News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) voted to pass the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS) Appropriations bill that funds critical health care, education, and helps build a skilled workforce in Washington state. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 75-19. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.

In a statement, Senator Murray – a member of the LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee - urged passage of the bill, discussed the valuable investments the bill makes in Washington state, and denounced the President's threat to veto the bill.

"This bill is about making sure families have access to health care and that children get a good education.  It supports cutting-edge research, helps build a skilled workforce, and ensures that crucial services are in reach for people who need them most," Senator Murray said. "Unfortunately, President Bush thinks these common sense priorities are 'irresponsible and excessive.'   What’s 'irresponsible and excessive' is the President’s veto threat.  The $11 billion increase included in this bill represents just a fraction of the $190 billion in spending he wants this year for Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"At the same time that the President is waging a costly war overseas, he is also waging war on funding for priorities here at home."

The LHHS bill contains critical funding for Washington state including funding for:

  • Job training and technical and career education programs
  • Early childhood education programs including Head Start
  • Research for life saving treatments including revolutionary cancer treatments
  • School reforms, student support systems, teacher preparation and
  • Community health centers

To read more about critical projects included in this bill in your area click on any of the links below:

Health Care

Olympia – Helping the Uninsured Avoid Unnecessary Medical Bills
Cowlitz County –Improving Care for Hospice Patients
Seattle – Providing Hands-On Healthcare Training
Seattle – Supporting Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment
Spokane – A New Center for WSU Nursing School

Labor

Lewis County – Supporting New Forestry Jobs
Southwest Washington – Training Students for the Jobs of the Future
SeaTac – Providing Airport Employees with New Job Skills
Yakima – Meeting Agricultural Labor Needs 
Statewide – Investing in Building A Skilled Workforce
Northwest Washington – Training Electrical Workers 

Education

Seattle – Supporting Programs for Low-Income and Disabled Students
WSU – Providing Mentors for Women Studying Science
Tacoma – Improving early learning Opportunities

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Senator Murray's full statement follows:

Mr. President, this bill is about making sure families have access to health care and children get a good education.  It supports cutting-edge research, helps build a skilled workforce and ensures that crucial services are in reach for people who most need them.  Most important, it gives Americans hope that their government is working for them.

These programs help every family and every community.  They are priorities for me.  I know they are priorities back home.  So I want to thank Senator Harkin and Senator Specter for their leadership and important work on this bipartisan bill. Mr. President, these programs SHOULD be priorities for this Administration, too.

Veto Threat

Unfortunately, President Bush has threatened to veto this legislation.  He opposes this bill because it represents an increase over his requested budget.  He says it’s “irresponsible and excessive.” Yet the $11 billion increase over the President’s request represents a fraction of the $190 billion in emergency spending he wants this year for Iraq and Afghanistan.  It’s less than the $10 billion he spends in Iraq in one month alone. 

As the President has waged war overseas, our education, job training, and health systems have been left to cope with unfunded mandates and empty promises.  Mr. President, that – not this bill – is what’s “irresponsible and excessive.” This bill simply restores some of the money the President cut and takes a modest step forward after years of going in the wrong direction. 

Among other things, this bill boosts American competitiveness by investing $4.8 billion in job training and career- and technical-education when the President would have cut these programs by more than $1 billion. It adds $1 billion to expand critical research at the National Institutes of Health, reversing years of stagnant budgets. And it strengthens education and health care by providing money for Head Start, school improvement, and community health centers.

Health Care for Working Families

Mr. President, this bill recognizes how important access to quality health care is for working families.  While the President’s budget neglected the uninsured and those with limited access to health care, the Senate bill invests an additional $250 million over the President’s request in the community health center program.

This will help those families get medical care without having to seek it in the emergency room. We have all heard stories about how overburdened emergency rooms are by patients who seek care there because they don’t have health insurance or are under-insured. But access to a doctor can prevent a child’s ear-ache from turning into a serious infection.  And it can make sure a father gets screening and preventive care so that he doesn’t develop a serious and expensive form of cancer.

Health Care Workforce

This bill also makes investments in another critical health care concern – making sure we have enough doctors and nurses and other health care professionals.  Two weeks ago, I heard about it again in roundtables I held across the state. This bill provides $357 million for the Health Professions and Nursing Programs to recruit and hire new health care professionals – that’s $242 million over the President’s proposal.

