Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 18, 2013 1:00pm-3:01pm EST

1:00 pm
obama administration has to make premiums and cost-sharing requirements public 30 days before the open enrollment begins, so people will have this important information in mid-september making it easier for families to budget and to plan. the department of holt and humae department of health and human services has previously said it doesn't have this authority and that's why they said we need to weighwait until october 1 to set premiums would be this year. this bill will give the administration no more excuses for hiding cost increases from the american people. americans wanted a very few simple things from health care reform. they wanted better access to care. washington democrats gave them less access. they wanted lower costs but washington democrats gave them higher costs. they wanted help. washington democrats have caused them harm. this bill will help add some transparency and shed light on things that the obama
1:01 pm
administration doesn't want the american people to see. the president's health care law has been a failure, can't be fixed just by delaying one more part or by sending out the spin doctors one more time or by having one more press conference. i hope that when we return after the new year that president obama and democrats in congress will be ready to sit down with republicans to talk about real bipartisan solutions that puts patients and families first. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor. note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: i wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the bill that we're going to be voting on this afternoon.
1:02 pm
i'm in my 10th year -- starting my 10th year in the senate and during that period of time, my number-one goal in coming to the senate was to try to right our financial ship. and almost everything that i've done in the senate has been related to the fiscal consequences of our dereliction of duty as members of congress, of both parties. there's nothing partisan about that statement. we've seen different presidents and different parties control both bodies. always to the same result. and we have before us a bill today that is a purported compromise. i want to describe who it's a compromise for. it's a compromise for the poll suggestions. it's not a compromise for the american people.
1:03 pm
because what it really does is increase spending and increase taxes. and the net effect, even if you give -- even if you take all the budget gimmicks that are in this bill that are not actual savin savings, and even if you believe people 10 and 11 years from now will actually hold true to what this bill pretends to have us do, which we're not doing something we did two years ago through this bill, we're still going to spend more money than we would have and we're going to charge people revenues, some $24 billion -- $28 billion, pardon me, in increased revenues, which we're not calling tax increases but americans are going to pay that so it's money that's going to come out of their pocket. so what we have before us is a bill that's a political compromise for the parties in washington to keep us from doing
1:04 pm
what we really need to do: the hard things. and i'm going to go through some -- some criticisms of the bill. it's not meant to be reflected on any one individual and it will apply just as much to the republicans as it does the democrats. mr. coburn: but we have a bill that supposedly fixes things until the next -- past the next election so we don't have to face these gigantic problems of -- quote -- "deadlock." the other thing that i would note as i go through this is it's my contention that we don't have a problem getting along. it's my contention that we get along way too well. we get along way too well. otherwise, we wouldn't have a $17.7 trillion debt. we wouldn't have a $124 -- have $124 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and we wouldn't have debt per person in this country which is now at $57,000
1:05 pm
per person and unfinded liabilitieunfundedliabilities ta million dollars per household, not including that debt repayment. now, how did we do that? we had to agree to do that. both parties had to agree to do that. the president had to sign it. so my contention is we get along way too well when it comes to ruining the financial future of our country. my main criticism, i don't criticize compromise. i criticize compromise that ignores the facts of our financial situation. d i just want to make a point. i put a book out yesterday. it's called the yearly waste book. die it everi do it every year. i do it somewhat in jest but i do it to make a point. i outlined over $31 billion what i think -- and i think most democrats would agree, that the american public, 5% of them
1:06 pm
would -- 95% of them would agree with us -- that when you're running a $197 billion deficit, maybe we shouldn't be spending money on these things, which goes far further in actually solving our problems for compromise in terms of creating a solution to the long-term problems and giving the american people what they really want. i mean, we really do have a 6% approval rating, right? i mean, that's true. i think we've earned it. and this bill i believe proves it because we did exactly the opposite of what the american people would like to see us do. we solved our problem as politicians but we made their problem worse. and we didn't fix the things that are obvious to fix. i've -- i was on the simpson-bowles commission. i was a member of the gang of 6.
1:07 pm
i've worked in a bipartisan fashion with anybody that will work with me to try to solve the big problems in front of our country. except we as a body and the house don't really want to solve them. because the thing you put at risk when you really solve them is political careers. and as a group of politicians, the people in washington care much more about their careers -- by their actions, it is proven -- than they do about the long-term fiscal health of this country. and that applies to both parties. so when we have a deal brought before us that will avoid confrontation come january 15 and we have all sorts of budget gimmicks in it that are not truthful, they're not real, in the hopes that somebody will grow a backbone nine and ten years from now and actually keep their word to the american public -- and we're demonstrating right now we can't even keep our word from two
1:08 pm
years ago -- why would we be proud to vote for that? does it solve a real problem? no, it puts a real problem off and actually makes the problems worse to the tube tun tune of $68 billion. so through this bill we will borrow an additional $68 billion, $48 billion of it in the next -- or $50 billion, close to it, in the next year and $20 billion-some after that and the year after, and then hope and pray that congresses that follow us will do what we suggested. and everybody in this body knows that isn't going to happen. so when you vote on this bill, you're voting for your political career, you're voting for the
1:09 pm
washington establishment, but you're not voting for the person out there that now has $57,000 worth of debt they're servicing and their family, a million dollars per household in this country in unfunded liabilities. so it will pass. i have no doubt it will pass. i feel like john the baptist in "the wilderness." but mark my words, if we continue to do what we're doing today, we will be remembered as the people who could have fixed the problem and didn't, who could have made the courageous decisions and chose not to, who could have stiffened their spines and said, we don't care what republican extremists or liberal extremists say, the future of our country's more important than any political career in this town. and what we have before us is just the opposite of that. just the opposite.
