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Following the 1994 election, Congress inherited a projected four-year budget deficit of $906 billion. In response, Congress with a Republican majority, worked to limit the growth of Federal spending and the President joined us in the 1997 balanced budget agreement. Limits on the growth of Federal spending and the
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With the goal of protecting the Social Security trust fund surplus, Congress is holding the line on expanding Government programs and is finally starting to pay down the national debt. We are accomplishing these goals while still meeting basic governmental responsibilities such as increasing Medicare p ayments to our hospitals and nursing homes by approximately $12 billion over five years, increasing funding or education and health care programs, and paying the United States overdue commitments to the United Nations. This legislation meets the basic needs of our country in a responsible manner.
To help meet our goal of limiting the growth of Federal spending, his legislation includes a 0.38 percent across-the-board spending reduction which applies to all thirteen annual appropriations bill, saving taxpayers about $1.3 billion. I support this type of ``belt tightening.'' The Federal Government should find savings in every program to demonstrate to our constituents that the Federal Government can cut waste and operate more efficiently. I know from my days as Governor of Delaware that every government agency can and should be required to eliminate unneeded costs.
When Republicans became the majority party in Congress in January 1995, we promised to reform and improve our education programs to ensure that they help all children reach their full academic potential--regardless of their economic status or other personal challenges. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, in 1995 spending for elementary and secondary education programs totaled almost $15 billion, with all Department of Education programs funded at $32.3 billion (fiscal year 1995).
Since 1995, the House Education Committee, on which I serve, has worked to provide unprecedented accountability and flexibility in the operations of these programs. That effort paved the way for the bill the House of Representatives will consider today. I am pleased to report that this final appropriations bill provides $21 billion for elementary and secondary education programs and $39 billion for all Department of Education Programs--increases of 44 percent and 21 percent over fiscal year 1995 respectively.
Most important, this bill provides very generous funding for those programs that help all children receive a quality education. Specifically, it provides $8.7 billion for Title 1, the program that helps educate our most disadvantaged students--an increase of $265 million over fiscal year 1999. In addition, State grants for the
education of children with disabilities are increased $700 million over fiscal year 1999, bringing the total to $5.8 billion. While this increase will not fully fund the Federal Government's share for the education of our disabled children, it will increase the per pupil contribution to 13 percent--the highest level in the history of the program.
In addition, this bill increases the maximum Pell Grant for low-income college students to $3,300--$175 over fiscal year 1999. Finally, it provides $1.3 billion to help our local schools and school districts reduce class size but also provides the necessary flexibility to ensure that all teachers receive the training they need to impart a high quality education to our children.
This legislation also includes important funding for Health and Human Services programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, family support services and health research. As part of our ongoing commitment to double biomedical research in five years, the appropriations bill provides $17.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health. This 15 percent increase over fiscal year 1999 will help ensure progress on all diseases, including diabetes and Alzheimer's. It also provides $3 billion, nearly $264 million more than fiscal year 1999, for disease prevention programs run by the Centers for Disease Control. This funding will help prevent those chronic illnesses that result in death and major disability.
Of particular importance to many of Delaware's hospitals, nursing facilities and other providers, this bill also incorporates the budget fixes of the Medicare R efinement Act. This language ensures that America's seniors will continue to receive high quality health care by correcting the funding concerns that inadvertently arose as the result of the Medicare r eforms in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
I am particularly pleased to note that the annual Medicare r ehabilitation therapy caps will be lifted entirely for the next two years. This will ensure that those with multiple ailments can get the treatment they need to fully recover while experts consider a better way to implement payment modifications that address the real needs of rehabilitation patients. I am also pleased to note that this bill increases access to cervical cancer screening through the use of pap s mears. By increasing the Medicare r eimbursement rate, we ensure that more women will get the screening they need to identify and treat problems before they become a threat to their health, their fertility or their lives.
I am disappointed that the compromise language in this bill does not reflect the Senate position on community health centers and the prospective payment system, as these organizations play an important role in the delivery of health care in Delaware. That said, I believe these changes are an improvement on current law and I hope that we can continue to move legislation to strengthen the delivery of services to our most at-risk populations.
