Carper Statement on the Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Carper Opposes Restrictions on Overtime Pay, Food Labeling and School Vouchers

WASHINGTON (Jan. 20, 2004) – Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., today voted against completing action on a massive $820 billion fiscal 2004 spending bill because of various provisions Republican leaders inserted, at the behest of the Bush administration, that would hurt workers, delay a new food-labeling law and impose a weak school voucher program on the District of Columbia. The bill was killed on a procedural vote, but may be reconsidered in the future. “I’m dismayed that our Republican friends would put together a bill that in so many ways goes against the will of the Congress and the will of the American people,” said Carper. “Congress never approved many of the troublesome provisions in this package. Yet because of White House insistence, Republican leaders decided to include them in our last spending bill for fiscal 2004 as a way of forcing lawmakers to acquiesce. We should be passing what the people of this country want to see happen, not just what the president would like to see enacted. This isn’t how we should be doing business in Washington.” Among the provisions Carper objected to is language that would effectively deny overtime protections to more than 8 million working men and women. “If employees are stripped of their overtime protections, they will end up working longer hours for less pay,” said Carper. “The administration likes to talk about family values, but this proposal would end up hurting families who are trying to make ends meet.” The omnibus appropriations bill also includes language that would delay for two years the implementation of a 2002 law that would allow consumers to know where the food they purchase is grown (in the case of vegetables) or born, raised and processed (in the case of meat). “With the recent mad cow scare, it’s baffling that the administration would want to limit consumers’ ability to know where the food they eat is coming from,” said Carper. “Delaying the law’s implementation could also hurt American farmers, who are likely to benefit when the ‘Made in U.S.A.’ label is affixed to their products.” In addition, Carper criticized a provision in the bill that would set up a $13 million private school voucher program in the District of Columbia. Carper, a long-time champion of education reform, last year attempted to add some accountability measures to the program but was rebuffed by the White House. “Under the bill, there is no requirement that private schools receiving taxpayer dollars meet the standards of the No Child Left Behind Act, and there is no requirement that they raise student achievement or close the achievement gap, as we are insisting public schools must do,” said Carper. “Before we use taxpayer dollars to fund a private school scholarship program, we need to make sure that what we’re doing will raise student achievement and secure quality results.”