Of this, $169 million is for nursing education.  That’s $20 million over last year’s level. Our nurses are the front-line of care in hospitals and nursing homes. And this will help address the serious nursing shortage we already face. It’s also important that we provide opportunities and encouragement for students who want to go into nursing so that we can replace these retiring caregivers and meet the increasing demand for nursing care. Mr. President, I applaud the committee for recognizing this looming concern, and I repeat that the time to invest in our health care system is now – before these problems become an urgent issue.  We can’t afford to wait.

Research

Mr. President, this bill also supports our scientists and our biotech industry by funding landmark research. The President’s budget would have eliminated hundreds of research grants from the National Institutes of Health – money that could lead to cures or treatments for cancer, MS, and diabetes, among other diseases.  This is on top of years of inadequate funding for NIH.

The Senate bill adds $1 billion for NIH funding nationally. This allows scientists at prestigious universities – including the University of Washington – to continue their innovative medical and biotech research.  It also will provide hope for people with serious diseases – hope that they won’t have if this research is cut off because of lack of funding.

Education

We have heard the President say that education is one of his top priorities.  That’s why it’s so frustrating to me that he is threatening to veto this bill. I am committed to ensuring federal funds are there to help build and improve our nation’s schools.  Strong schools make strong communities. We want everyone in this country to have a promising future and a promising job – and education is how you get there.

The Senate bill supports increased funding for Pell Grants that help kids afford college when they might not otherwise have had a chance to get a college degree. It increases funding for school improvement by $500 million. It sends $1 billion in badly needed money to help schools in low-income communities raise children’s achievement levels and provide more opportunities for learning. And it reverses the President’s proposed $100 million cut to Head Start.

As a mom, a former pre-school teacher, and school board president, I saw first-hand that giving kids a boost early on can pay off in the future.  Reaching kids early makes them more likely to graduate and succeed. This isn’t frivolous spending.  The money we spend on education today will help children grow into better-educated, better-prepared workers.

Labor

Mr. President, providing Americans with the skills they need to excel in the global economy while keeping them safe on the job are very basic needs that every working family has the right to expect from their government. That’s why I continue to be baffled by the Administration’s lack of commitment to workers in our nation.  With strong bi-partisan support for this bill, the Senate is proud to stand with working families and support the priorities that shape their daily lives.

When I travel around my home state of Washington, employers tell me they’re desperate to find workers with the skills they need to grow their businesses.  And we have thousands of people on waiting lists hoping to get trained for these family-wage jobs.

Yet for the last seven years, the President has proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts for job-training programs, shutting the door to millions of dislocated workers, youth and disadvantaged adults who deserve to share in the American dream. Under his watch, worker safety on the job has also been put at risk.  With OSHA’s lack of enforcement, workers are unprotected.  And today’s miners continue to work under an Administration that values voluntary compliance above safety and enforcement.

Mr. President, this is the wrong direction for working families and the wrong priority for America. How do we begin to solve it?  Well, one thing is clear – it isn’t by cutting $1 billion dollars in job training funds at a critical time in our economic growth, as the President has proposed. Nor is it by proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to job training programs, as he has done over the last seven years. 

Mr. President, this bill rejects the President’s misguided cuts goes to great lengths to maintain a viable workforce and training system. If we want our local businesses and our nation to be competitive in the global economy, we must make skills training for every worker a national priority.  And this bill does that.

Conclusion

Mr. President, for some here in the Senate, this might be an abstract debate about federal funding.  But this debate about real people:

It’s about 30 kids in a classroom and a teacher struggling to make sure they succeed. It’s about hardworking parents searching for a way to get health care for their families when it isn’t provided by their employers. And it’s about workers who need training that will help them get a job that pays enough to support a family.

When I travel around Washington state, people tell me they want hope and change.  Whether it’s the war in Iraq, or gas prices, or access to health insurance – people feel a real weight on their shoulders.  They’re looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, and by vetoing these important bills – and failing to invest in the health, safety and economic future of all Americans – the President keeps putting out that light.

Mr. President, in this bill, we are investing more than $7 billion over last year in the future of our country.  I urge all my colleagues to support this legislation on behalf of the millions of American children and families who would benefit. And I hope the President is listening.