(Washington, D.C.) - In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) spoke in favor of the pending Budget Resolution (S.Con.Res. 21). Murray helped craft the budget as a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee.
Senator Murray's remarks follow:
Mr. President, I am thrilled that we finally have a budget that reflects the priorities of families across the country. American families want to focus on strengthening our country from within, and that starts with investing here at home -- in our schools, our infrastructure, and our communities. That's exactly what this budget does, and it still provides every dollar the President seeks for defense spending over the next five years.
Americans want to make investments in our future in a responsible way. Every family knows the importance of fiscal discipline and keeping a balanced budget, and they expect the federal government to share that responsibility.
With this budget, we are restoring strong pay-as-you-go rules. That means we're being responsible today - and not burdening our grandchildren with new debt tomorrow. American families also need relief from taxes that are squeezing the middle class. Our budget provides relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax for 2 years, and it avoids any tax increases. In fact, we've produced a budget that projects a $132 billion surplus without endangering struggling middle class families. With this budget, we're proving that we can invest in our people, our communities and our security without sacrificing our future.
Mr. President, this budget reflects a new direction. Last November, the American people demanded a change, and this budget reflects that call. Our budget says: No longer will our veterans be shortchanged on their medical care. No longer will our communities face painful cuts in housing. No longer will our ports having gaping security holes. No longer will our schools be under funded. No longer will community healthcare be undermined at the federal level. And no longer will we keep forcing more debt onto our children and grandchildren without a plan to bring the budget back into balance.
We've said all along that there's a better way, and this budget proves it. Now I recognize that we couldn't fund everything that everyone wants. No budget could. But this budget finally moves us in the right direction in a responsible way, and that's a dramatic new start for this Senate. Last year, we were struggling just to protect critical needs. This year, we are investing in them proudly. Mr. President, I just want to highlight some of the national priorities that this budget addresses.
Mr. President, the Bush Administration has not adequately funded veterans healthcare. As we begin the fifth year of this war, that becomes more and more evident. Whether its veterans struggling to get mental healthcare or facing lengthy waits for initial benefits claims, or a lack of focus on TBI care, we are seeing what happens when veterans care is shortchanged.
Our budget increases support for veterans by $3.5 billion over the President's proposal. In fact, the total $43.1 billion we are now investing in veterans care represents a full 98 percent of the Independent Budget that is devised by several of the Veterans Service Organizations that represent the real needs of our nation's veterans.
Our budget also rejects the President's proposal to impose new fees and higher drug co-payments on certain veterans. The President's fees would force more than 100,000 veterans to leave the VA health care system - that's just wrong. I have seen the detrimental effect of under-funding veterans care, and I have fought hard in the past to fix administration funding blunders, including a $3 billion shortfall in veterans care in 2005 and 2006.
By increasing funding for veterans, our budget finally does what the administration has long failed to do - recognize the service and sacrifice of our veterans as a cost of this war.
Mr. President, a strong future also starts with a budget that invests here at home in our schools. After years of painful cuts, we have finally produced a budget that addresses the needs of American families who worry about finding and affording educational opportunities for their children.
Our budget provides the largest increase in funding for elementary and secondary education programs in five years. That will make a real difference for students across the country.
Our budget increases funding for the Department of Education by $6.1 billion above the President's budget, and our budget restores all of Presidents Bush's education cuts. Among the programs that will see increased funding are Perkins Grants, Pell Grants, Head Start, No Child Left Behind, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
As a parent and a former educator, I know the importance of having the full partnership of the federal government in supporting students. I am so glad that our budget strengthens that partnership and eliminates harmful cuts.
Health Care/ SCHIP
Another area our budget addresses is providing health care to our nation's most vulnerable children.
Our budget provides up to $50 billion for SCHIP over the next five years. These additional SCHIP funds will expand health coverage to an estimated six million eligible children who are not enrolled in either SCHIP or Medicaid, while maintaining coverage for all currently enrolled children. This is a critical step toward finally "closing the gap" so that no child in America is left without medical coverage.
Mr. President, our budget also invests in critical ports security needs. Last year I worked closely with other Senators to pass the Safe Ports Act. But unfortunately, the President did not adequately fund this vital program in his budget.
In our budget, we have increased funding for the SAFE Ports Act and provided $400 million for the Port Security Grants Program. This funding means more radiation detectors, more partners in safe trade, and more customs officials to facilitate trade. Our budget takes real steps to improve port security while also maintaining and improving trade efficiency.
Finally, I would like to thank Senator Conrad for his tireless work in leading the fight on this budget. It has been a privilege to stand at his side in the Budget Committee and to work with him to right our fiscal ship.
This budget once again invests in the true priorities of the American people, while keeping the needs and aspirations of future generations in mind. I look forward to passing this budget so that we can move forward with the new direction the American people have demanded.