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Murray: We should build on bipartisan budget deal, not move partisan bills that have no chance of becoming law
 
“The LHHS bill should be a critical part of our overall budget’s work to grow the middle class, strengthen communities, and create opportunities—but this bill would move us in the wrong direction.”
 
“If we want our country defined as one that invests in our students, protects our workers, cares for our families, and offers everyone a real opportunity to get on their feet and get ahead, we need to do better than this bill.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, urged her colleagues to oppose the proposed Republican LHHS spending bill that doubles down on the automatic budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agree are bad policy. Senator Murray outlined how the bill would slash investments in workforce training programs, make health care less affordable and accessible, cut education priorities, hurt women’s health and more.

 

Review a summary of the bill mark-up earlier this week here.

 

Excerpts from her remarks as prepared are below:

 

“I oppose this bill as one piece of a fatally flawed budget that the President has said he would veto. But I also have serious concerns about the decisions made in this bill to slash investments in education, health care, job training, and more. And I am absolutely opposed to the poison pill policy riders that I believe would hurt workers, families, and communities.”

 

“This bill would hurt families and communities by making health care less affordable, less accessible, and more expensive—and by pulling back on our national commitment to high quality education as the ticket to the middle class for our students.”

 

“The LHHS bill should be a critical part of our overall budget’s work to grow the middle class, strengthen communities, and create opportunities—but this bill would move us in the wrong direction.”

 

“I appreciate Chairman Blunt’s commitment to increasing funding for child care, special education, and research investments—but unfortunately, in a bill that is $3.6 billion below last year’s level, these increases are only possible by hollowing out critical investments in so many other areas.”

 

“If we want our country defined as one that invests in our students, protects our workers, cares for our families, and offers everyone a real opportunity to get on their feet and get ahead, we need to do better than this bill. If we want an economy that grows from the middle out, not the top down, and a government that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few, we need to work together to make the investments that will allow that to happen—and this bill simply doesn’t do that.”

 

“I was proud to reach a bipartisan budget deal in 2013 that rolled back automatic cuts across defense and domestic investments, and allowed the Appropriations Committee to do our work using bipartisan spending levels. That deal expires this year—and until we reach another one, each of these spending bills that adhere to the Republican sequester level budget have no chance of becoming law.”

 

Full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

 

Thank you Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, and I want to thank Chairman Blunt for his hard work on this bill.

 

As I mentioned at the subcommittee markup on Tuesday, while I have disagreements with many of the decisions you’ve made in this bill—I truly appreciate your dedication to so many of the issues we will be discussing, and I look forward to continuing to work with you in the weeks and months ahead when we reach a point where bipartisan spending bills become possible once again.

 

Because unfortunately, I am unable to support the LHHS bill as currently written. I voted against this bill for a few reasons—but first and foremost, because it doubles down on the automatic budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agree are terrible policy and should never become law.

 

I was proud to reach a bipartisan budget deal in 2013 that rolled back automatic cuts across defense and domestic investments, and allowed the Appropriations Committee to do our work using bipartisan spending levels.

 

That deal expires this year—and until we reach another one, each of these spending bills that adhere to the Republican sequester level budget have no chance of becoming law.

 

So I oppose this bill as one piece of a fatally flawed budget that the President has said he would veto. But I also have serious concerns about the decisions made in this bill to slash investments in education, health care, job training, and more. And I am absolutely opposed to the poison pill policy riders that I believe would hurt workers, families, and communities.

 

The LHHS bill should be a critical part of our overall budget’s work to grow the middle class, strengthen communities, and create opportunities—but this bill would move us in the wrong direction.

 

I appreciate Chairman Blunt’s commitment to increasing funding for child care, special education, and research investments—but unfortunately, in a bill that is $3.6 billion below last year’s level, these increases are only possible by hollowing out critical investments in so many other areas.

 

Here are just a few examples of the many ways this bill would hurt workers, families, and communities. This bill would slash investments in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that Senator Isakson and I just worked to pass with strong bipartisan support last year.

 

Our worker training law passed the Senate one year ago on a vote of 95-3, but this bill would cut over $330 million from its training program, meaning over a million workers, including veterans, will lose access to job training. This bill cuts worker protection agencies by over $100 million.

 

This would mean there would be an estimated 7,000 fewer health and safety inspections across the country—and more than 100,000 workers could potentially be exposed to safety and health issues in their workplace. And, employers who have not paid their workers the wages they’ve earned will go uncollected. 

 

This bill also makes an ideologically-driven cut to the National Labor Relations Board of almost $30 million, which would hurt workers and businesses by forcing the agency to reduce staff and slow investigations. And that is in addition to the policy riders this bill includes that would further prevent the NLRB from doing its job. Those are just a few ways this bill would hurt workers—there are many more.

 

This bill would hurt families and communities by making health care less affordable, less accessible, and more expensive—and by pulling back on our national commitment to high quality education as the ticket to the middle class for our students. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be cut by almost a billion dollars—a full 34%.

 

This is intended, of course, to prevent the agency from carrying out its role in the Affordable Care Act—and this is in addition to the poison pill policy riders hitting the ACA, but, as if this weren’t bad enough, I also believe it would hurt seniors by impacting CMS’s ability to operate Medicare and Medicaid.

 

And speaking of hurting seniors—this bill also cuts the Social Security Administration by almost $200 million—which would force them to reduce staff and office hours, and pull back on investments that help seniors and improve customer service.

 

This bill cuts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by over $245 million. Especially given the public health scares of the past few years—we should be investing in our preparedness and emergency response ability, not cutting them back.

 

Also—and this is one that I think is truly off base—this bill cuts the teen pregnancy prevention programs that are proven to work by 81%-while increasing money for abstinence-only education that has proven to be ineffective.

 

And it cuts the Title X family planning program by over $28 million. These cuts would mean over 100,000 young women would lose access to evidence-based pregnancy prevention education. And over 430,000 people would be denied access to comprehensive family planning and preventive health services.

 

This would increase unintended pregnancies by an estimated 82,000 for the Title X cuts alone—and countless more among teens—which is something Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree we ought to work together to avoid.

 

This bill cuts over $50 million in school improvement grants that help states turn around the lowest performing schools. It eliminates preschool development grants that are on course to help almost 200,000 children access high quality preschool. It eliminates the Striving Reader literacy program that I and so many others who care about literacy have fought for over the years. And it hits so many other national education priorities.

 

Again, those are just a few of the many ways this bill would hurt families and communities—there are many more.

 

If we want our country defined as one that invests in our students, protects our workers, cares for our families, and offers everyone a real opportunity to get on their feet and get ahead, we need to do better than this bill. If we want an economy that grows from the middle out, not the top down, and a government that works for all families, not just the wealthiest few, we need to work together to make the investments that will allow that to happen—and this bill simply doesn’t do that.

 

So I will be offering an amendment today to improve this bill—and I encourage my colleagues to support it.

 

And Chairman Blunt—once again, I appreciate your work on this bill even while I cannot currently support it.

 

And I look forward to working together in the weeks and months ahead to find some common ground and ultimately work together on a bipartisan bill that can get signed into law.

 

Thank you.