Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today voted against a spending plan approved by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. "This bill is pure fantasy," said Pelosi. "It is not a realistic plan for worker protection, or for the health and education of our nation. It is irresponsible fiscal policy, full of gimmicks and advance funding that would necessitate devastating cuts next year."
Pelosi also said, "Today's cuts threaten worker safety and health, undermine worker training, and sabotage adult and bilingual education. Essential education initiatives, including Head Start and class size reduction, are underfunded. This is a dangerous bill that cannot be fixed."
During debate on the bill today, Pelosi was successful in delaying action on an amendment, offered by Congressman Ernest Istook (R-OK), to eliminate funding for educational curricula that reduce hate crimes and promote tolerance toward gays, women, and minorities. After Pelosi offered a substitute, she and Istook agreed to develop compromise language. "Representative Istook's amendment was overly vague, and could be used as an excuse to omit any category, based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or other criterion, from hate crime educational curricula," said Pelosi.
Following is Congresswoman Pelosi's statement on the bill offered by the Republicans on the Appropriations Subcommittee:
Worker Protection: This bill undermines America's commitment to workers by cutting the Labor Department's Year 2000 budget nearly $800 million below this year's level and $1.5 billion below the President's request. It freezes most worker protection programs, and cuts funding to OSHA and NLRB. Compared to President Clinton's request, the House mark cuts all worker protection programs by $148 million, or 12%.
These funding levels would drastically curtail improvements in the safety and health of workers, and federal efforts to assist employers in their efforts to comply with workplace laws and safeguards. The mark also undermines efforts to raise child labor standards and labor standards overseas, thereby harming the economic competitiveness of American workers.
Adult and Bilingual Education: Compared to the President's request, the figure for Bilingual programs is cut by 14%, or $35 million. The bill would eliminate training opportunities for 2000 teachers by cutting Bilingual Professional Development programs by $25 million, or 33%.
Adult education would be slashed by over a third, or $197 million below the request. Compared to the President's budget, the Adult Education State Grants Program is cut $376 million, eliminating services to roughly 700,000 adult learners. This mark also cuts $94 million from the President's request for Adult Education National Leadership Activities, eliminating the "Common Ground Partnership" initiative to help states and local communities support English as a Second Language, and civics instruction.
HIV/AIDS: This year the Subcommittee heard testimony that there are waiting lines at 10 state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), and there are more people living with AIDS than ever before. This bill provides desperately needed increases in Ryan White CARE programs, although additional funding will be needed in ADAP and other Titles of the CARE Act.
Other aspects of our response to AIDS are simply ignored in the bill. It fails to address the critical need for additional targeted funding through the Congressional Black Caucus AIDS Initiative. We know HIV prevention works, and that every 13 minutes another American is newly infected with HIV. Yet this bill cuts HIV prevention programming at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) by $44 million from the President's request.
Substance abuse plays an increasing role in the AIDS epidemic, and this bill is also dangerously shortsighted with its cuts of $240 million below the President's request and $78 million below current year levels for substance abuse treatment and prevention. Internationally, the AIDS epidemic is spiraling out of control, yet this bill fails to provide additional funding for international AIDS prevention and treatment at CDC.
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