TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
When John Chafee died last week, it wasn't just a tragic loss for his
family, or for the U.S. Senate, where he had served with distinction for 23
years. John Chafee's death was a loss for America.
At his funeral Saturday, his former colleague, John Danforth, an
Episcopal priest who presided over the service, explained why Chafee was held
in such high esteem by his colleagues: "His goal wasn't stalemate where nothing
could be done. His goal was consensus where a lot could be done. Literally, he
was a lawmaker."
Indeed, he was a lawmaker who never lost his commitment to the
disadvantaged and those left behind. I last spoke with John Chafee on the
Friday before he died. I called to wish him a happy 77th birthday, and to talk
about a bill we both cared about deeply -- a bill he had introduced to provide
support for foster children forced to leave the system when they turn 18.
At a time when partisanship and posturing too often win out over
compromise and consensus, John Chafee's entire career stands as a shining
example of just what we can accomplish when we reach across party lines to do
what's right. Willing to risk the wrath of some in his own party, he never
stopped fighting for the environment, children, campaign finance reform, gun
control and health care for every American. Just five days before his death, he
joined three other Republicans to support the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
As they work to pass this year's budget, Congress is faced with the
opportunity to put politics aside and follow John Chafee's example once again.
Last week, majorities in the Senate and the House passed
across-the-board budget cuts of approximately 1 percent -- an easy way to
contain spending, but not the right way. Although Republicans can argue that
their approach is equitable, it would, in fact, have far-reaching and serious
implications for far too many Americans. Here are some examples:
-- Approximately 71,000 fewer needy women, infants and children would
receive food assistance and nutrition services.
-- Approximately 2,700 fewer children would receive child-care
-- Almost 5,700 disadvantaged young people could lose job training,
summer employment and education activities.
-- Head Start would serve approximately 4,800 fewer children and
-- Over 117,000 students in high-poverty communities could lose
educational services necessary to improve their future prospects.
-- Cuts to the Reading Excellence program could eliminate literacy
services for about 9,700 children.
-- Roughly 40,000 women could lose reproductive health-care services.
-- As many as 2,900 children could be denied the full complement of
-- Nearly 3,800 people could lose their mental-health and
-- Cuts could eliminate funding to clean up two additional Superfund
-- Emergency farm aid, earmarked to help our nation's farmers deal with
this year's low commodity prices and natural disaster losses, could be cut.
-- Cuts to the Defense Department budget could result in a loss of up
to 48,000 military personnel.
-- Cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget could mean a loss
of housing assistance to 19,300 households.
-- Cuts to the NASA budget could mean the likely deferral of some Earth
and Space Science missions, the delay of Space Station construction, and the
cancellation of university grants in many states.
-- The National Park Service could be forced to eliminate plans to
improve facilities and expand operations at some new or growing parks.
-- The FBI could be forced to cut 106 agents and 141 analysts, computer
specialists, engineers and other support staff, reducing resources for critical
law-enforcement activities, including national security investigations,
combating organized crime and illegal drugs, and fighting cyber crime.
-- The Immigration and Naturalization Service could lose 116 Border
Patrol agents and 154 support staff.
The President sent Congress a budget plan that would eliminate the debt
by 2015, strengthen Medicare and Social Security, and invest in priorities like
education, law enforcement, national security and the environment. Furthermore,
the President's plan is fully paid for.
In response, the Republican leadership has resorted to gimmicks -- such
as designating the constitutionally mandated census as "emergency" spending --
and across-the-board cuts that harm everyone from the neediest Americans to our
men and women in uniform. In addition, their plan reneges on last year's
bipartisan agreement to fund 100,000 teachers and reduce class size in the
early grades; it does not include a key accountability initiative to help turn
around failing schools; and it fails to extend Medicare or Social Security
solvency by a single day.
Nothing that Congress does reflects more clearly on its priorities than
the budget. It is time for this Congress to put politics aside and pass a
budget that works for the American people.
To find out more about Hillary Rodham Clinton and read her past
columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
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