Ranking Member DeLauro Statement at Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services Hearing

2023-03-28 10:17

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the Department of Health and Human Services:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to first welcome and thank my dear friend and former colleague, Secretary Becerra. Thank you for testifying today. Just as a shout out to the Alzheimer’s association. Love the purple shirts and the work you do. Thank you.

Mr. Secretary, when you came into office two years ago, our nation was reeling from a painful health and economic crisis, making your job even more critical but also more difficult. And over the past two years, you have made great progress to support working families and the health and the wellbeing of the American people.

Alongside the Administration, this Committee made historic investments through the 2022 and 2023 appropriations packages to reverse decades of underinvestment in the programs that American families rely on. We lowered the cost of prescription drugs, supported working families, made health care more affordable, strengthened lifesaving biomedical research, bolstered our public health infrastructure, and addressed urgent health needs.

And today, I am looking forward to discussing HHS’s 2024 budget request which builds on that critical progress. This budget takes important steps to continue tackling our nation’s most pressing health needs and supporting families while making our communities healthier and safer. 

An increase of $1.9 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would bolster our nation’s public health and help state and local public health agencies strengthen their infrastructure, while making strides in maternal and infant health, behavioral health, and gun violence prevention. My god, what happened yesterday. The maternal mortality rate in this nation, especially among black and brown women, is unacceptable and frankly, appalling. I thank you for taking steps to continue addressing it.

This is not just about infectious diseases. This budget will also strengthen our public health agencies so we can support food safety, early detection and prevention of cancer, and opioid prevention and surveillance. We must be ready for any current and future crisis – we must end the cycle of complacency that leaves us scrambling when a crisis hits.

And with a significant increase for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) programs, we would provide more mental health services to children, strengthen recovery support services and opioid prevention and treatment, and continue the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

American families need our help, and this budget acknowledges that reality. Families are facing a child care crisis, and this budget would lower costs and expand affordable early-learning programs with significant increases for Child Care and Development Block Grants, Head Start, and Preschool Development Grants.

And with a significant increase for the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Administration is prioritizing innovative ways to support the health of mothers and kids, strengthen community health centers, end the HIV epidemic, and increase access to contraceptive care.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision to strike down Roe v. Wade, the need to support reproductive health care and family planning has become even more pronounced. The President’s budget includes an increase of 79 percent for Title X Family Planning to provide affordable contraceptive services and health care to nearly two million low-income women and men across the country. This program has helped nearly 195 million people over its more than 50-year history, many uninsured. This is a critical bedrock of our public health safety net, and I will never stop fighting for those who depend on it.

I do want to mention my worry that the proposed increase of less than 2 percent for the National Institutes of Health is insufficient and threatens the progress this Committee has made through significant, sustained investments in biomedical research. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, ARPA-H, would receive an increase of $1 billion—a disproportionate increase, in my view, compared to the small increase at NIH.

People depend on these programs, which is why I must mention how deeply concerned I am over some extreme House Republican calls for massive spending cuts and even more extreme calls by Republican officials to eliminate so many of the programs that keep families healthy, safe, and prosperous. These cuts would be devastating to children, families, seniors, and veterans. We should be doing everything we can to increase access to these programs, not cutting off vital services to the people who need them.

I do not believe that some of my Republican colleagues realize the implications of these cuts. Let me run through some of the scariest numbers that you shared in your letter to me.

  • If these cuts were implemented, 200,000 children will lose access to Head Start, and 100,000 children will lose access to child care, undermining the early education of our kids, and their parents’ ability to get to work.
  • Perhaps even more staggering, amid a mental health and overdose crisis, nearly 1 million people facing a suicidal or mental health crisis would not be able to access support services through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and tens of thousands of people could be refused opioid use disorder treatment, denying them life-saving health care. 
  • An estimated 2 million vulnerable individuals and families, including rural and underserved populations, would lose access to health care services through Community Health Centers, like the Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven, Connecticut that I visited last week.
  • And despite the looming rise of food insecurity, nutrition services, such as Meals on Wheels, would be cut for more than 1 million seniors.

And I would also add that cuts of this magnitude would dramatically impact the CDC’s ability to support state and local health agencies and weaken our public health infrastructure and capacity. More than 70 percent of CDC funds go to public health partners, including our State and local health agencies—such extreme cuts would be felt all over our nation and would make our communities much more vulnerable to public health crises.

These cuts are unrealistic, unsustainable, and unacceptable. They threaten so much of the progress we have made in recent years and put people at risk. Like you and President Biden know, investing in families is how we make our economy stronger and our communities safer.

I will never stop fighting these dangerous proposals. And Mr. Secretary, I thank you for your dedication to doing the same. I look forward to hearing your testimony.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

118th Congress