News Releases

Murray pressed Secretary Azar on President Trump’s health care sabotage and damaging ideological changes to Title X family planning funding

Murray questioned Department’s rationale for abruptly canceling a grant supporting an evidence-based program in King County to prevent teen pregnancy

Murray emphasized the need to address health priorities for families like maternal mortality, gun violence and child care access

Murray to Azar: attempts to roll back or reverse the recent bipartisan budget deal “would be a major breach of faith.”

Murray: “Simply put: This is not the budget of an Administration that values fighting to keep our communities healthy. It is not the budget of an Administration that values evidence, science, and good policymaking practices.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (LHHS), delivered opening remarks at a hearing with Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In her remarks Senator Murray criticized the priorities indicated by the Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal for the Department and pressed the Secretary about the Department’s ongoing health care sabotage, its steps to undermine access to family planning services and reproductive care, and recent news that the Administration is trying to reverse funding that was agreed to in the recent bipartisan budget deal. Senator Murray also pressed Secretary Azar about addressing the country’s high maternal mortality rate, gun violence, and lack of access to affordable quality child care. During her questions, she also grilled Secretary Azar on the Department’s decision to terminate a grant for King County’s Family Life and Sexual Health program despite evidence that teen pregnancy rates are falling.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s opening remarks:

“A budget isn’t just a set of numbers, it’s a statement of values and priorities. And this budget seems to have been written by an Administration that believes the goal of the Department of Health and Human Services is to raise families’ health care costs and to undermine patients’ access to care—it’s not.”

“It’s clear that instead of fighting to make our health care system stronger—instead of prioritizing ways to make it more affordable, more accessible, and more effective for all of our families and patients—this Administration will continue to prioritize health care sabotage. It’s clear that instead of proposing solutions to ensure everyone can get the health care they need, regardless of their background or of preexisting conditions, this Administration will continue to push policies that weaken patient protections, take coverage away from people, and put needed health care farther out of reach.”

“…budget also takes alarming steps backwards when it comes to women’s health care—continuing a much larger trend we’ve seen from the Trump-Pence Administration. Time after time, the Trump-Pence approach has put ideology over women’s health and reproductive freedoms. Like recent moves to undermine the Title X family planning program and the health care providers that offer important services to women across the country who might not get the care they need otherwise.”

“Simply put: This is not the budget of an Administration that values fighting to keep our communities healthy. It is not the budget of an Administration that values evidence, science, and good policymaking practices. And it is not at all the direction this Committee chose to take in the recent bipartisan spending bill.”

“Let me be clear, we will vigorously oppose any effort to undo the bipartisan deal the President signed into law. Both sides made a commitment to the deal—our side didn’t get everything we wanted, and neither did Republicans. But a deal’s a deal. Any attempt by the Administration to break its promises by rescinding or failing to spend the omnibus funding would be a major breach of faith.”

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you Chairman Blunt, and welcome Secretary Azar—I’m glad you’ve recovered and are able to join us today.

“I’m interested to hear your testimony about the Department’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request, though I must tell you there are many things in it that concern me. While I know you were not part of this Administration when they started working on this budget request, you’ve made it clear you plan to continue the same alarming, ideological approach this Administration has taken since day one.

“A budget isn’t just a set of numbers, it’s a statement of values and priorities. And this budget seems to have been written by an Administration that believes the goal of the Department of Health and Human Services is to raise families’ health care costs and to undermine patients’ access to care—it’s not.

“It’s clear that instead of fighting to make our health care system stronger—instead of prioritizing ways to make it more affordable, more accessible, and more effective for all of our families and patients—this Administration will continue to prioritize health care sabotage.

“It’s clear that instead of proposing solutions to ensure everyone can get the health care they need, regardless of their background or of preexisting conditions, this Administration will continue to push policies that weaken patient protections, take coverage away from people, and put needed health care farther out of reach.

“And this budget also takes alarming steps backwards when it comes to women’s health care—continuing a much larger trend we’ve seen from the Trump-Pence Administration. Time after time, the Trump-Pence approach has put ideology over women’s health and reproductive freedoms. Like recent moves to undermine the Title X family planning program and the health care providers that offer important services to women across the country who might not get the care they need otherwise.

“Then there’s the way you’ve handled the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, terminating grants in the midst of a five year cycle—a decision made with little rationale and apparently at the direction of political appointees against the advice of career staff, and significantly changing the focus of the program to promote a single ideological approach—a decision contrary to the Congressional intent which is to support, and I quote, ‘programs that have been proven effective through rigorous evaluation.’

“Page after page of this budget request raises new red flags.

“It proposes to cut the CDC by over $2 billion, devastating the agency’s crucial work promoting immunizations, combatting emerging infections, preventing chronic diseases, and keeping our communities healthy.

“It eliminates safety net programs and critical assistance to millions of people, like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps families afford heating and cooling, and the Community Services Block Grant, which gives states resources to address the challenges of poverty.

“It would eliminate the Social Services Block Grant and reduce Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—programs that help families facing adversity keep their heads above water.

“It would cut $975 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s workforce programs, which support training for every type of health care provider.

“It would eliminate funding for Preschool Development Grants, which we recently authorized and funded on a bipartisan basis to provide high-quality preschool to tens of thousands of families.

“Simply put: This is not the budget of an Administration that values fighting to keep our communities healthy. It is not the budget of an Administration that values evidence, science, and good policymaking practices. And it is not at all the direction this Committee chose to take in the recent bipartisan spending bill.

“As you know, the two-year bipartisan budget agreement we reached in February provided major new investments to address the opioid crisis, child care and early learning needs, and much more. Yet now we hear the Administration may submit a second rescission package and try to undo many of these investments.

“Let me be clear, we will vigorously oppose any effort to undo the bipartisan deal the President signed into law. Both sides made a commitment to the deal—our side didn’t get everything we wanted, and neither did Republicans. But a deal’s a deal. Any attempt by the Administration to break its promises by rescinding or failing to spend the omnibus funding would be a major breach of faith. So, in addition to asking about your budget request, I’m interested in hearing how you plan to implement the funding increases we included in the omnibus, especially for responding to the opioid crisis and for child care.

“I was glad to see your budget at least maintains the level of funding Congress has already directed the Administration to spend—$10 billion in multiyear funding for activities related to the opioid crisis. Of that amount you’re proposing to allocate $2.8 billion in 2019 to agencies funded within the bill.

“As you know, Chairman Blunt and I agreed to increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant by over $2.3 billion—almost double what we spend now—to help improve child care options for struggling families. We also agreed to increase Head Start by over $600 million.

“I’ve heard from families in Washington state and around the country about their struggles to find and afford high-quality child care, so I’m glad we were able to take this step in the right direction. And I hope we can keep working to increase investments in child care and early learning so every parent can afford child care, and every child is prepared to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. It’s not only the right thing to do—it’s a smart investment for families, communities, and our economy.

“It’s one of many urgent issues facing our families that Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together to address, like the alarmingly high maternal mortality rate, or the epidemic of gun violence and the lack of research into this issue which you yourself have said is a ‘priority.’

“And Democrats are going to keep making the case that we should take steps to actually help families address these problems—instead of proposing cuts that do the opposite. And we’re going to keep urging Republicans to work with us to make that happen.

“I look forward to hearing what you have to say on these issues and discussing my concerns further during questions. Thank you.”

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