Ranking Member DeLauro Statement at the Full Committee Markup of the 2024 Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA Funding Bill
Thank you, Chairwoman Granger, for yielding. I want to associate myself with everything Ranking Member Bishop said during the subcommittee markup and reiterated here today. I would also like to thank the majority and minority staff, particularly Martha Foley, Alex Swann, and Tyler Coe.
The bill before us is a perfect example of how House Republicans mislead the American people. They do not want to return critical domestic programs to the 2022 levels – they do not want to adhere to the bipartisan agreement set by the President and the Speaker, and which passed with many of their votes. Instead, they continue to pursue the biggest cuts in recorded history.
Meanwhile – right after bringing our economy to the brink of collapse, supposedly for the sake of fiscal responsibility – House Republicans came back with a tax cut. A $1.2 trillion tax cut. They are working on another massive tax break for billionaires and the biggest corporations. Apparently, debt only matters when it’s about domestic investments. This encapsulates Republican values – hurting farmers and hardworking Americans under the guise of deficit reduction while fighting for tax loopholes for billionaires. There’s a Yiddish word for all of this – chutzpah! It really defies imagination.
The level of funding in this Agriculture bill allocation was last seen in 2007. I want to repeat that. 2007. 16 years ago!
I want to pause for a second to help us all gain a better understanding of just how long ago 2007 was. In 2007:
Only three of the now 11 Fast and Furious movies were out.
Most of us were still using a BlackBerry – Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in January 2007.
It was so long ago that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still official policy.
We cannot pretend that the needs of 2007 fit the needs of today. I do not think American farmers and rural communities want to go back there.
What’s worse is that this proposal is built on $8 billion in claimed “savings” that are not just bad policy and politically untenable, but morally outrageous. This is completely detached from reality because most of these rescissions will likely not be available by next year. I would have thought the majority would recognize this, but beyond belief, they seem intent to take away almost $3.25 billion from rural communities by gutting rural electric co-ops used to help support the long-term resiliency, reliability, and affordability of rural electric systems. After the Agriculture subcommittee markup, my staff met with constituents from across the country, and visitors from Alabama and Nebraska in particular were aghast at this proposal.
I know why I am against these absurd rescissions: because I support rural America.
The bill abandons rural Americans, slashing the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program by $800 million. Some five million women and children could lose fruit and vegetable vouchers. In case anyone is unclear, the majority is practicing so-called “fiscal responsibility” by taking food out of the mouths of moms and babies – but a tax cut is OK! They also cut the Renewable Energy for America Program by $500 million, gut rural electric investment in clean energy and energy efficiency by $3.25 billion, and eliminate payments from the Inflation Reduction Act that serve as a financial lifeline, and which have already helped more than 20,000 distressed farmers, keeping them from going into foreclosure. This bill does nothing to address the shortages that have forced doctors around the country to choose which patients are more deserving of life-saving chemotherapy drugs than others.
It is full of policy riders that focus more on social wedge issues catering to the ideological extreme than helping farmers and Americans everywhere who rely on funding in this bill for everything from accessing the internet, to the food they eat and the medicines they take.
The bill would reverse the FDA decision to allow mifepristone to be dispensed in certified pharmacies, instead of only by prescribers in hospitals, clinics, and medical offices. I would like to point out to those concerning themselves with the health care decisions made by women, the current FDA policy still requires mifepristone to be prescribed by a qualified health care provider. This policy rider would overrule the established scientific process for FDA approval to restrict women’s access to health care.
This move is unprecedented. The subcommittee has no business overturning the considered decision of FDA, just to make it harder for women to get an abortion. To my knowledge, we have never done this before, and it sets a very dangerous precedent that appropriators have a vote in the decisions made by women. By what scientific authority or knowledge do you have to overturn medical decisions? No one in this room is qualified to make this medical decision. What other science will be overturned because of your ideological views?
It also contains two riders friendly to big tobacco – prohibiting limits on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, and stopping any limits on the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.
What will be the health consequences? What will be the life expectancy consequences?
I strongly oppose both of these riders, in the interest of public health and preventing youth nicotine addiction.
There is plenty in this bill that will never become law, such as prohibiting the implementation of three executive orders related to racial equity and gutting protections for small poultry producers.
In short, this bill exemplifies Republican values: taking food out of the mouths of hungry people – veterans, children, seniors – creating hurdles for women to access medication, raising energy costs for rural Americans, and making it harder for small farmers to make ends meet, while at the same time tipping the scale in favor of big corporations and protecting big tobacco.
Thank you, I yield back.