This bill also goes a long way toward restoring protections for the environment that were absent when the Interior appropriations conference report passed the House without my support. Seven of the twenty-four anti-environmental riders added by the Senate were stripped and the remaining riders were significantly changed to reduce their threat to the environment. The congressional leadership was responsive to concerns I raised that Congress should not attempt to prevent EPA enforcement action against midwest electric utility companies whose emissions are polluting Delaware's air and water. The judicial system is fully equipped to give these companies their day in court to defend their actions. I am extremely pleased that this proposed rider was not included in the bill. Furthermore, the Interior appropriation bill increases funding for our national parks, our national wildlife refuges, and restoration efforts in the everglades. Finally, the Interior bill contains funding for a program of particular interest to Delaware--the stateside land and water conservation fund, which provides Delaware with funding for its state parks and environmental land acquisition programs.
One of the weaknesses of this package is in the Commerce, Justice, State appropriations bill. I opposed this bill when it passed the House because it designated $4 billion in funding to conduct the 2000 census as ``emergency'' spending that is not subject to the annual spending limits. Although an accurate census is important, it is not a true unanticipated emergency like a hurricane. Congress should responsibly budget for this and all future censuses. this budget gimmick led to a 7.8 percent increase in spending on this bill--far too much for a single year increase. Despite this short coming, I am pleased that the bill privided increased spending on anti drug programs, legal aid programs for the poor, and programs to combat violence against women.
Another highlight of this bill was its attention to the needs of farmers in the northeast. The bill provides additional funds for farmers affected by natural disasters, such as flood damage from Hurrican Floyd and crop loss from this summer's drought.
Furthermore, the bill contains measures to ensure that Delaware's dairy farmers are adequately compensated for the fluid mild they supply to milk processors.
Finally, this legislative package contains the Satellite Home Viewer Act which benefit thousands of Delawareans. Legislation has been added to eliminating outdated restrictions on satellite TV companies that prohibit them from carrying local network television stations. Many Delawareans who rely on satellites to receive quality TV reception must watch out-of-State news shows due to their restrictions. This legislation will bring them needed relief and allow them to be better informed about local, state, and regional events.
I strongly urge the congressional leadership and the President to institute measures to allow Congress to finish its work on these spending bills earlier in the year to avoid last minute deals that inevitably lead to more spending. Strong budget enforcement mechanisms, such as biennial budgeting and my proposal for a ``rainy day''account for emergency spending, should be considered in the next session.
Mr. Speaker, this is not a perfect piece of legislation. It contains compromises that were necessary to meet the President's demands and to reach agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Despite these compromises, this legislation maintains our hard-won commitment to fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. This commitment to fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. This commitment will help protect the Social Security trust fund and enable the rest of our Government to meet the needs of all Americans in a fiscally responsible manner.
Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my concern over one particular provision in the FY 2000 Omnibus Appropriations Act providing funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act's Title I program for school improvement and public school choice activities.
Specifically, this provision would provide $134 million in fiscal year 2000 to States, who
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The statutory language of this provision does not specify how funds are distributed from the State to school district level. Presently, 98.5 percent of Title I funds are distributed directly to the local level. In addition, Title I funds designated for the local, or school district level, have always been distributed via a targeted formula that provides the bulk of funding to the most disadvantaged areas. This provision's departure from the current statutory focus opens the door to the elimination of targeting funds to the local level--a dangerous step towards taking precious Federal funds away from those who instruct our children on a day to day basis. I expect the Department of Education to issue regulations or guidance which will target these funds to either the school districts with the highest numbers of schools in school improvement or through the existing Title I formula.
I also have concerns over the mandate in this provision to provide public school choice. I do want to make clear that I support public school choice as one of several tools which local school districts may implement in their efforts to improve student achievement. H.R. 2, legislation passed by the House earlier this year reauthorizing Title I, also recognized the need to include public school choice provisions in Title I, also recognized the need to include public choice provisions in Title I, but contained important provisions that would (1) tie the requirement to implement public school choice to local school board policy, and (2) ensure that school districts had adequate time to properly design public school choice plans by providing 18 months to implement such plans. In contrast, the provisions contained in this legislation would become effective immediately and are vague on whether local school board policy would be superseded. It is my expectation that the Department of Education will issue guidance or regulations which ensure that school districts can responsibly implement this mandate in adequate time.
It is my hope that we can continue to refine the policy that will be implemented through the enactment of this provision as we finish our work on ESEA.
Mrs. CAPPS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation.
