Mikulski Statement at Full Committee Markup of FY17 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, participated in a Full Committee markup to consider the fiscal year 2017 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Bill.
The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Cochran. And thank you to our Labor-HHS Subcommittee leaders, Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray, for your excellent work leading this Subcommittee. Your cooperation with each other and the members of the Subcommittee has resulted in a strong bipartisan bill – the first bipartisan Labor-HHS bill in seven years, and the ninth bipartisan bill the Committee will report this year.
“What makes these bills so bipartisan? There are three reasons: 1) the bills are developed with fairness and cooperation, 2) the bills meet the limits set in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 with parity between defense and non-defense, and 3) the bills are free of poison pill riders. I support this bill and other bills that follow those shared principles.
“I also want to take the opportunity to commend Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray for their work negotiating emergency Zika funding that passed the Senate three weeks ago as part of the Transportation-Housing and Veterans Affairs-Military Construction appropriations bill. Their $1.1 billion agreement should be a floor for what is acceptable in conference negotiations.
“It has been more than 100 days since the President requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to prevent the spread of and treat the Zika virus. Zika is not a hypothetical threat. It is real. There are more than 1,700 cases in the U.S. and its territories, including more than 340 pregnant women. It is time to act.
“Turning to the Labor-HHS bill, I know Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray will describe the bill in full. From the National Institutes of Health (NIH) curing diseases and finding new treatments, to the Social Security Administration making sure Americans get the benefits they earned, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stopping health care fraud and waste, the bill meets compelling human needs, invests in discovery and protects vulnerable populations. So I appreciate the tremendous efforts of you and your staffs, not letting hard funding choices or contentious riders get in the way of progress.
“I am so pleased that the bill re-establishes year-round Pell grants for roughly one million students. I hear support for year-round Pell in every corner of my state – from Johns Hopkins to community colleges in Western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. I’ve heard from school administrators, presidents and students that flexibility with Pell grants can make or break it for students.
“I’m also glad that the bill provides a total of $34 billion for NIH, an increase of $2 billion, including a $400 million increase for Alzheimer’s research and a $100 million increase for the BRAIN Initiative. There is also a $126 million increase to address heroin and opioid abuse, bringing the total funding level to $355 million. I support the significant increase to fight the heroin crisis, but also remain committed to Senator Shaheen’s effort to provide additional comprehensive funding to address this emergency that knows no boundaries – geographic or economic.
“Like all bills, however, this one is not perfect. Increases come at the expense of other important programs. There was a $117 million cut to afterschool programs, $74 million cut to workforce training grants to states and $118 million cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Head Start receives only $35 million more than last year, which is not enough to keep up with rising costs and maintain the same number of kids in the program. The Child Care Development Block Grant program receives a $25 million increase, which is also not enough to keep the current number of kids in the program.
“Despite my concerns about funding levels for a number of programs in the bill, I do intend to support it. I believe that the Chair and Ranking Member made difficult, but thoughtful decisions with the resources available to them. I also want to thank you for the language in the Managers’ Amendment, ensuring we take a look at NIH facilities to make sure maintenance keeps up with discovery. I look forward to moving this bill through the process.”
Mara Stark-Alcalá (202) 224-2667
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