is $2.6 billion below the Independent Budget recommendation for the VA. The VFW called the Presidents' budget "harmful to veterans." The Disabled American Veterans called it "utterly disgraceful."
This is the wrong message to send at a time when the next generation of combat veterans is risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last week, I offered an amendment in the Budget Committee to increase the VA construction account by $400 million. Last year, Congress authorized the VA to take money out of its health care budget for construction projects that will begin in FY 2005.
Unless we increase the construction account, our veterans will face a $400 million cut in their healthcare services. My amendment would have protected our veterans from this cut. Unfortunately, my veterans' amendment was defeated on a party-line vote.
Mr. President, American's veterans deserve better, and I'm going to keep fighting for them.
Next, let me turn to education. This budget fails to provide the funding that was promised in the No Child Left Behind Act. The Republican budget comes up $8.6 billion short of what our local schools need to fully fund No Child Left Behind.
I represent nearly 28,000 Washington state students who will be denied Title I services this year under the President's budget request. The President's budget falls $84 million short of the Title I funding promised to my state under No Child Left Behind. The president also freezes funding for Impact Aid, dropout prevention, school counseling, after school programs, teacher quality, migrant education, and rural education.
How can we expect our students and teachers to succeed when we fail to provide them with the resources they need? That's why I offered an amendment to provide $8.6 billion to help our local schools implement the No Child Left Behind Act. Once again, my amendment was defeated on a party-line vote. We cannot expect our schools to do everything required under No Child Left Behind without the support they were promised.
This budget also jeopardizes healthcare for many in Washington state. This budget could jeopardize critical support for Community Health Centers the Community Access Program, the NIH and CDC. This budget also reduces our commitment to Medicaid, a program that we should be expanding and strengthening to address the rising number of uninsured and the increasing cost of health care.
Today, Washington state is struggling to keep its commitment to low-income children through Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid cuts could result in another 74,000 uninsured individuals in our state. We need more help from the federal government, but this budget falls short.
Finally, Mr. President, I want to turn to transportation. Less than one month ago, the Senate passed a strong bipartisan bill to invest in our federal highways, transit and transportation safety programs for the next six years. Unfortunately -- despite the overwhelming support of the Senate -- the budget we see today cuts $62 billion for investment in our surface transportation needs.
This is about jobs and our economic growth. It's estimated that for every $1 billion we spend on our transportation infrastructure, we create over 47,000 good-paying family wage jobs. We know that investing in our transportation priorities today will help us improve our quality of life, and provide for our future economic growth.
If this Congress truly cares about investing in jobs, we will provide the funding agreed to by the Senate less than one month ago.
So, Mr. President, this budget fails our families in areas like security, veterans, education, healthcare and transportation. I am hopeful that we can improve this resolution through the amendment process and create a budget that makes the right investments, is fiscally responsible and reflects the priorities of working families across the country."