14 June 2011

GOP Funding Bill Cuts Assistance To Low-Income Women, While Ensuring Maintenance Of Azalea Collection | ThinkProgress

This week, the House plans to vote on the fiscal year 2012 Agriculture appropriations bill, which provides funding to, among other agencies, the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the nation’s commodities market watchdog). House Republicans have been crowing that this bill cuts agriculture funding by nearly $3 billion from last year’s level, and is coming in $5 billion below President Obama’s 2012 budget request.

“This legislation reflects hard decisions to cut lower priority programs, reduce spending in programs that can be scaled back, and target funds where they are needed most so that our nation continues on the path to fiscal recovery,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). Evidently, the House GOP finds nutrition assistance for low-income women and their children to be a “lower priority program,” as the bill cuts the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to such an extent that 325,000 to 475,000 currently eligible women and children will be denied help.

The bill also cuts funding for the CFTC, despite that agency’s new responsibilities to police derivatives and oil speculation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. However, among the GOP priorities in the bill are ensuring that the National Arboretum maintains its azalea collection and calling for regulators to not apply the Animal Welfare Act on movie sets. Here are some of the bill’s highlights:

MAINTAINING NATIONAL AZALEA COLLECTION: “The Committee directs the National Arboretum to maintain its National Boxwood Collection and the Glenn Dale Hillside portion of the Azalea Collection. The Committee encourages the National Arboretum to work collaboratively with supporters of the National Arboretum to raise additional funds to ensure the long-term viability of these and other important collections.” [Pg. 13]

ENSURING THAT THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT DOESN’T APPLY TO MOVIE SETS: “While the Animal Welfare Act’s intent is to establish minimally acceptable standards in the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers, the law was not aimed at regulating companion animals used as extras in the background of movies and television productions. The Committee urges the agency to use the Secretary’s discretionary authority to seek alternative means of meeting its statutory mandate, including the option of issuing exemptions or master exhibitor licenses to these pet owners.” [Pg. 19]

$4 MILLION INCREASE IN WILDLIFE DAMAGE MANAGEMENT: “Wildlife Damage Management – The Committee provides $72,500,000 for Wildlife Damage Control, approximately $4 million above the President’s request…. Special emphasis should be placed on those areas such as livestock protection…predator control, and other threats to agriculture industries.” [Pg. 20]

Ensuring that an azalea collection is maintained and giving more funding to wildlife damage management are fine goals, but the GOP is trumpeting this bill — which cuts off hundreds of thousands of women and children from nutrition assistance and prevents regulators from reining in oil speculation that is out of control — as a reflection of their priorities. If that is true, it’s a pretty stark statement as to what House Republicans find important.

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