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March 8, 2013

Tierney, allies walk out of block grant talks

Congressman John Tierney walked out of a committee debate with other Democrats Wednesday to protest a Republican bill they say lacks Democratic input.

Tierney and the other Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee say Republicans are refusing to consider their changes or negotiate any compromise on an update of the 1998 Workforce Investment Act, a measure that funds training programs for workers.

The Republican bill favors block grants to the states, while Democrats want to fund specific programs targeted to veterans, younger workers, low-income job seekers, dislocated workers, English-language learners and the disabled. Local leaders say the Republican bill also would boot union and community college representatives off local workforce investment boards, which determine how federal training money is spent.

The bill is scheduled to go to a vote in the House next week.

After boycotting debate Wednesday, Tierney; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; and George Miller, D-Calif., put out a statement that read: “We didn’t come to this decision lightly. Unfortunately, we viewed boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans.”

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee accused Democrats, in turn, of playing politics.

“John Tierney’s actions today are pathetic and embarrassing,” spokesman Ian Prior said in a prepared statement. “Walking out of a committee vote because he can’t get his way is not only disrespectful to the institution of Congress, but it is a slap in the face to his constituents that pay him to vote, not to throw petulant tantrums to score political points in Washington, D.C.”

Democrats say the Republican bill is unpopular and is more for show and politics than improving the nation’s worker-training system. Tierney said it is similar to the one that withered on the vine last year, and it does not have a chance in the Democratically controlled Senate.

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