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Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, said the Senate should focus on getting students and teachers what they need instead of spending another day or week playing political games.

Enzi's comments came today during debate on the Education appropriations bill currently on the Senate floor.

Enzi, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said Democrats are skewing facts about education funding in an attempt to win political points and make Republicans look like they are short changing children.

"The President can't be accused of cutting education spending because he asked for less than the fully authorized amount when Democrats have done the same thing," said Enzi. "When the Senate was controlled by the Democrats last year, my colleagues approved a bill that left a gap between appropriations and the fully authorized amounts, and it has now become unacceptable in their eyes to fund No Child Left Behind at less than the fully authorized levels. In Wyoming we have a lot of expressions we use to describe that kind of behavior, but the only one that I can probably use on the floor of the Senate is double-talk."

Enzi's statement from the Senate floor follows.



No Child Left Behind
Floor Statement
U.S. Senator Mike Enzi


Since the issue of education has been brought up not only this morning but over the last couple of days, and I have listened to some wailing and comments, I feel compelled to talk a little bit about education myself.

This week, many of my colleagues have come to the floor to criticize the President and criticize his administration and even to criticize the Senate leadership for their commitment to education. This is a discussion we need to have every time the Senate debates spending, but every time we seem to plow the same old ground. There are a lot of platitudes and myths out there that keep being regenerated. It takes a lot of time, and it keeps us from completing the spending bills. I hope I can say a few words that will put this debate in perspective.

My colleagues have argued that the current appropriations bill cuts education spending and it underfunds the No Child Left Behind Act. They have suggested, and I suppose will continue to insist, that the bill contains harsh and unacceptable cuts to education and that it will somehow leave students and teachers on their own. That is simply not the case. The bill contains over $12 billion for title I programs, the third straight year it has had an increase. That is a total increase of 45 percent in title I funding since 2001.

It also contains $1 billion for Reading First, close to $700 million for State education technology grants, and over $1.1 billion for impact aid programs. All told, this bill contains about $56 billion for education programs, over $12 billion more--$12 billion more--than fiscal year 2001. Yet my colleagues insist that this bill cuts too much from education. They argue it does not go far enough and that we must increase our Federal deficit by several billion dollars more to assure we have adequately funded education. Where are these disastrous cuts? How is a $12 billion increase in education funding over 4 years a harsh and unacceptable cut?

Before I came to the Senate, I worked as an accountant. I learned how to balance accounts and read ledgers, and I am astounded to see my colleagues insisting that a $12 billion increase in education funding for over 4 years somehow constitutes a cut. I guess that kind of gives you an idea why we have some problems. It does not take special training in accounting to understand that a $3.9 billion increase in title I spending since 2002 is not a cut. Even without my training as an accountant, I am confident I would understand, as do families across America, that a $12 billion increase is not a cut, no matter how you frame it.

It is interesting to see how many of my colleagues are now criticizing the President and this administration for recommending less than the authorized amounts--authorized amounts--under No Child Left Behind. Let me explain authorized amounts.

We go through a three-step process around here. We have a budget process. A budget is something the President has to present to us by February so that we can approve a massive outline of how we are going to do spending by April 15. It is a Federal statute. It has been complied with twice in the history of the country. Once was this year. The other one was many decades ago. We did a budget.

Then there is a second part to the process. It does not necessarily have to come after the first part. It can be contiguous or it can be before the first part. It is called authorization. Authorization is when a bill is drafted by the committee of jurisdiction, the ones that have the knowledge and the concentration and focus on the problem. They do an authorization bill. It is usually a 6-year authorization, and it is an authorization for the maximum amount that will be spent, not minimums.

I hope everybody catches that. The authorization bill does not give minimums of spending, it gives the authorization for the maximums of spending, and that is the maximums of spending over a 6-year period.

Taking into account inflation, new programs, and issues such as those, nobody ever starts at the maximum and hopes they can sustain and increase that through the period of the authorization bill. That is not how it works. We always start at less than the authorized amount, and we build up to it over the 6-year period.

Let's take a look at some history because I seem to recall that this body did the exact same thing last year when they were doing No Child Left Behind in this particular bill.

My colleagues, of course--now they are in the minority--held all of the leadership positions at that time. They were in charge of doing this appropriations bill. They were the ones in charge of figuring out how much of that authorization could logically be tucked into this appropriations bill.

If we look at the appropriations bill reported out of committee last year, we find that it contained $3.5 billion less than the authorized level in title I funding. Somehow the administration is now being taken to task for recommending more than the colleagues on the other side of the aisle who were in charge last year recommended, even though they both recommended less than the fully authorized amounts. That is not unusual, and it shows that both sides of the aisle understand how this works.

