WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) urged his colleagues to support the Labor-HHS-Education and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations conference report, which will be voted on tonight. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, I first want to thank the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, David Obey – who also chairs the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education – for his hard work and vision in putting this appropriations conference report together.
"I also want to thank the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs – Congressman Edwards of Texas – for his outstanding work on this conference report and his unwavering dedication to our nation’s veterans.
"This is an excellent, fiscally responsible conference report that makes vital investments in expanding access to health care for our people, in educating our children, in job training, in medical research, and in providing the largest single increase in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Simply put, this conference report deserves the overwhelming support of Members – just as the individual bills did when they were considered in both the House and Senate.
"Recall, we passed the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill on a bipartisan vote of 276 to 140, with 53 Republicans joining a nearly unanimous Democratic Caucus.
"The Senate passed its own version of this bill 75 to 19.
"And, both chambers passed the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill by overwhelming margins – 409 to 2 in the House, and 92 to 1 in the Senate.
"This conference report demonstrates our Democratic priorities – as well as the President’s misguided, shortsighted budget proposals, which would cut funding for labor, health and education programs by $3.6 billion below the enacted funding level in Fiscal Year 2007.
"If the President had his way, he would cut vocational education; eliminate all student aid other than work study and Pell Grants; cut medical research; cut law enforcement grants; cut education for children with disabilities; cut rural health programs; cut clean water programs; and cut the low-income heating assistance program.
"The American people do not support such a proposal. And neither do Democrats.
"Thus, this conference report provides $9.8 billion above the President’s request for labor, health and education programs – which barely keeps pace with inflation and population growth.
"Through this conference report, 1.2 million more Americans would have access to community health centers, and we would increase funding for programs that help parents pay for college, for No Child Left Behind Programs, for vocational education and Job Corps, and for medical research into life threatening diseases.
"Through this conference report, we also will keep our commitment to our nation’s veterans, providing $3.7 billion more than the President requested for veterans’ medical care, claims processing personnel, and facility improvements.
"The President has said such funding is unnecessary. We absolutely disagree.
"The idea that we cannot find the funds necessary to invest in health care, education and medical research, and in medical care of the men and women who have sacrificed for this country is patently absurd – and it must be rejected.
"How is it that the President can demand that this Congress spend another $200 billion of taxpayers’ dollars for his failing policy in Iraq while he seeks to shortchange critical programs at home?
"His vain attempt to try to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility by threatening to veto this conference report – particularly in light of his disastrous and irresponsible fiscal policies – will fool no one.
"Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent conference report that reflects the priorities of the American people, and rejects the President’s misguided proposals.
"Finally, let me say that Mr. Obey effectively dispensed yesterday – in his speech at the National Press Club – with the Republican complaint that this conference report threatens enactment of the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Bill.
"Only once in the last five years did you send the President a free-standing military construction conference report. Three times you packaged that bill with others. And last year, you failed to even enact a Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Bill.
"I urge my colleagues: Vote for this fiscally responsible conference report, which makes critical investments in our nation, our people and our future."