1:10 pm
and why wouldn't in part of this agreement some of the $250 billion that g.a.o. has identified in waste, fraud, duplication and mismanagement? there's not one thing in this bill that addresses one thing that g.a.o. has recommended to congress over the last three years. not one! and so we have the waste book. $31 billion of what i would consider -- and you can -- it's not partisan. it's a -- there's a -- there could be a difference in terms of agreement about what is important and what's not. but again, i would say in terms of the waste book, it's should we be spending money now when we're borrowing money in light of the fiscal situation that we have on some of the things that we outline? it's a listing of a hundred things. it's got $31 billion worth of
1:11 pm
savings.and i'll just outline a few of them for you. we're going to be taking up ndaa next. none of the amendments that i offered are in the ndaa. every one of them were structural to the pentagon to make it more responsible and accountable to its constitutional duty, which it has not performed, of giving an account to congress on how its spent its money. for example, the army commissioned a contract to have a warfare overseen blimp. they spent $297 million on that blimp. it flew for a short period of time in this country. we solve it back to the contractor for $300,000. i have two questions. one, whoever signed that contract and made that decision, did they get fired from the federal government? did they get demoted in rank? and, number two, was the contract actually executed to
1:12 pm
the requirements that the military set out for it? it's called accountability. the answer to both those is no. there is no accountability. and so we're going to have ndaa bill come through that requires them to meet an audit. they've been being required since 1992 to meet an audit. they've not done it. they won't do it in 2014. they won't do it in 1917 and they're not going to do it in -- 2017 and they're not going to do it in 2018. because there's no hammer on the pentagon to make them do it. because all hammers have been taken out, because we don't want to force them to meet their constitutional responsibility. it's too hard. well, we never told them it was too hard to go to iraq or afghanistan. but it's too hard for them to follow their constitutional duty to report on how they spend their money. and what i would put before you is, if you can't measure what you're doing, you can't manage what you're doing. and it's obvious from the waste,
1:13 pm
fraud, and abuse, contract failures within the pentagon, is they have no clue on what they're doing. all you have to do is take the dwight d. eisenhower carrier, the literal combat ships, the f-35 -- all of those major defense programs are at risk, overbudget, behind schedule -- over budget, behind schedule, and i'm not talking a little bit over budget. so -- so we didn't do the oversight, we haven't enforced that. you'll never get control of those programs until you make them be able to account for what they're doing. my first training, my first degree's in accounting. i understand the reason accounting is important is because it tells you where to go to manage your problems. the pentagon cannot do that. the pentagon ordered, at the insistence of us, by the way, some airplanes for afghanistan.
1:14 pm
guess what we've done? we've taken delivery here and we've sent them straight to the arizona desert. just $422 million worth of them. and oh, by the way, the ones that we did go to afghanistan, we're going to cut up, destroy. we're not going to send them to africa for relief missions, we're not going to send them somewhere else, we're going to cut them into pieces. another $200 million worth of airplanes. and oh, by the way, because the afghan air force the same thing america has, we've already given them two c-130h's and we're going to give them two more and that's another $200 million. so what with we'v we've done thr management is waste almost $700 million on one item. there's nothing in this bill that corrects that and yet this bill is going to come to the floor, the ndaa, and not one of us who actually knows what really needs to be done in terms of changing the financial picture in the pentagon is going to have an opportunity to influence that bill.
1:15 pm
not one of us. didn't have to be that way. that bill came out of committee in may of last year. but we've chosen to operate that way. the person who ordered camp leatherneck in afghanistan, a $34 million new camp for troops, sits abandoned today. never occupied. who was the general or the colonel that authorized that in anticipation of our drawdown, executed its building and then ordered that we abandon it? is there any accountability in the pentagon? or any other agency? are we doing our job holding them accountable? the waste book isn't all about the defense department, but i brought a couple of those up
1:16 pm
just so we could see. the waste book is about all across the agencies, about poor judgment. you may agree -- disagree with me of some of the things in the waste book, but the question you have to ask yourself is at a time when we have done what we have done to the american people in terms of unfunded liabilities, in terms of individual debt, the average family now has over $220,000 of debt they have to pay back that we have borrowed, at a time when we do it, should we spend money the way we spend it? $978,000 to study romance novels now, certainly that's a priority right now in our government. everybody would agree with that, right? sure they are. they would agree with it. and yet we put out that contract last year. and spent that money to study the backgrounds and romance
1:17 pm
novels both on the web and off and why people write them. and we didn't just study it here. we studied it everywhere. here's another one. how about $400,000 to yale university by the national science foundation to actually study whether people who align with the tea party have the cognitive capability in terms of science? well, guess what? we spent that money and the professor got the biggest surprise of his life. here's what the study says, people who are aligned with the tea party have far exceptional cognitive abilities when it comes to science, math and financial aptitude. totally surprised the professor because the whole purpose was to undermine people who are constitutional conservatives, yet we have spent $400,000. that's just a few of the small examples of silliness that goes on. and everybody said well, $400,000 isn't much, $900,000
1:18 pm
isn't much. the state department spent $5 million the last week of the fiscal year. what did they spend it on? anybody know? to buy all brand-new crystal stemware for all the embassies throughout the world. we didn't need new stemware but we had to spend the money so we spent it. think about that. we're responsible for that. we allow it to happen. there is no oversight here. there is no aggressiveness in terms of controlling the costs, and our default position is the agreement of this budget bill that doesn't address any of those problems. the american people are going to be asking questions about why we get along so well. it's not the political story that washington spins out of conflict and partisan bickering, because the facts don't lie.
