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Congressman Rubén Hinojosa's Opening Statement on the Markup of H.R. 803
Chairman Kline, I rise today to express my disappointment with the degree of partisanship that we have seen from the majority on this committee in regard to WIA reauthorization. To date, this flawed and broken process has not allowed for member to member negotiations and the type of bipartisanship needed to reauthorize WIA and modernize our public workforce training and adult education system.
During my 16 year tenure in Congress, I have had an opportunity to work with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to pass legislation that addresses the needs of the American people. As many of you know, I have no problem reaching across the aisle to get things done.
As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, I have attempted to engage Members from the other side of the aisle on WIA reauthorization, but without much success. I also want to point out that I served on this committee during the 1998 reauthorization of WIA. Back then, we were able to work in a bipartisan manner to reauthorize the law.
Today, millions of American workers, particularly those workers who have significant barriers to employment and high unemployment rates, need education, training, and support services to improve their lives.
In my view, this committee has an obligation to ensure that our WIA system adequately serve as many American workers as possible, including migrant and seasonal farmworkers, Native Americans, people with disabilities, veterans, older workers, people who are homeless, low-income youth, low-skilled workers, English Language Learners, women seeking non-traditional employment opportunities, and others who are struggling to get back on track.
I'm afraid, however, that the Republican approach to rewriting WIA walks away from our national responsibility to create and sustain a highly-skilled workforce, especially for our most disadvantaged workers.
Quite simply, H.R. 803, the Republican rewrite of WIA, is nearly identical to what the Majority proposed in H.R. 4297, a partisan bill this committee marked up nine months ago. I am deeply troubled that H.R. 803 would eliminate and consolidate 35 WIA programs, reducing workers' access to important WIA services. The Republican rewrite of WIA also removes checks and balances from the WIA system and moves away from collaboration and inclusion, by taking away seats for key stakeholders from workforce boards.
In contrast to the Republican rewrite of WIA, H.R. 798, the Democratic WIA bill, which I introduced with Representatives Tierney, and Miller would streamline and improve workforce program services, while expanding career pathways, sector partnerships, regional approaches and other innovative practices. It would bolster the role of community colleges in job training; develop a 21st century system for adult education literacy and workplace services; engage our nation's youth through multiple pathways to success; create competitive employment services and opportunities for individuals with disabilities; improve accountability and transparency; and strengthen, rather than eliminate, the priority for low-skilled and low-income adults under WIA.
Finally, the Democratic WIA bill has broad support from national organizations and key stakeholders. At this time, I ask for unanimous consent to enter those letters of support into the record.
Members of this Committee, if given the opportunity, I know that Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on a bipartisan WIA reauthorization. Modernizing and strengthening our public workforce training and adult education system requires that we work together in a truly bipartisan manner. To achieve good results and best serve the needs of all Americans, we on this committee must fix this broken and flawed decision making process in order to move forward. I yield back my time.