News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Last night the U.S. Senate passed the FY2004 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill on a vote of 94-0. Following the vote, Sen. Murray released the following statement.

"Last night, with serious reservations and ongoing concerns, I voted for the Senate's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Despite the disappointing funding levels, I was proud that the Senate voted to block the Administration’s efforts to deny workers overtime pay.

The overtime vote was an important victory for working families who are struggling harder than ever to make ends meet. The unanimous support in the Senate for the Labor, HHS spending bill sends a clear message to the White House and to the House and Senate conferees that the Senate strongly supports protecting workers' overtime pay.

There are many shortcomings with this bill, including critical priorities that are underfunded. That's why I voted against this bill when it was brought up both in the Subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee.

The President's No Child Left Behind Act promised resources and accountability for our schools. Unfortunately his budgets have shown that commitment to be hollow, and our children are paying the price. This appropriations bill underfunds the No Child Left Behind Act by more than $8 billion. With state budgets stretched, college students are returning to school facing significant tuition increases, yet this bill does not provide any increases for financial aid.

I am disappointed that the bill does not contain additional workforce training resources to help the thousands of workers in Washington state who desperately need help. I offered an amendment on the Senate floor to increase worker training funding by $801 million, but my amendment was defeated on a party-line vote.

The shortfalls in health care funding are also significant. This bill invests less in the Maternal-Child Health Block Grant than even the President's budget request. This program fills gaps in providing care to children and pregnant women. As more Americans lose their health insurance, we should be strengthening these programs and investing additional funds. With states facing massive shortfalls, these are the kind of programs that bridge the gaps. Six months ago, my amendment to restore the Community Access Program was overwhelmingly adopted on the Senate floor, yet this bill does not fund this critical program. Working across the aisle, I have secured a commitment to restore this funding in Conference, and these are the types of improvements I am counting on by voting to move this bill to the next step in the process.

With an increased threat of infectious diseases and bioterrorism, the U.S. should be strengthening our public health infrastructure. Unfortunately, this bill falls short of that objective. We need to maintain our investment in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and in disease prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past two weeks, I joined Democrats in offering amendments to increase funding for priorities ranging from the No Child Left Behind Act, to financial aid, to the National Institutes of Health. While too many of these amendments were defeated, largely on party line votes, two significant victories led me to support passage of the bill.

First, I was very pleased that we were able to add $1.2 billion (for a total increase of $2.2 billion) to this bill to move toward the goal of fully funding special education. For thirty years, the federal government has failed to fund the amount it has committed for special education. The resulting gaps have an impact on education for all students, and fully funding special education is one of my top priorities.

The second victory was the amendment I cosponsored to block the Bush Administration's plan to roll back overtime protections for eight million Americans. I call on the White House to join those of us who voted for this amendment and approved the bill to insist that these provisions be included in the final bill.

On Sunday night, the President came out with a new request to spend another $87 billion in Iraq, on top of $80 billion that was approved in April. In asking for this funding, however, the President asked for no sacrifice from the American people to pay for it.

The sacrifice, I'm afraid, is being made in America's classrooms, in medical research, and in environmental protection. The sacrifice will be paid by our children who go to school in larger classrooms, by those who can't get the training to find a new job, and by those who are still lacking health coverage."