1:19 pm
we get along way too well. we're going to get along so well we're going to pass another bill that gives us -- solves the problem for us as politicians, but in fact actually hurts the american people. i'm not going to be a part of that. and i'm going to keep yelling from the canyons and from the mountaintops that until we start doing what we're supposed to do, this isn't going to change. it would be my hope that some of us would wake up and start looking at some of the real facts. $30 billion would have made a big difference if you just eliminate the things in this book for next year. you would have taken care of one-third of this question. and this is just 100. i can give you 300. i can give you $150 billion worth of stupidity every year. but we choose not to do it, and we choose not to do it because you have to be a committee chairman to hold an oversight to
1:20 pm
dig into this stuff. you actually have to do the hard work to find out where the administration is spending the money. president obama doesn't want this money wasted this way. he needs our help. and yet, we won't help him. we won't help the american people. so consequently, the future of our country is at risk when it should be gloriously great, and it's at risk not because of the american people. it's at risk because of us. we ought to change that. i yield the floor. i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:21 pm
1:22 pm
1:23 pm
1:24 pm
1:25 pm
1:26 pm
1:27 pm
1:28 pm
1:29 pm
1:30 pm
quorum call:
1:31 pm
1:32 pm
1:33 pm
1:34 pm
ms. landrieu: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from louisiana. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. i ask unanimous consent to dispense with the quorum call and to speak up for seven minutes as if in morning
1:35 pm
business. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. landrieu: thank you, madam president. i appreciate the courtesies of the senator on the floor that's managing the bill from washington state, and i thank her for allowing me to make these brief remarks about one of the nominees of president obama, someone that we will be confirming hopefully in the next -- short period of time. i wanted to come to the ploor to give my strong -- come t i wanto come to the floor to give me strong support for alejandro mayorkas. before i talk about his many extraordinary qualifications for this job, let me say that it has been very disappointing to me and very concerning to me that so many high-level leadership positions in this particular department have gone unfilled for so long. it's been six months since
1:36 pm
secretary janet napolitano stepped down, having given notice of her departure, after serving, you know, with such distinction and contributing so much to the strengthening of that agency. all agencies of the federal government are important, and there are advocacy groups that could, a but i think everyone understand -- but i think everyone understands the real importance of the department of homeland security. it is a relatively new agency, only 10 years old. it plays a key role in the security of our home laifnltd -- homeland. it is still struggling how to coordinate its internal parts and coordinate effectively with the department of defense. it has technological challenges, the cyber attack that is happening daily and a growing
1:37 pm
threat to us is a very important part of their mission. and may i remind the senators here that immigration, border control, border security is right in the middle of the mission of this department. so if we want to have strong immigration policies and smart immigration policies and secure borders and smart fences, we'd better get somebody that's experienced and smart to run the operation, and that's why i'm here to support mr. mayorkas, who has been the director of immigration for the last several years, has received very many compliments from both republicans and democrats in that role as our chief immigration officer, has worke d to secure the border, made tremendous improvements with the resources that have been quite -- quite significant that we have provided to strengthen the border. he brings tremendous experience
1:38 pm
as having run one of the most significant agencies within the department. but it doesn't -- so today we have a chance to start filling the leadership vacuum at the department of homeland security, not only with visionary leaders like ale mayorkas but with others as well. as i mentioned, he is the current director of the u.s. citizenship service which is now i got to meet him and know him and work with him in such a close fashion. many of my colleagues know that i have the responsibility, privilege of informally heading up our senate caucus and do some international travel helping strengthen child welfare work around the world as well as, of course, in louisiana and here domestically in the united states. we ran into a significant
1:39 pm
problem several years ago, which we're still trying to unwind, when guatemala closed adoptions anand our own state department s partner in that closure. there might have been -- might -- have been some good reasons for closure. the problem was that in the middle of that, there were 900 american families from every state in the union that were caught, were not placed on any transition list, were given no support -- virtually no support -- from either our state department or the country of guatemala, so some of us stepped in with partners at the state department and others to see what we could do to help. and it's been a long, hard road for many of these parents and children that have now been stuck in orphanages, in group homes. no longer are they infaints. some of them -- no longer are they infants. some of them are eight years old, some are 15. a midst all the work that
1:40 pm
mr. mayorkas had do on immigration and so many conflicting pressures, he took the tom time out to give leaderp and voice and help to the powerless. and that speaks a lot to me, and it should to the members ph -- o the members of our coalition, which is broad, completely not partisan, when a very important person with a lot of power steps out of their -- steps oust that- steps out of that comfort zone and helps people who have no lobbyists, no power. and without his help, we would not be making the progress we are. so that is one example that approves to me he's the kind of leadershileader we need more ofs of, here in washington. i have full confidence that, based on that based on my knowledge of his experience running immigration, my personal knowledge of his characteristic and integrity and his tremendous ability in terms of diplomacy
1:41 pm
and negotiating, which i got to witness firsthand working with many high-level government officials from outside of our own government or, i am confident that he has the skills to negotiate within this agency to bring everyone to common cause, common virginia, and a common -- common vision, and a common plan to move this very important department afford. prior to his directorship as immigration director for the united states, he served for a good bit of time as a u.s. attorney prosecuting criminal and white-collar crime -- whit white-collar crime and gang violence in california. he is known very well to the two senators from california. i think it was senator feinstein that had recommended him to that position. she has testified on his behalf and has submitted statements to
1:42 pm
the record. both senators from california can also vouch for his, you know, almost flawless record of service. he's been confirmed by the senate of the united states already twice and yet, unfortunately, there were, you know, some political concerns that are not valid that held him up. so we have moved him afford. he's gotten a strong vote from the members of our committee that know him well and understand his high level of integrity and his proven record of service to the people of the united states. so i am pleased to add the rest of this statement to the record in writing. it is more comprehensive than just these briefs words. but again, i want to urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take a strong look at this nominee, understand he's been confirmed twice before, he is an outstanding, unblemished
1:43 pm
prosecutor of crime. he woulhe would be a perfect pen with his background and experience to serve as a deputy secretary of the department of homeland security, and i frankly think he's one of the most qualified people that i've seen come through here. so, madam president, thank you. i yield the floor. i don't see any other senator wanting to speak at this moment, so i would simply suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
1:44 pm
the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, madam president. i would ask to dispense with the calling of the quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reed: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to the immediate consideration of calendar number 259, s. 1797, a bill to extend unemployment insurance benefits for one year, that the bill be read a third time and passed, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. cornyn: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican whip.