The bill before us addresses a number of critical national and local priorities of which I will only highlight a few. It provides funding to continue putting 100,000 more teachers in our classrooms. It will also allow school districts to use some of that money to meet other critical educational needs like teacher training if those needs are more pressing. The bill also continues our commitment to put 50,000 more police officers on our streets to fight crime. I have been a strong supporter of the COPS program, seeing the benefits in numerous Central Coast cities like Santa Maria, Lompoc, Atascadero and Morro Bay.
This bill also provides more money to the hospitals, doctors, home health agencies and nursing homes that take care of seniors in the Medicare p rogram. Cuts imposed by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act threaten the ability of critical Central Coast health care providers to serve our seniors and this bill restores some of that funding. The bill also contains some changes to the Medicare H MO program to encourage more coverage in underserved areas like the Central Coast. While I support these provisions, they don't go far enough and I will continue to push for legislation to raise reimbursement rates in rural counties like San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
Mr. Speaker, there are three provisions of particular importance to my district that I would like to highlight. First, this legislation contains $100,000 for Santa Barbara's Computers for Families organization. Run by the highly respected Santa Barbara Industry Education Council and the Santa Barbara Office of Education, DFF refurbishes old computers and gets them into the homes of low-income families. This valuable program helps open the doors of opportunities for all in our community and this expansion will enable CFF to bring this critical technology to more needy families.
The bill also provides $50,000 for the San Luis Obispo County Medical Society which, in conjunction with the Volunteers in Health Care program and pharmaceutical companies, will provide prescription drugs for some underserved seniors. Ensuring seniors' access to prescription drugs has been a priority of mine and this small program will help many needy seniors obtain the drugs they need to live a quality life.
Finally, this legislation authorizes a study of the beautiful Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara county. This will allow the National Park Service, working in conjunction with Central Coast ranchers and preservation groups, to determine how we can best protect one of the last undeveloped stretches of California's coast. This provision is based on the Gaviota Coast Act of 1999, which I introduced earlier this year.
I must note, however, that there are items in this legislation that I do not support. For example, the bill inappropriately restricts funding to international family planning organizations. This shortsighted provision will keep life saving family planning services from poor women around the world.
While the bill does increase funding at the National Institutes of Health and continues us on a track to double the agency's overall funding, it still delays some $4 billion in NIH funding until the end of the fiscal year. This delay will actually have the effect of cutting the increase in NIH funding and could slow critically important medical research.
I am also deeply disappointed in the process that has brought us a bill that funds nearly half of the government programs at one time. This process does not allow Members to properly study the details of the legislation. I fear that over the next several days and weeks we will be appalled at special provisions that have been tucked into this bill for special interests. Taxpayers deserve more respect from Congress in the way it spends their money. This is not the way the House should do business. I urge the leadership of this House to begin work today on a bipartisan basis to ensure that we do not end up in this position again next year.
Mr. Speaker, this bill is far from perfect. I have serious reservations about the process and I oppose certain provisions in the bill. But, on balance, it represents a good compromise and I urge its adoption.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I will vote against the Omnibus Budget Agreement because it continues a pattern of budgeting which I feel undermines the confidence and credibility of the American public in one of the most important congressional responsibilities we have--managing the people's money.
I opposed the 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement because it was clear there was no intention of implementing it. It was a ruse. Last year, there was $35 billion in excess spending at the last minute omnibus bill. This year, there is no more time for analysis, and the amount of money that is being gimmicked, manipulated and spent in violation of the budget rules is up to $45 billion.
While there is much in the bill that I support, and while it has been made better due to heroic efforts on the part of the Administration and the House Democratic leadership, it still falls far short of the mark to which Congress should be accountable. I continue to hope that the day will come when the budget process is transparent, not larded with unfortunate spending decisions and is done in a fashion that both Congress and the people we represent can follow what we're doing. Until that day, I feel it appropriate to vote no.
Mr. SERRANO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the conference report, and, in particular, of the final agreements on the programs of the Commerce, Justice, and State Departments, the Judiciary, and the related agencies under our Subcommittee's jurisdiction.
This has been a difficult process, Mr. Speaker, with more perils than Pauline, but at each step of the way the Commerce-Justice bill has been improved, first under the capable leadership of our Chairman, the gentleman from Kentucky (Mr. ROGERS) and finally in negotiations with the Administration.
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