Published January 2008 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd CONGRESS DELIVERS ON AMERICA' PRIORITIES The Constitution grants to Congress an extensive array of power, each of which, in one way or another, touches the lives of every one of the 300 million people who live in America today. But of all those powers none is so powerful -- or so necessary for the welfare of our country -- as the power to appropriate money from our treasury.
But it is not simply within the power of Congress to appropriate funds for the operation of the government. It is a duty that must be exercised each year, without fail, without excuses. The operation of the government -- to enforce our laws, to serve our people, to protect our liberties -- depends upon Congress providing the funds necessary to do so.
Congress has done just that. We have passed and the President has signed into law a funding bill totaling $555 billion for operations relating to nearly every agency in the Federal government, and which restores many of the President's ill begotten spending cuts.
A key priority in this bill is increased funding for the Veterans Administration, for veterans health care and for the hiring of more VA personnel to reduce a six month backlog of benefit claims.
With energy prices going through the roof, a significant increase in funding over the President's budget request has been designated for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which will provide 2 million families with additional help for winter heating bills.
Despite the fact that violent crime is on the rise for the first time in fifteen years, the President attempted to cut State and local law enforcement. The Congress restored $1.2 billion of the proposed cut.
The measure also makes education a top priority by increasing Head Start by $114 million, stopping a proposed cut of 30,000 slots for early childhood education. And for college students, Pell Grants are increased to $4,731 per year.
Plans to eliminate or slash numerous programs for our rural communities, such as rural health, rural housing, and clean water programs, were scuttled.
And at my direction, the bill included a $20 million increase above the President's request for mine safety for a total of $334 million. This money will help save lives.
The Democratic Congress understands that there are consequences for our failure to invest in America and the American people. And as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to stand up for the priorities of the people of West Virginia and all Americans.
January 2, 2008