1:45 pm
mr. cornyn: reserving the right to object, madam president, it is unfortunate the senate's schedule is completely full of pending cloture motions on controversial or completely nonurgent nominations. i would ask if the senator would consider amending his request to withdraw all of the pending cloture motions on executive nominations and that the senate would proceed immediately to consideration of s. 1797, the unemployment insurance extension; and that the majority leader and that the minority leader would be recognized to offer amendments in an alternating fashion so that these important issues can be considered this week. i'd ask the senator to consider amending his request and reserve my right to object. the presiding officer: does the senator so amend his request? mr. reed: i will not amend the request. i respect the senator's point, but i will not amend the request. i'm here simply to ask for the unanimous consent, as i
1:46 pm
presented it. the presiding officer: is there objection to the original request? mr. cornyn: i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. reed thanmr. reed: thank you, vy much. let me say i appreciate the senator from texas for come here and engaging and i appreciate the fact that he is making a point. but i am trying to make a point which i think is very compelli compelling. within a few days, december 28, 1.3 million americans will lose their extended federal unemployment insurance benefits. it will be a tremendous trauma to those families and it will be a huge impact to our economy going forward. i have renewed my request for a full one-year extension and it has been objected to and i recognize that. i believe it's urgent we do that. i also have been working closely with my republican colleague, senator heller, on a bipartisan basis to introduce a request to
1:47 pm
extend these benefits for three months, giving us the opportunity to go and take a more deliberate and careful review of the program and also to provide for a mechanism to extend the benefits for a full year. and i'm very pleased that we're beginning to build bipartisan support for this initiative for although least three months to. least -- for at least three months. and it does reflect that all across the country, my colleagues are recognizing the huge impacts from loss of benefits. this is not a problem that's restricted to a particular area of the country. nevada is the highest state in terms of unemployment numbers. rhode island trails behind and not by much, we're over 9%. but you have states that are -- across this country, throughout the country, michigan at 9%.
1:48 pm
illinois at.9%. kentucky at 8.4%. georgia at 8.1%. arizona at 8.2%. these are states that have significant issues with respect to unemployment and need the continuation of this program to protect their families and also to provide stimulus for the local economies. we have at this point in many of these places two unemployed workers for every available job, so this is not just a question of -- the jobs are there, just go get it. the jobs aren't there. and also we recognize -- and i think we all recognize -- the skill-sets that are increasingly in demand are some of the skill-sets that mature workers, people who've been working for 20 years, who've been every day of their life going to the office or going to the mill, going to the plant. now they're competing with 20-year-olds who have
1:49 pm
sophisticated information technology skills and other skills in a climate where manufacturing is becoming sophisticated. every sort of enterprise seems to be much more sophisticated and demanding more level of skills than years ago. so this is a very difficult time and i believe in this difficult period of time we need to extend these benefits. there is extensive research on unemployment insurance and labor markets that also supports the point that people who are unemployment insurance want to go back to work. there's a very sort of pragmatic insight. in rhode island, for example, average benefits are about $350 a week. for most -- most workers, that is a fraction of what they were gaining in their job. they would love to be called back to work. they would love to find a job that had -- fits their skills, that is close to the pay they had or maybe less.
1:50 pm
but no one is getting -- socking away a lot of money on their u.i. benefits. and indeed, a recent report by the white house counsel on economic advisors looked at the economic tradeoffs that are being faced. and in their words -- "in choosing the optimal unemployment insurance policy, policy-makers must weigh competing costs and benefits. on the one hand, some argue that extended benefits my dull the incentives for unemployed workers efforts to search for another job, leading to increased unemployment, the so-called moral hazard effect. but, on the other hand, providing benefits gives families income that can in the limited keep them from poverty and more generally help them to finance a longer job search that might ultimately result in a job better matching their talents, resulting in higher overall labor market productivity." these are i think important aspects that have to be considered. and i think the consensus of
1:51 pm
many economists is that this program is not only necessary and essential but it also does not significantly inhibit the willingness, the ability, the desire of people to get back to work. raj sheti, who is a economist who studied these issues, he's looked at these tradeoffs for over 20 years, concludes, "nearly a dozen economic studies have analyzed this question by comparing unemployment rates in states that have extended unemployment benefits with those in states that do not. these studies have uniformly found that a 10-week extension in unemployment benefic benefits the amount of time people are out of work by at most one week. this simple, unassailable finding implies that policy-makers can extend unemployment benefits to provide assistance to those out of work without substantially increasing unemployment rates." and that is the conclusion of someone who's been looking at
1:52 pm
this issue for many, many, many years. once again, from the counsel of economic advisors' report, "finally, while economists have found only small disincentive effects of u.i. extensions, recent research shows that the effect on extension on job search is even smaller than the moral hazard when jobs are scarce." let's get back to common sense. there are two workers for every job. the benefits they receive are a fraction of what they would get in the workplace. they want to get into the workplace. the jobs aren't there. frankly, we haven't done enough, i would suggest, to put those jobs in place. we've got to do -- do more. but in the interim, we have to make sure these families have some benefits and some protection. now, i am quite willing to work with my colleagues if there are changes that should be made, could be made, but we're facing this deadline. and unless we move -- and i'm disappointed we haven't moved
1:53 pm
today -- 1.3 million people on december 28 lose their benefits. the checks will start going out. they will cease going out the following week. and our economy will take a hit next year of 200,000 jobs. about .2% growth, shrinkage. we can avoid that by moving today or moving tomorrow, certainly moving as soon as we get back to make sure that these benefits are in place. and with that, madam president, i would yield the floor. mr. reed: i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. ayotte: madam president, i would ask the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. ayotte: thank you, madam president. yesterday i came to the senate floor to discuss two amendments that i had filed to the budget
1:54 pm
agreement that would have addressed i think an egregious part of this agreement which is the cuts to military retiree benefits. in particular, i think the most egregious part of it is those who have been disabled. we've all been to walter reed and seen and met our brave heroes, some who have lost limbs serving our country in afghanistan and iraq, and yet in this agreement, we are cutting their cost-of-living increases for the retirement that they earned on behalf of our country. and so yesterday i came to the floor to talk about what i think is an appalling part of this budget agreement but also to say that why are -- why can't we amend the budget agreement and fix this now?
