Today, the House started debate on the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 2112). As House Republicans spend billions to continue the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, tax breaks for oil companies, and tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas, the Republican Agriculture Approps bill makes drastic cuts that will take food out of the mouths of children, increase the risk of food-borne illnesses, hurt the very heart of farm country, undercut common sense financial regulations, and protect Wall Street speculators that are driving up gas prices. In particular, the bill cuts the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children–commonly known as WIC–by $650 million (10% from $6.73 billion this year to $6.05 billion in 2012), forcing them to turn away up to 350,000 low-income women and young children next year.
WIC provided nutritious food, counseling on healthy eating and health care referrals for over 9 million women and children under age five last year and has saved more than 200,000 babies from dying at birth. In addition, economists estimate that every $1 invested in WIC saves between $1.77 and $3.13 in health care costs in the first 60 days after an infant’s birth by reducing the instance of low-birth-weight babies and improving child immunization rates.
This afternoon, House Democrats held a “mini-filibuster” over the WIC cuts–one House Democrat after another stood up to strike the last word, providing each Member five minutes to voice their opposition. Leader Pelosi moved to strike the last word:
So they are cutting support for women, infants and children, while handing a blank check to speculators. They are ending Medicare while they give subsidies to Big Oil. These do not reflect America’s values and priorities, these choices. These are tough choices. They will not bring the growth we need to expand our economy, put people back to work as we create jobs. They will not make America strong. As moms across America are saying to children right now, 6:00 in the East, ‘Eat your vegetables, they will make you strong,’ we are acting on this floor to do just the opposite, to cut the funding for the initiative that will help feed the children of America.
It’s unthinkable that a family would say we can’t afford to feed the children. It’s unthinkable that a nation committed to the future would say we can’t afford to feed the children. These families need our help. It’s a large amount of money $147 million, very small compared to the subsidies to Big Oil and a small price to pay for the health and well being of our children and the strength of our country as we go into the future.
The House will continue debating the bill over the course of the week.