|Higgins Votes Against Republican Budget Reconciliation Bill|
|November 18, 2005|
Washington, DC—Last night, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) voted against the Republican Budget Reconciliation bill. The bill passed the House by a vote of 217-215.
“This bill will have devastating cuts to essential services, disastrously impacting communities in Western New York,” said Congressman Higgins. “There are grossly egregious cuts to health, education and children’s programs, which will be particularly hard-felt in and among the working families of Erie and Chautauqua counties.
The ranks of the uninsured continue to swell in this country, and more and more of my constituents are concerned that they may find themselves without health insurance and unable to afford needed care. Medicaid represents this government’s promise to provide health care to Americans who can least afford it. Over 4 million New Yorkers are enrolled in this quite literally life-saving program, including 1.8 million children. I voted against the bill today because it will cut Medicaid spending by more than $11 billion. That’s an $11 billion cut from caring for children suffering from leukemia, from pregnant mothers struggling to survive and from mentally disabled men and women trying to make a place for themselves in our communities; we should not make our budget cuts on their backs. Instead, we should be increasing health care access to more Americans, not fewer. If Medicaid is expanding, it’s because fewer Americans can afford health insurance, let’s not deny them the only access to care available to them.
I am also concerned that this legislation cuts over $14 billion from successful federal student loan programs – the largest cuts ever to student aid. This is the wrong cut at the wrong time because college costs continue to skyrocket with no end in sight. In fact, tuition at four year public colleges has increased 46% since 2001. Children from middle class families in Erie and Chautauqua Counties, and over 470,000 students across the state, depend on these loans to afford college and they depend on college as the key to economic opportunity. These cuts will needlessly deny that opportunity to young people in Western New York who want to go to Medaille, Canisius, UB, my alma mater, Buffalo State, and others.
The Reconciliation package is also an abdication of our responsibility to children. The bill cuts child support enforcement by almost $5 billion, abandoning single parents and rolling back the progress our society has made in this field. Children are not responsible for divorce or for parents abandoning their families – let’s not turn back the clock and make them carry that responsibility. The bill cuts $577 million from foster care programs. And perhaps most troubling, it cuts $796 million from food stamps, which represent our promise that amid this country’s great wealth, no American child, whether in the cold winters of Erie County or the sun baked mountains of Arizona, should starve.
What is perhaps most objectionable about this process is the doubletalk used to sell these cuts. While we have been told that these spending cuts are necessary to reduce the deficit, they do nothing of the sort. Instead, the $50 billion in spending cuts are coupled with $106 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That means that all of these cuts, all of them, will be used to pay for irresponsible tax cuts that we can’t afford and that do not put money back in the pockets of my hardworking constituents in Western New York; not one dime will actually go to reduce the deficit.
In fact, this reconciliation process will increase, not decrease, the deficit. I agree that it is well past time for Congress to put our fiscal house in order, but to call this package a deficit reduction measure at best makes no sense, and at worst is patently dishonest. We need to do better by the American people and I pledge to do better for the people of Western New York.”