1:55 pm
and i offered two possibilities of how we would do that, two amendments that i filed on this. i'm sure others can find in the trillions of dollars c.b.o. has said we're going to spend over the next 10 years, $47 trillion, we can't find $6 trillion rather than taking it from our military retirees. but today i also come -- and what happened yesterday on the floor is that there was a motion to take down the tree is that we could actually amend this and fix provisions like that and it was voted down. so now we have no ability to amend this budget agreement and so i can't bring the amendments that i talked about yesterday to help our military retirees and ensure that they don't get singled out in this agreement, which i think is appalling and wrong. but i also can't bring an amendment that i also filed that addresses an issue that's very important to the state of new
1:56 pm
hampshire and that agreement is one -- an objection i have to a particular provision in the budget agreement that would make it easier for the senate to pass legislation requiring on-line retailers to become the tax collectors for the states and the rest of the nation. this so-called marketplace fairness act that the senate passed earlier this year, within this budget agreement, there is what's called a reserve fund that allow the chairman of the budget committee to bypass certain procedural limitations within -- that are normally allowed and procedural objections you have, and all members have, to these types of legislation, budgetary objections, and these procedural objections are waived when these types of reserve funds are passed. and this provision, which i fought on the senate floor on
1:57 pm
the senate budget -- it did eventually get passed -- is included in this agreement, even though since we -- since this body has passed the marketplace fairness act, the house has refused to take it up. the house has wisely found that there are major objections to this piece of legislation which would require businesses, many of these businesses around the country that we see thriving on the internet, to become the tax collectors for the rest of the nation. in fact, my state of new hampshire does not have a sales tax. and what it would require is my businesses in new hampshire, on-line businesses that have written to me, it would place tremendous burdens on them. they would have to become the tax collectors for nearly 10,000 tax jurisdictions in this country, trampling on new hampshire's choice not to have a sales tax and also i think putting a tremendous burden on businesses to do the jobs of the
1:58 pm
states in becoming tax collectors for the rest of the nation. this -- this legislation is bad for the economy and i think it's bad for businesses and particularly businesses in my home state of new hampshire. and so i object to the provision, the reserve fund that is in this budget, and i have filed a motion -- excuse me, an amendment that would strike that provision. but again, no amendments are going to be heard on this budget agreement because the majority leader has filled the true and said there will be no amendments heard no matter what the merits of the amendment, no matter how important the amendments are, including amendments that i talked about that impact and help address the real egregious provision in here that impacts our military retirees. and this is just another example i think on an issue that's very important to the state of new hampshire, where i allowed to bring my amendment -- were i
1:59 pm
allowed to bring my amendment forward, i would have again expressed my opposition to this reserve fund that is within this budget that is objectionable, that makes it easier to pass future legislation, a future version of the marketplace fairness act that will put a tremendous burden on businesses in new hampshire. and it's wrong to have on-line businesses become the tax collectors for the nation. so, madam president, i believe we should be allowed to amend this budget agreement, to vote on these amendments and particularly on issues that are important to our men and women in uniform, as i've described. but not only that, this issue on the remote collection of sales taxes by businesses throughout the country, on-line businesses, is a very important issue to the state of new hampshire, which does not have a sales tax. but not just the state of new
2:00 pm
hampshire. to on-line businesses across the country who do not and should not have to be the tax collectors for states throughout the nation. with that, madam president, i yield the floor. i suggest the quorum call be initiated again. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
2:01 pm
2:02 pm
2:03 pm
a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: could we suspend the quorum call? the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blunt: madam president, i want to talk about some solutions to our health care problems that have been out there for a while, and every time i hear someone say there were no chance to the affordable care act, there were no alternatives to what the president wanted to do -- in fact, i think i heard the president say that multiple times last week, although it may have been multiple reportings of him saying it at the same time, but there is no question he said it. there were no ideas out there except his ideas, and that's just not accurate. we had and still have the best
2:04 pm
health care system in the world, but it wasn't perfect. it doesn't mean it couldn't have been improved, it doesn't mean there weren't ways to create greater access for those of us who have held concerns from the very first about the proposals that we're now seeing play out in front of american families and before the american people, before individuals that thought they could get insurance that didn't, before individuals that had insurance at work that are beginning to lose it. when we see that play out and hear well, this was the only idea out there. not the only idea at all. and some of the things -- at the time i was in the house of representatives and proposed these on the house. they were not just bills that we filed and didn't talk about. in fact, a lot of this was covered very widely, even on occasion we had to have republican-only hearings because the other side didn't want to talk about these issues. they just wanted to talk about
2:05 pm
one way to solve these problems that i think is more and more clear, may not be solving the problems nearly as well as they would -- as they would have hoped for. there are a number of things that could have created more access to the good health care system we had, solve problems that individuals had. bills that i introduced that i was either the principal sponsor of or the cosponsor of. one of those would have been to allow small businesses to band together in either what you want to call small business health plans or association health plans where people who had a common purpose could come together and figure out, as actually in our state we allowed people to do in the state of missouri, to figure out -- to have these associated health plans so your small group of five or ten or 15 people didn't become the universe of the group you were trying to insure, but you would have truly access to
