Sep 20 2011
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today opposed the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, citing the following reasons:
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill includes roughly $4.5 billion to fund ObamaCare. Senator Shelby adamantly opposed the program’s establishment and strongly supports a full repeal of it.
“Our nation simply cannot afford another massive expansion of government through ObamaCare,” said Shelby. “Even if we could afford ObamaCare, we should not fund the program because it expands government intrusion into our lives that will stifle life-saving innovation and destroy the best medical care in the world. Instead of funding ObamaCare, the Labor/HHS bill should have supported proven initiatives that focus on lowering the cost of care, improving access, and strengthening the doctor-patient relationship.”
In July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced 47 violations of the Anti-deficiency Act, totaling over $1.4 billion in illegal funding practices. Instead of correcting the improper funding of these contracts, HHS wants to proceed with a clean slate without addressing the flaws in its contracting process.
“As the budget of HHS significantly increases with the influx of ObamaCare funding, it is critical that American taxpayers’ funds are accounted for and managed in a transparent and efficient manner,” Shelby said. “Unfortunately, that is not the case. These violations evidence a systemic problem that has government-wide contracting implications. The American taxpayer can no longer afford such a cavalier attitude from massive, unaccountable bureaucracy.”
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill transfers $1 billion in mandatory funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Affordable Care Act authorized and permanently appropriated $7 billion to the Prevention Fund, and each year the Department can allocate funds as it sees fit. There is no congressional oversight of these funds and the Administration can earmark funding to any program it wants.
“The Prevention Fund is a $1 billion slush fund for the Administration to dole out to any program it pleases,” said Shelby. “In the past, the Prevention Fund has been used to fund the Administration’s pet projects. Because it is Congress’ responsibility to protect taxpayers from such wasteful and unauthorized misspending, these funds should be repealed.”
Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation
The Affordable Care Act funded a new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) with $10 billion. CMMI is a health care venture fund that gets to choose its investments. Congress does not decide how to spend the $10 billion, but instead the CMMI funds projects as it sees fit. In the past, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) funded similar research and demonstrations with a significantly smaller budget – roughly $35 million. After the Affordable Care Act became law, CMS now has $10 billion to spend on research and demonstrations that further the Administration’s political projects.
“CMS has the full authority to fund research and demonstrations of payment programs without congressional approval through the annual appropriations process or congressional oversight,” said Shelby. “This newly created $10 billion CMMI is unnecessary, unprecedented, and should be repealed.”
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
Over the past several months, the NLRB has issued numerous politically-motivated, union-backed regulations that will stifle job growth and economic investment in the United States.
• Boeing Complaint – The complaint against the Boeing Company alleged that Boeing’s decision to open a new production line in South Carolina constituted an unfair labor practice. In essence, the NRLB told a private company that it could not make a fundamental business decision and decide where to locate its facilities.
• “Quickie” Elections – The NRLB issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would speed up the union election process. The proposed rule sets shorter time limits for hearings and filings, giving employers and employees little reaction time to union formation and limiting employer participation in that process.
• Kindred Healthcare, Inc. Decision – This decision permits unions to create bargaining units with fewer members, such as greeters versus cashiers at a retail store. Essentially, it allows unions to cherry-pick which workers vote on unionizing. This gives vast power to the unions who can now choose a tiny group of employees who, if they went out on strike, could bring operations of the employer to a halt.
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill includes $282.83 million for the National Labor Relations Board, level funding from Fiscal Year 2011.
“The National Labor Relations Board is enacting a radical agenda at the expense of workers, businesses, and the economy,” said Shelby. “When the federal government should be focusing on creating the conditions necessary for private sector job growth, Congress should not fund an agency enacting a politically-motivated, pro-union agenda that chills job creation.”
Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill allows the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation additional obligation authority for unforeseen and extraordinary pre-termination expenses. No limit is placed on how much can be transferred or obligated for such expenses, and it is unclear from which account these additional funds would be drawn.
“This is simply a blank check to the Administration to prop up union pension plans,” said Shelby. “Taxpayers are sick and tired of endless government bailouts used to pick winners and losers based on political considerations.”
Duplicative Labor Programs
In March 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on duplication within federal programs citing that there are overlaps in at least 44 of 47 federal employment and training programs. The workforce system could be better aligned across agencies and streamlined to ease access for both workers and employers. The Fiscal Year 2012 bill does not address any of the recommendations GAO submitted, nor does it address the benefit of co-locating services and consolidating administrative structures to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.
“This is a prime example of bureaucratic inertia and Congressional apathy,” said Shelby. “In light of our current fiscal difficulties, we should eliminate wasteful and bloated bureaucracy wherever possible. We should not ignore GAO’s recommendations at the expense of taxpayers.”
Pell Grant Program
The Pell Grant program is on a fiscally unsustainable path, with costs virtually doubling since 2008. The Fiscal Year 2012 bill fails to address the underlying problems with the Pell program. Instead, it maintains the program’s maximum award level with an infusion of funds from both the Budget Control Act and by eliminating the current practice of the federal government paying the interest on subsidized loans during the six month grace period after the student stops attending school. This policy change will result in higher costs to students over the course of their loans.
“As a nation, we are on the brink of breaking our commitment to students who wish to attend college because the Pell Grant program is on a fiscally unsustainable path,” said Shelby. “We cannot continue to throw money at a problem in the hopes it will go away. This so-called fix will not put the program on the path to long-term stability and it will increase students’ long-term borrowing costs.”
Race to the Top
At a time when Congress must make tough choices about where to focus education resources, the Fiscal Year 2012 bill provides $698.6 million for the Race to the Top program which currently benefits only a few states.
“The Race to the Top program is a grant program designed to reward states that are supportive of education reforms endorsed by the Administration,” said Shelby. “Providing funding for an unproven competitive program at the expense of formula funded programs could result in the redirection of critical federal funds from smaller, rural states that cannot compete for funding on the Administration’s chosen playing field.”
Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Program
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill eliminates the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Program. This grant program provides core funding for state and local health agencies and gives states the autonomy and flexibility to solve state problems and address community level needs.
“States use Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grants to fund a variety of programs – from tuberculosis control to emergency medical services to improving public health capacity,” said Shelby. “It is one of the few federal streams of health care funding that gives states the flexibility to choose which programs should be funded based on their specific needs. Without this block grant, every state will lose core funding for their unique public health needs.”
Community Transformation Grant Program
The Fiscal Year 2012 bill provides $280 million for the Community Transformation Grant Program, which provides chronic disease grants to states and cities over 500,000 people. Due to the population requirements, last year, local health departments and non-profits in rural areas were unable to compete for the funding. While we should be building capacity at local health departments nationwide, these grants will primarily reward states and metropolitan areas in urban areas that already have large grant making capacity. Coupled with the elimination of the Preventative Health and Preventative Services Block Grant Program, small and rural areas will be unable to receive any significant chronic disease funding.
“Instead of eliminating the unpopular Community Transformation Grant Program, the Fiscal Year 2012 Labor/HHS Appropriations bill nearly doubles it,” said Shelby. “In the deep South, chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are at the heart of our health issues, yet because these populations are mainly rural, many are not eligible for Community Transformation Grants. We need to ensure that our entire nation, not just population-rich, urban areas, is reaping the benefits of federal health care programs.”