Betty McCollum

Kids First - May 3, 2005

Betty McCollum
May 03, 2005— Saint Paul, Minnesota
Town Hall Meeting
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Thank you, Senator Kerry for visiting MN today. Your on-going leadership for the American people and especially America’s children is inspiring.

Congratulations to the Minnesota Nurses Association on their centennial anniversary – 100 years of service. Nurses, thank you for fighting to improve healthcare for Minnesota’s children and all of us.

I look forward to working with you to continue the fight for quality healthcare for all Americans.

The U.S. is the wealthiest nation in the world. The wealthiest nation the world has ever known.

  • So why are 9 million children living without health insurance in our country?
  • Why are 45 million Americans without health coverage?

This is more than a public policy question. This is a question of priorities, justice and morality.

Today, in the United States, 12 million children in America live in poverty. And 100,000 Minnesota children live in poverty. Yet this White House and the Republicans in Congress talk about Leaving No Child Behind? And imagine, children in Minnesota are the fastest growing part of the homeless population.

We can do so much more for our children only if policy makers make children a priority and citizens DEMAND that they are a priority for our political leaders.

Minnesota became a leader in health care with the passage of Minnesota Care in the 1990s. Now, we are backsliding, the number of uninsured Minnesotans has risen 30 percent in the last 3 years – this is wrong and it’s a reflection of the fact that our priorities are wrong.

Putting our kids first, all our families and children first. It’s about priorities, justice and morality.

Sadly, Washington’s priorities are wrong and they are not changing. In fact, the Republicans in the House and Senate have just passed a $2.56 trillion budget for 2006, one filled with the wrong priorities like:

  • Cuts funding to education, homeland security and veteran’s services;
  • Cuts Medicaid which provides healthcare for children and seniors as much as $15 billion;
  • And, their budget digs our deficit at least $380 billion deeper.

And you need to know that every Democrat in the U.S. House and every Democrat in the U.S. Senate voted against this rotten Republican budget and the cuts.

Setting priorities, seeking justice and taking a moral stand to put people – our children – before tax cuts for the rich is our choice.

What is our priority? Do we put kids first or tax cuts first?

It is my choice to be here today with Senator Kerry and to cosponsor an important bill in Congress – The Kids First Act of 2005 – H.R. 1668, authored by Rep. Henry Waxman of California.

The Kids First Act expands health care coverage for children by working with states willing to commit to expanding health coverage to all children. We all benefit when our children are healthy.

Here in Minnesota, children have an ally and a tireless advocate at the state capitol -- one who has introduced legislation to establish The Children’s Health Security Program and to provide health care to all children in Minnesota. It is an honor for me to introduce a fantastic legislator and a champion for children, State Senator Yvonne Solon.

I would like to close by thanking Senator Kerry again for working hard to bring attention to this issue and to thank all of you for your interest and dedication to improving the lives of our children.

Senator Solon, thank you for your tireless commitment to Minnesota’s children.

Thank you to the participants – especially those of you willing to share your personal stories.

Children deserve to be a priority in Congress and their access to healthcare and a brighter future deserves to be a top priority on our national agenda.

Stay involved – write your member of Congress, your Senators and your state legislators. Make sure we hear your voice. America’s children are counting on you.

Senator Kerry, thank you so much for you on-going leadership and your commitment to our nation’s families and children.