2:06 pm
small business health plans. now, i will be truthful, the insurance companies, for whatever reason, never liked that idea very well, but association health plans or small business health plans were one of the things. in fact, i cosponsored that bill with congressman sam johnson with house resolution 2607, if anybody wants to look back and see just how much we talked about this issue and how we dealt with it. another issue, every time the president's health care plan comes up, what about coverage for young adults? i was the only person in the house, as i recall -- and i have said this a number of times, never been challenged, that actually filed the bill, that said let's let people stay on their family insurance policies longer. there are those out there since who have said well, that's just -- that expanded that too much. it was a slacker provision. it wasn't anything like that. it was an effort to take the most uninsured group in people
2:07 pm
and let them stay on their parents' health care. i think the number we talked about are three million people have access to policies that they didn't have access to at some level. in virtually every state, you could stay on your family policy until you were 21. missouri, i think the number was 23. the proposal i made was let's add two years to that and do it for the whole country. let's say 25. well, the president said in the affordable health care act 26. i don't think i would have had a big fight about whether my bill that said let's let people be insured on their family policies until 25 was expanded to 26. i don't think that that makes that uniquely the president's idea. that was house resolution -- that was a bill that i sponsored, and it would have helped young workers, college students. these are young, healthy people, generally, and it wouldn't have
2:08 pm
added much and i think is not adding much to insurance costs for families or those who are otherwise insured. and the idea that somehow we couldn't do that, every time this topic comes up, there is somebody that will jump up and say well, you mean you want to take people who are now on their family policy and who are under 26 and take them off the family policy? all you have to do to prevent that is pass one piece of legislation that may have been 40 words long, may have been 40 words long, may have been a couple of pages. i know of all the ideas i introduced, the biggest one was 75 pages long. it wasn't a 2,700-page health care bill. it was the biggest of all the bills i introduced was 65 pages long. you could have done one of them or you could have done all of them, and they would have worked. some of these are on this chart right here -- encourage wellness
2:09 pm
programs, encourage coverage for preexisting conditions. we have high-risk pools for working. there was a way to expand those high-risk pools so they would work better. and we have proposed that in legislation. i was here on the floor the other day and talked about a young man in missouri who is 20 now who has had an illness since he was 18 months old. he gets fluid on his brain. he had his first surgery at 18 months old. he has -- went from his family policy to the high-risk pool which worked pretty well for him for a number of years and is working right now, but december 31, the high risk pool goes away. and he can't get access to the doctors he's used his entire life on any policy available to him. so we have eliminated the policy he had that was serving him well and the doctor he -- the doctors group he has had his entire life. we have eliminate thad by eliminating the high risk pool and we put him in a situation where neither the doctor nor --
2:10 pm
was that an improvement or not? absolutely not. could the high risk pools have been expanded? were there ways to do that? there absolutely were, and those were proposed. medical liability reform was one of the things that could have done and proposed, and in fact even in the last congress, i introduced the -- introduced in the senate the help efficient accessible low cost timely health care act, senate bill 1099, but very much like legislation that was available and could have become part of health care reform in 2009. the safety net to be sure that emergency room physicians have particular protections on liability because they don't have any choice but to treat people. that's another bill i introduced this year that was very much in line with what we were talking about just a few years ago. insurance flexibility.
2:11 pm
111th congress, i cosponsored h.r. 3824, the expanded health insurance options act, which just allowed people to buy across state lines through regional compacts, allowed states if they wanted to to form compacts that they could be part of that again would have been part of this solution. reform coverage for preexisting conditions. encourage wellness programs. this is something that could make a big difference, and it's something that we could have thought of ways and did think of ways to -- to encourage. house resolution 4038, the commonsense health reform act. representative camp and i introduced that. would have achieved this goal of looking for new and better ways to encourage wellness programs. now, i'm not done yet, mr. president, but i will tell you, every time the president steps up or anybody else does and says there were no other
2:12 pm
ideas that's just not true. there were other ideas that i believed then and believe now would work better, and every day as the affordable care act becomes more and more available to us, i'm more and more convinced there were better solutions, and i'm absolutely offended by this constant discussion that there were no other ideas. prevent rescissions. we had talked about legislation at the time that would have prevented canceling policies or prevented setting caps after somebody got sick. that doesn't take an entire government overwhelming the insurance marketplace to say that here are two things you can't do. the commonsense health care reform and accountability act would have helped achieve that goal. prevent limits on coverage. the encourage health savings
2:13 pm
accounts. encourage people to have a little of their money that is available to them to use for health care expenses. i'll tell you what i am seeing happen now. so many people are now looking at policies that have these huge deductibles. for most families, it's not like having a policy at all. if you have got a policy like the one i was talking about on the floor the other day, reporting from a missouri family where they were paying $1,100 a month for insurance and they had a $12,000 deductible. now, is that really insurance? for most families, is that really insurance? $24,000 out of your pocket before your insurance pays anything, but it met all the better coverage, supposedly, that the president says we now have. it met all those standards. it could be made available but it had deductibility, as many of these policies do. we're going to find all this out quickly. you know, the only thing worse than the web site not working may be the web site working.
