A picture of Representative Donna M. Christensen
Donna C.
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    Cbc Hour: The People’s Budget

    by Former Representative Donna M. Christensen

    Posted on 2013-03-18

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    CHRISTENSEN. Thank you.

    Repealing the Affordable Care Act is going to cost this country exponentially in the years to come, so they are doing the exact opposite of balancing the budget in the long run, but I have to ask the question: Just how much more austerity can the American people take and still survive? The recession, which is struggling to recover, has been bad enough, but with past cuts, the sequester, the CR, and now the Republican 2014 budget, they are threatening to make a bad situation even worse. I want to focus on just the hits that health care has taken.

    From Rosa DeLauro's report, we learned that since 2002, labor, health, and education programs have endured cuts of 7 percent, resulting in a nearly $12 billion reduction in funding in 2012. Going forward, the discretionary budget caps set in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are estimated to cut over $9 billion, or 5.4 percent, in 2021. Altogether, this will result in a 12 percent per capita cut, or a nearly $22 billion cut to labor, health, and education programs in 2021, when compared to the 2002 levels. These cuts will weaken these critical programs that protect the public health and safety, promote and develop our workforce, and educate the next generation of Americans.

    If we just look at programs under the Department of Health and Human Services, here is a partial list compared to 2002 levels: In 2012, the Health Resources and Services Administration has seen a $2 billion reduction, which includes a $194 million reduction to the program which provides critical funding to support training new health professionals; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a $122 million reduction; The National Institutes of Health has had a $1.2 billion reduction from 2002 levels; The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has seen an $813.3 million reduction.

    All of these reductions--all of these cuts--were in place even before the sequester, and are adjusted for inflation. Then to add insult to injury, at the first of this month, sequestration triggered an estimated 5.3 percent cut, resulting in another cut of approximately $7.5 billion from labor, health, and education programs. These cuts and those across all of the other government agencies, in programs that provide jobs and needed services, were the reason we said that the sequester ought to have been stopped, and why we still insist it needs to be repealed.

    Then there is the continuing resolution for the balance of 2013. Will it end the sequester even for this year? No, it won't.

    In health, the House bill would cut $75 million to State Health Access Grants and $276 million to flu funding, among other important programs.

    Further, their CR underfunds priorities that are critical to crack down on fraud in health care and Social Security, and to help working families. It does not include a requested $949 million to implement the health insurance exchanges.

    Their CR does not include a requested $567 million increase for Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control and for Social Security disability reviews and SSI eligibility determinations.

    If these cuts and omissions were not bad enough, the Republican continuing resolution that was passed in the House does not include $35 million in emergency ADAP funding or $10 million for part C medical clinics that President Obama announced would happen on World AIDS Day in 2011. While all cuts to health programs are problematic, these cuts are especially devastating because ADAP and the part C medical clinics are there for financially and medically needy populations that need their services.

    So are those all of the cuts Republicans are proposing? No, they are not.

    They are proposing to pass a budget for fiscal year 2014, and the Republican budget would take the cuts in health programs that are already hurting many of our fellow Americans even further.

    It would cut $810 billion from the Medicaid program over the next 10 years and would make it a block grant, which, as we heard in testimony at today's hearing in the Health Subcommittee, would jeopardize health care for children, the disabled, the elderly, and the poor--the most vulnerable in our country. It would raise the Medicare eligibility age and turn it into a voucher for future beneficiaries, shifting costs of as much as $6,000 per year to those beneficiaries, and it would repeal all of the funding, as Mr. Horsford said, needed to implement health care reform, essentially repealing the Affordable Care Act and repealing insurance for over 27 million Americans.

    That is a heartless budget. Its values do not represent the values on which this country was founded and certainly not those of a nation under God.

    The Democratic alternative is a far better budget for our country. It ends the sequester, it funds the Affordable Care Act, it raises revenue, and it makes sensible cuts that spare safety net programs that are more needed than ever. It also includes a doc fix, which stops the deep cuts to physicians' payments under Medicare, which would have reduced access to care for the beneficiaries.

    The Democratic budget is a good budget, but the Congressional Black Caucus' pro-growth, pro-people, pro-America budget goes even further and builds on the Democratic budget, which has also adopted some of our key provisions: The CBC budget doubles the revenue as well as increases the investment, as you've heard, in health, in education, in job creation, in housing, and in infrastructure programs. It does all of this and still significantly reduces the deficit. It protects Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and all of the safety net programs. It, too, begins with ending the sequester and fully funding the Affordable Care Act.

    I am really proud of the Congressional Black Caucus budget this year, as I am every year, and I commend Congressman Bobby Scott and his team for another job well done.

    This body and the other must reject the Ryan Republican budget. Everyone [[Page H1563]] can and should support and vote for the Congressional Black Caucus budget, but I'll tell you that it would be far better to pass any one of the Democratic alternatives, as they are all better for our country today and better for our future.

    Mr. HORSFORD. Congresswoman Christensen, let me thank you again for your hard work in fighting for quality health care for all Americans.

    My grandmother suffered a stroke when I was only 9 weeks old, and she went into a coma. When she came out of that coma, she was paralyzed on the left side of her body. For the next 27 years, she lived in a nursing home, and it was that nursing home that allowed her to have the quality of life that she did have until she passed away in 2000.

    {time} 1950 Now as a young boy, I visited my grandmother virtually every week in that nursing home. I didn't know whether it was Medicaid or her disability that was providing for her care, but that's the reason she was able to live as long as she did. I know now that there are parents and grandparents depending on those programs more now than ever before, and that's why the CBC budget works to preserve and protect these programs. It's the people's budget, as you refer to it, and our values are the values that protect those who are not able to always protect themselves, versus an austerity budget that looks out more for special interests and corporate interests than it does the people's interests. And so I want to thank you again because it is my grandmother's legacy, and so many other parents and grandparents who are in her situation, that remind me every day what it is we are supposed to be doing here in the people's House. So thank you.

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to now turn to Representative Barbara Lee from California, someone who I know this week, particularly as we talk about ending the war in Iraq, she is someone who stood early on saying we didn't need to go into war, and the deficit spending that occurred in the previous administration is the reason that we have the deficits that we do. And now they want to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class and the poor and not take responsibility for the decisions that were made in the previous administration, so thank you for standing up and standing tall.

    I yield to the gentlelady from California.

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