Statement of Congressman Hoyer on the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2003

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) made the following statement on the House Floor today regarding the Motion to go to Conference on the fiscal year 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill:

Mr. Speaker, the hollow promises must end. Last night, President Bush said: "Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people." Last year, he said: "whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay."

The late fees on those promises are piling up. My friends on the other side of the aisle are licking their chops at a smorgasbord of tax cuts that would fatten the wealthy, leave scraps for the rest of us, and force our children to pay the bill. But they don't want to spend the resources now that are needed for federal agencies to respond to terrorist threats. Nor will they honor the bipartisan pledge to improve our education system. Within the limits of parliamentary procedures, we are limited in what can be offered in this motion. However, its purpose is critical.

It's time to leave hot air and rhetoric behind, and to live up to our commitment in the "No Child Left Behind Act". We made a promise to help schools implement reforms to meet higher standards. We've asked states and local school districts to do the work, and we must show that we were serious. The House bill is $5.7 billion less than the other body's funding for the "No Child Left Behind Act." This is simply inadequate to help local schools meet the new mandates we insisted upon just last year.

Title I is intended to help disadvantaged students meet high academic standards. 10 million children are eligible for Title I services. Again, the House only meets two-thirds of the $16 billion we authorized last year. The other body provides an additional $500 million and we ought to give them at least that level. The other body also provides $2 billion more in idea grants to states, which help pay the cost of special education. The House level provides less than half the federal contribution toward the added cost of special education that is authorized under idea. Again, we need to live up to our promises.

We must not forget our veterans either. Over 310,000 veterans are on waiting lists for medical care, and many veterans are waiting as long as 6 months for an appointment to see a doctor. That is an outrage. Freedom's defenders deserve better. We must fully fund VA medical care. Finally, with regard to homeland security, the Council on Foreign Relations reported last October that we are "dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil." The cost of addressing our vulnerabilities is a mere fraction of the President's $674 billion tax plan. This motion instructs the conferees to begin addressing those vital needs.

Let's do the right thing. Support this motion.

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