Remember, we will find that the appropriations bill reported out of committee last year contained $3.5 billion less than the authorized level in title I funding, and the administration is now being taken to task for recommending more than the other side of the aisle did. I guess that should cut both ways. You cannot accuse the President of cutting education spending because he asked for less than the fully authorized amount when the other side of the aisle has done the same thing.

Even though my colleagues approved a bill last year that left a gap between appropriations and the fully authorized amounts, it has now become unacceptable in their eyes to fund No Child Left Behind at less than the fully authorized levels. In Wyoming, we have a lot of expressions we use to describe that kind of behavior, but the only one I can probably use on the floor of the Senate is doubletalk.

I also want to point out that we never made it to an Education appropriations bill last year. We never passed a budget last year. That was when the other side of the aisle was in the leadership. And it took us until this spring, under our current leadership, to pass any increase in title I and the No Child Left Behind Act. I think that bears a little bit of extra description.

Yes, I have held town meetings in Wyoming, and I have had to answer to education, and I have had to explain to them that a year ago we could not even pass a budget. A year ago, we did not even take up Education appropriations. Yes, we had this new authorization bill for No Child Left Behind, but, Madam President, do you know what. You cannot appropriate any additional dollars if you do not do an appropriations bill, and that appropriations bill never got done under the leadership last year. There was not a dime of increase passed last year.

When Senator Frist became the majority leader this year, we went to work on getting the appropriations done, and with the cooperation across the aisle, we were able to get nine bills approved in 8 days. I think that is about how it was.

That was the first funding for education under No Child Left Behind. When did that happen? The President signed it into law on February 26, and the bureaucratic machine moved faster than it ever has. By March 26, the checks went out to the States. Miraculous. But school in this country ends at the end of May or the middle of June at the latest. So on March 26, the mail went out. Eventually the States got those checks. Then the States had to do the allocation out to the school districts.

I do not imagine they got that done in one day. I do not imagine they got that done in a month. So now we are talking about the end of April, and school is going to end the next month. What kind of education funding is that?

So nobody got an increase for last year. They had to operate on the budget that they had from the year before. We never passed a budget. It took us until this spring, under our current leadership, to pass any increases in title I and the No Child Left Behind Act.

The current Senate leadership can point to two separate increases in funding for education compared to last year when this body did not approve any increases in education funding. If this issue is such a priority for my colleagues, why did we adjourn last fall without passing an additional dollar for education? As I am sure my colleagues will recall, we left Washington last year without a single dime more for education than was available the year before. Incidentally, because of this delay, when the President made his budget recommendation to Congress--that is that first step of the process I mentioned--we were still working on fiscal year 2003 appropriations; we had not finished them.

Those appropriations should have been the base for the President's recommendation, but we require him to have that in by February, and he did. That is the only way we can get our work done by April. He complied. So what figures could the President use?

The present administration is being blamed for this body's failure to pass an appropriations bill last fall, and that seems preposterous to me. Of course, he had to base his budget on what we had done for 2002, and he did, and he made substantial increases.

I want to mention just a little bit about the budget process we went through, too. During the budget process, we had an interminable number of votes attempting to do unprecedented earmarking. Well, that is not really what it was designed to do. What it was designed to do was to make it look as if a majority of the Senators who were doing responsible budgeting were actually voting against key programs that are normally not outlined specifically with earmarking. So the responsible Senators did the right thing and voted against what looked like voting against kids, and that is exactly politically how it was designed to be. But they did it so that we could have a responsible budget.

Now here we go again with the interminable number of votes I am sure we will be expected to take that will earmark an increase and change, and all of them are outside of the budget process that has already been approved.

Fortunately, I am sure the people across America are educated enough--I am sure our system has done that--to see through what is happening. We all know the Senate's budget process and we know the President is required to make that recommendation in February. When this body does not pass the appropriations bill that normally serves as the basis for the President's recommendation, it is unconscionable to then criticize the President for his recommendations.

The bottom line is that this body passed last year's appropriations bill 6 months late, and only then under the current Senate leadership. A better comparison would be the President's recommendations on the fiscal year 2002 appropriations, which were the only figures available at the time the President submitted his recommendation to Congress.

Clearly, this discussion is not about funding levels, it is about politics. This body has too much important business before it to waste time playing politics, particularly playing politics on education. There are students and teachers depending on this body to give them additional funding, and that is what my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee have done. Let us get the business of the Senate completed so these students and teachers can get what they need this year, rather than another day, another week, or another month of debate that could once again push the dollars into the following year.

Let us get our work done timely. Let us give some consideration to what kind of amendments are being offered. Let us put the politics behind for our kids and let us get this bill done.