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Murray: “Let’s build on last year’s momentum to deliver results for the families and communities we serve.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee delivered remarks at a hearing regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) budget request for fiscal year 2017. In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted key priorities in the Administration’s proposal, and in particular, expressed her support for increased investments in early learning and child care. Senator Murray also called for bipartisan action to improve access to NIH grants, tackle prescription opioid and heroin abuse, and address the systemic challenges facing our broken mental health system.

 

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

 “Overall, there is much to like in the President’s HHS budget request. It builds on the bipartisan spending bill that Congress passed late last year, a bill that was possible because Democrats and Republicans were able to come together, break through the gridlock, and reach a budget agreement that allowed us to provide needed discretionary investments in NIH, the CDC, worker training, child care, and early learning programs, to name a few. This agreement showed once again when we work together to find common ground, we can deliver results for the families and communities we serve.”

 

“I am hopeful we can build on last year’s momentum to do the same again this year. Many of the challenges facing us remain the same as when Secretary Burwell testified before the subcommittee last spring. There is still much more we need to do to continue work started in the Affordable Care Act to expand access to quality, affordable health care. The intense competition for NIH grants means that fewer than twenty percent of applications get funded, leaving lots of promising science without support. And the epidemic of opioid and prescription drug abuse continues to hurt families and communities nationwide.”

 

“…our broken mental health system is yet another ongoing challenge that we have to tackle. I know this is a priority that many members here today, as well as in the HELP Committee, share—and it’s a focus for the administration as well. So I’m very hopeful that the bipartisan momentum we’re seeing on this can continue—and that we can work together on some solutions that expand access to the quality, effective mental health care so many families are struggling to find.”

 

“As everyone here knows, the two-year budget agreement rolled back the automatic cuts and allowed us to restore key investments—but it didn’t go as far as many of us had hoped. That means, as it often does, that difficult choices will be unavoidable in 2017, as they were last year. Even so, I believe our subcommittee can find a way to write a bipartisan bill once again. But doing so depends on this subcommittee getting an allocation that will allow us to make the needed investments in education, medical research, drug treatment, support for working families, and so much more.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.

 

“Secretary Burwell, thank you for being here today and for all that you do to improve the health and wellbeing of families and communities across the country.

 

“I look forward to your testimony and the discussion about the Department’s funding needs for fiscal year 2017.

 

“While I know you will be highlighting the Department’s request in your statement, I want to note how pleased I was to see that it proposes a significant increase for early learning and child care.

 

“This includes $161 million to implement the safety and quality improvements contained in the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which the Senate approved sixteen months ago with overwhelming bipartisan support, 88-1, due in no small part to the leadership of Vice Chairwoman Mikulski.

 

“These investments support working families and help make sure our kids start kindergarten ready to learn.

 

“I am also pleased the budget maintains support for the Affordable Care Act, which has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of people, and helped more families pay less for better quality care.

 

“We need to keep working towards more coverage, not less, more affordability, not less, and better quality, not less—and that’s something I know Democrats will continue to be focused on.

 

“Overall, there is much to like in the President’s HHS budget request.

 

“It builds on the bipartisan spending bill that Congress passed late last year, a bill that was possible because Democrats and Republicans were able to come together, break through the gridlock, and reach a budget agreement that allowed us to provide needed discretionary investments in NIH, the CDC, worker training, child care, and early learning programs, to name a few.

 

“This agreement showed once again when we work together to find common ground, we can deliver results for the families and communities we serve.

 

“I am hopeful we can build on last year’s momentum to do the same again this year.

 

“Many of the challenges facing us remain the same as when Secretary Burwell testified before the subcommittee last spring.

 

“There is still much more we need to do to continue work started in the Affordable Care Act to expand access to quality, affordable health care.

 

“The intense competition for NIH grants means that fewer than twenty percent of applications get funded, leaving lots of promising science without support.

 

“And the epidemic of opioid and prescription drug abuse continues to hurt families and communities nationwide.

 

“Secretary Burwell, as you know, our broken mental health system is yet another ongoing challenge that we have to tackle.

 

“I know this is a priority that many members here today, as well as in the HELP Committee, share—and it’s a focus for the administration as well.

 

“So I’m very hopeful that the bipartisan momentum we’re seeing on this can continue—and that we can work together on some solutions that expand access to the quality, effective mental health care so many families are struggling to find.

 

“We’ll be challenged to find ways to address these and other persistent needs, while also taking into account the new policies laid out in the Every Student Succeeds Act that Senator Alexander and I helped write, and which was signed into law in December.

 

“As everyone here knows, the two-year budget agreement rolled back the automatic cuts and allowed us to restore key investments—but it didn’t go as far as many of us had hoped.

 

“That means, as it often does, that difficult choices will be unavoidable in 2017, as they were last year.

 

“Even so, I believe our subcommittee can find a way to write a bipartisan bill once again.

 

“But doing so depends on this subcommittee getting an allocation that will allow us to make the needed investments in education, medical research, drug treatment, support for working families, and so much more.

 

“I know Chairman Blunt would like to work on this bill in a bipartisan manner as well—and build on the progress we’ve made.

 

“So I look forward to working with you, Secretary Burwell, and all of my colleagues here today, in the coming weeks and months.

 

“Thank you and now I’ll turn it back over to the Chairman.”