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June 22, 2000
(Senate)

S. 2553 - DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS BILL, FY 2001
(Sponsors: Stevens (R), Alaska; Specter (R), Pennsylvania)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2001, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.

The President's FY 2001 Budget is based on a balanced approach that maintains fiscal discipline, eliminates the national debt, extends the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, provides for an appropriately sized tax cut, establishes a new voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit in the context of broader reforms, expands health care coverage to more families, and funds critical investments for our future. An essential element of this approach is ensuring adequate funding for discretionary programs. To this end, the President has proposed new discretionary spending limits at levels that we believe are necessary to serve the American people.

Unfortunately, the FY 2001 congressional budget resolution provides inadequate resources for discretionary investments. We need realistic levels of funding for critical government functions that the American people expect their government to perform well, including education, national security, law enforcement, environmental protection, preservation of our global leadership, air safety, food safety, economic assistance for the less fortunate, research and technology, and the administration of Social Security and Medicare. Based on the inadequate budget resolution, this bill fails to address critical needs of the American people. While the Senate bill contains higher funding levels for a number of important programs compared to the House bill, the Administration has very serious concerns, discussed below, with the Committee bill. If the bill presented to the President does not address these issues, the President would veto the bill.

The Administration understands that an amendment may be offered to prohibit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from finalizing its standard to protect the Nation's workers from ergonomic injuries. The Administration strongly opposes any such amendment. Each year approximately 1.8 million American workers suffer musculoskeletal disorders, one-third of which are serious enough to require time away from work. OSHA estimates that its proposed standard would reduce the rate of MSDs by 26 percent over a ten-year period. After more than 10 years of experience with ergonomic guidelines, exhaustive scientific study, five months of public comment and public hearings on the proposed regulations, and millions of unnecessary injuries, it is time to move forward to finalize this standard.

Department of Education

The Senate bill fails to provide adequate funding to help strengthen accountability and turn around failing schools, reduce class size, improve after-school and summer-school opportunities, increase school safety, renovate aging and neglected schools, improve teacher quality, and prepare students for college. The most significant problems with the bill include the following:

Department of Health and Human Services

The Senate bill shortchanges critical health and social services programs by cutting requested funding for domestic and global HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the Social Services Block Grant, mental health and substance abuse services, family planning, health care access for the uninsured, and training for health professionals in children's hospitals. The Administration is concerned about the following cuts to key health and social services programs:

Department of Labor

The Senate Committee bill would cut the Labor Department by $920 million, or seven percent, from the request. This level would provide inadequate funding for initiatives to support dislocated workers with training and re-employment services and to assist at-risk youth develop the skills needed for 21st century jobs. The bill also underfunds efforts to help low-income fathers work, support their families and stay off welfare, and to improve educational alternatives to abusive child labor abroad. The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's decision to fully fund worker safety and health programs, to establish the new Office of Disability Policy, and to fully fund the international core labor standards and Global AIDS in the Workplace initiatives. The Administration also appreciates the Senate Committee's inclusion of language to extend the availability of the Welfare-to-Work grants funds for an additional two years to allow grantees to take advantage of the program eligibility improvements enacted in the FY 2000 Appropriations Act.

The Administration's most significant concerns with the bill as reported by the Senate Committee include the following:

Social Security Administration

At the Senate Committee funding level, the Social Security Administration would not be able to hire thousands of direct service employees, resulting in longer wait times for individuals filing retirement and disability claims, and diminished service for individuals who call the agency's 1-800 phone service.


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