News Releases

Mr. Chairman, you and Ranking Member Harkin were dealt an almost impossible hand. You were charged with providing critical investments in our workplace, health care, and education -- but you were not given an allocation to make that possible.



Today, I'm hearing from many friends and advocates who are calling for more funding for key priorities. I agree with them. But I also know that our hands are tied today by the unrealistic budget that the Senate approved in June as part of the Supplemental.



I know that this mark is almost $5 billion above the President’s level and more than $1 billion over last year, but it still falls short of what we need.



Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge your efforts, along with Sen. Harkin during Senate consideration of the Budget Resolution. You put partisan politics aside and brought an amendment to the floor that would have provided an additional $7 billion investment in job training, health care, education, elderly nutrition programs, Safe and Stable families, and home energy assistance.

Your amendment received broad bipartisan support, and I was happy to stand with you and Senator Byrd throughout the Supplemental negotiations as our allocation was being considered.



As disappointed as I am by some of the funding cuts, I know you and Sen. Harkin did your best.



I do want to raise a few concerns that I hope we can continue to work on as this process moves forward. Perhaps when we go to the floor, the 73 Members who supported the Specter/Harkin Budget amendment will again support additional funding.



Labor



On labor issues, President Bush continues to play a bait-and-switch game with America’s workers. This President talks a good game when he visits employers around the country touting the skills and productivity of our nation’s workers. He often highlights the ongoing needs employers have for skilled workers to remain globally competitive. And when I travel around Washington State employers also tell me they are desperate to find workers with the skills they need to grow their businesses.



Yet, for the sixth year in a row this President has proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to job training programs, eliminating the hope of millions of dislocated workers, youth and disadvantaged adults to share in the American dream.



Despite these misguided presidential priorities, Senators Specter and Harkin have gone to great lengths over the last six years to maintain a viable federal workforce and training system. I applaud their work.



I also want to acknowledge their support for Senator Byrd’s efforts to provide increased funding for mine safety inspectors and technology.



Healthcare / HHS



There is no greater issue facing working families than the issue of health care. The increasing cost of health care and the lack of access to affordable health care, is crushing families and small businesses. The increasing cost of Medicare and Medicaid is further burdening federal taxpayers. Yet, the very programs that seek to improve access, reduce shortages of health care professionals and reduce long term health care costs, are being eliminated or reduced.



I am more than disappointed that we were not able to restore funding for the HCAP program. I appreciate the Chairman’s efforts to restore the President's proposed cuts to Children’s Hospital GME; NIH; CDC, and Poison Control Centers. But I know we need to do more to meet the challenges these programs address.



While I am grateful for the additional funding for Ryan White Care Act; Older Americans Act programs; and Community Health Centers, these marginal increases will not allow these programs to keep pace with ever-increasing demand for services. These programs reduce the burden on our health care system and provide care with dignity and compassion. We should be investing more in access and programs to reduce long term health care costs.



Education



I appreciate the challenges that the Chairman and Ranking Member faced in funding education programs given the constraints of the budget resolution. However, I remain concerned about the continued cuts our schools are facing in critical programs.



With across-the board cuts, inflation, and the increasing demands of No Child Left Behind, our schools are facing dramatic decreases in program funding that affects their ability to serve students.



The number of students eligible for Title I services has increased by nearly 10 percent over the last two years despite "level funding," and the federal government continues to slide backwards on its commitment to students with disabilities.



Head Start



I am particularly concerned about the funding cut to Head Start. Head Start already has faced four years of level funding and across-the-board cuts despite increasing program costs and pressure to recruit highly qualified teachers. I am sure all of the members of the committee have seen the impact of the last few years of funding in their own states.



In my home state of Washington, the lack of funding has resulted directly in cuts to services for poor children. In the Seattle area alone, there are an estimated 25,000 eligible children on waiting lists. We need to be increasing the number of Head Starts around the country -- not cutting services.



Student Loans



College students are also facing difficulties paying for school. This year, $11.9 billion was cut from student loans that help low-income and middle-income families pay for college. Seventy percent of those cuts will be paid for by students and their families. Tuition and fees increased this year by 7.1 percent for four-year public universities and 5.9 percent for private universities. Not only is this the wrong priority for our country today, but it will cost our nation dearly in the long-term. Currently only one-third of the U.S. workforce has a post-secondary education, but it is estimated that 60 percent of new jobs in the 21st century will require a college education. Workers who have attended college on average have higher incomes and lower rates of unemployment than those who don’t. And those with a college education also are more likely to have jobs with benefits like health care, retirement and pensions plans.



Title IX



I do want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member and their staff for continuing to be champions for Title IX. We share concern about the Department of Education’s new policy guidance on Title IX in athletics.



It is critical that the Department of Education clarify that the model survey should only be used by schools as one tool in showing compliance and that the lack of response to a survey shows just that, not a lack of interest.

I look forward to working with the Chairman and Ranking Member to ensure that the Department follows through with the Committees request regarding changes to the Additional Clarification.



I know the Chairman and Ranking Member were dealt an impossible hand. I appreciate their hard work to make the most of the funding that's available and I hope we can improve this bill as the process continues.