2:14 pm
because when the web site works, people are going to have the facts. there is no reason not to argue about the facts. the president continues to say people are going to have better coverage for less money. we're going to know in the next 90 days or so just how true that is. i'm sure that some people are going to find better coverage for less money. i'm equally sure that most people are not going to find that. so health savings accounts, increased transparency. this is an idea that's actually in the bill but they haven't pursued it where you tell health care providers they have to give more information about what they charge and what their results are. this act passed what? three and a half years ago, almost four years ago now. it says right there in the law that they can require providers to do that but nobody has passed that rule or regulation yet. this would have been something that would have helped. most of the time you would go to
2:15 pm
the hospital, particularly if it's something you scheduled, you're in the car on the way to the hospital knowing who gets the better results or who gets the same results for the lower price would be really helpful information for most americans and most american families to have. and reformed tax treatment. if you buy your snurps on your own -- if you buy your insurance on your own or you get your insurance at work, there needs to be equity in that tax treatment. whether you can cap what you get at work and allow that same tax treatment if you buy it as an individual ... there are lots of ways to do this. the point is, mr. president, there were lots of ideas out there. there were lots of ideas out there. i am persuaded that these ideas right here, which would have cost taxpayers virtually nothi nothing, would have had minimal impact on the cost of insurance but would have had a lot of
2:16 pm
impact on a bigger marketplace, more choices, not fewer choices, would have been a better way to go. there were ideas out there. at some point we may very well need to return to these ideas because at some point we may decide that the course we're on is unworkable. now, that -- americans shouldn't look at that and think, that means my health care -- the old system we have to go -- we have to go back to the old system unimproved. there are plenty of ways to improve access to the best health care system in the world. diminishing that health care system is not one of those ways. and, mr. president, i would yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. i want to congratulate the senator from missouri for his comments. sometimes i think republican senators especially should begin and end every speech with an answer to the question, what
2:17 pm
would you do if you were in charge? the senator from missouri has said that very eloquently. and i.t it's not the first times been said on this floor. he mentioned that the law was passed three and a half years ago. we counted it up one time. we mentioned 173 times the republican proposal for a different approach to health care in this country. we said, don't expect senator mcconnell or any other republican to come in here with a wheelbarrow with a 3,000-page republican bill. we don't believe in that. we believe in a different direction, a different approach. we don't believe we're wise enough in washington to write 3,000 pages of rules to govern every aspect of our health care system in america that takes 18% or 19% of the economy. we live in the iphone age when
2:18 pm
we want to increase the personal freedom of americans to live longer and better and safer and healthier and we want people to be able to do these things for themselves. we want to increase choice and competition and in that way lower costs. and if we lower costs, then more people can afford to buy insurance. that's the real way to expand health care insurance in america; make it more affordable. make it so people can afford it. so i'm beginning these short remarks with a salute to the senator from missouri for talking about what we would do if we were in charge. i'm going to end in that way as well. for the last couple of months we've heard countless stories from constituents who are losing their health plans they prfd on individual markets. there are 19 million americans in individual markets. the obama administration knew that in 2010 when the rules it
2:19 pm
wrote for the health plans said that 47% to 60% of these policies couldn't be legally offered by obamacare by 2014. nevertheless, the president still said, if you like your health care, you can keep it. now we know that wasn't true. according to news reports collected by my staff, at least 5 million americans, including 82,000 tennesseans, will lose their individual plans starting january 1. that's an unwelcome christmas present for those 82,000 tennesseans. 16,000 tennesseans are losing their covered tennessee plans. 66,000 tennesseans will lose their bluecross blueshield tennessee cornlg. i hear -- tennessee cornlg. i heard from a woman in middle tennessee, 39 years age, has lupus many she wrote, "i can't keep my current plan because it doesn't meet the obamacare standardsment it has beestandara
2:20 pm
lifeline for m me. my insurance premiums will republic a staring 403%. please help mement this includes subsidies, she saidment please help me understand ho how this s affordablement emily is not the only one experiencing rate shockment millions of americans are losing their insurancement they're being forced to buy new plans, many of them, with higher premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance. according to data from the department of health and human services, tennesseans can expect to pape to three times more on the exchanges being set up under obamacare for the health insurance they now havement in 2013 a 27-year-old manage in memphis can buy a priet insurance plan for as low as $41,000 a month.
2:21 pm
today, a 27-year-old woman in nashville can also buy a plan for as low as $58 a month. on the exchairng the low et-priced plan in nashville is $114 a month, a 97% increase. even with that tam subsidy, if she made $25,000 a year, say, the plan would be $140 a month, almost twice what she could pay today if the $58 plan was all she felt she neededment today women in nashville can choose from 30 insurance plans that cost less than the administration says insurance plans on the exchange will cost, even with the new tam subsidiment in nashville 105 insurance plans order today about not be available in the exchange. according to health pocket incorporated, a consumer-oriented health represent firm, the arnlg
2:22 pm
individual deductible for a bronze plan is $5,081 a yearment this is 42% more than the arnlg deductible of $3,500 for an individually purchased plan in 2013ment according to deloitte, that is 348% more than $1,0 a 35 arnlg deductible in 2013ment these are a lot of numbers, mr. president, but americans -- millions of them are getting familiar with these numbers because this has gone from being political to being very personal. according to amount v amount element e i want regiment hilt, 90% of bronze plans require patients to pay 40% of their tier-3 drugs, out of their pocketsmenpockets. most silver plans also require patients to pay 40%. for cancer patients and those with chronic illness, this kind
2:23 pm
of shoft-sharing could mean they'll go without the drugs they need to stay healthymeny. americans had to wait until the exchanges opened on october 120 find out how much they will have to pay for insurance in 2014 with is up dramatic hikes in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, it is no wonder that americans are outraged. and then just before thanks gig, we learned that the obama administration is delaying open enrollment for 2015 until after the mid-term elections in november. the only american consumers this change will help are democratic politicians who voted for obamacare because it will delay disclosure some the law's most insidious effects until after the election. senators barrasso, enzi,and i introduced today the premium disclosure actment we want to change the open enrollment date back to october and provide americans notice of their premiums and cot had sharing
2:24 pm
requirements 30 days in advance so that they can plan for the fiewp knowing their health care costs for the next year. this is a commonsense proposal that i hope my colleagues will support. as my colleague senator barrasso likes to say, what we now know about obamacare is just the tip of the iceberg. much the media attention has focused on the disastrous rollout of the web sitement and the 19 million americans in the individual marketment but just below the tip of the iceberg are 160 million americans, nearly 10 times more than have individual policies, who the congressional budget office says get their insurance through the job, employer insurance. think about issues like restrictive grandfathered plan rules, limits on the number of hours employees can work and be considered part-time, the
2:25 pm
mandate that employers provide government-approved insurance or pay a fine, and the mammograms of dollars in new taxes on health plansment all these issues will have an impact on employer-sponsored health insurance in both the public and private sectorment we're already seeing that. employers is up is as sea world and trader joe's and home depot and other companies have publicly said that they're reducing worker hours or dropping part-time employee health benefits. the chief executive of ruby tuesday's, told me last year that to implement obamacare would be equal to the profit his earned during the whole year. in case you think these are isolated examples, the national association of of manufacturers says more than three-fourths of manufacturers cited rising health care and insurance costs as the most important business challenge. the u.s. chamber also has a membership survey saying that 74% of 3weuss are reporting that
2:26 pm
the health care law makes it harder for their firm to hire new workers many this is at a time when jobs are supposed to be a principle concern in our countriment many of these businesses self-insure, meaning they design and pay directly for the health plans they offer to their employeesment according to the kaiser family foundation, more than 100 million americans currently have an employer had sponsored health plan that is is he-insured. self-insured is a method of providing health insurance that's worked wellment since its inception in 1974ment it needs to be preserved. last month senators rubio and risch and mcconnell and i naffed a bill to make sure the obama administration doesn't change that, doesn't change the rule that allow companies to ensure themselves against a medical claim that could bankrupt them. any effort by the obama administration to change the rule on companies that self-insure will break the president's promise to millions
2:27 pm
of americans, won't matter if they like their employer's health plans, they won't able to keep them. it's not just the private sector facing fiscal challenges because of obamacare. our nation's schools and colleges and universities are also being hit hard. no shortage of of examples in my state, tennessee, of local leaders dealing with obamacare many let's take the franklin special school district. it's begun limiting substitute ternes to working four days a week in order to avoid paying between $1 million to $4.5 million more per year in health care costs. murray county schools south of nashville also limiting its substitute ternes to no more thank 28 hours a week for the same reasonment as one school board member told the local news, "students struggle enough having one substitute tyrannment but now we're going to have to possibly split the substitute
2:28 pm
time between two substitute ternesment it just makes it hard on the students to learn." wilson county board of education wrote to tell me that obamacare's reinsurance fee will cost the district an additional $15,000 this year alone, at least nine other tennessee school districts are reportedly limitinlimiting employee work hr retired jobs including johnson city, rutherford county, washington county, oneida special school district, scott county, stew art county, couple beer land university in lebanon has adopted a policy to limit adjunct faculty no more than three courses each term many they won't able to offer a course even if they are the most qualified instructor available. the impact of obamacare on education is by no means limited to tennesseement "investors business daily" has identified well over 100 school districts
2:29 pm
and institutions of higher education nationwide that have made cuts or limited employee work hours because of obamacare. that number is climbing daily, geng suggesting this is just the tip of the iceberg. remember what we're hearing about today, our individual policies, what we're going to hear about next year are employer policies being canceled, new costs, and there are ten times as many americans with employer policies as individual policies. who pays the price for this? our children. cash-strapped schools simply don't have the money to absorb these costsment so they're forced to make difficult choices. for these reasons, browning promises, higher costs, fewer choices, obamacare was an historic mistake. it expanded health care delivery system that already costs toosm too much and left americans with fewer choices. i said at the beginning my remarks that i'd like to end in the same way and i will do that.
2:30 pm
with answer to the question, what would we do if we were in charge? what if we elected a republican senate and even a republican president in 2016? we would replace obamacare, not by moving backward but by moving in a dinner direction. remember, obamacare's real problem was it expanded a delivery system that already cost too muchment what we would do instead is go step by step to introduce new ways to increase choices, to have more competition, and to lower costs. making medicare solvent so seniors can depend on it. giving goarns more flexibility with medicaid so they can create programs with lower costs. repeal the obamacare wellness regulations. the senator from missouri talked about thatment replace it with one that makes it easier, not harder, for employers to give
2:31 pm
employees lower health care costs if they live a healthy lifestyle. let small businesses pool their resources and offer low-cost insurance plan for their employees. congressional budget office says that senator enzi's bill with a allow consequently for 750,000 more americans at a lower cost. allow customers to purchase insurance across state lines. if there's a policy from kentucky that fits my need, why shouldn't i be able to do it, if i can afford it? expand health savings accounts. incentivize the growth of private health insurance exchanges. that's beginning to develop all across our country, giving more choices to employees. make it easier for patients to compare prices and quality of doctors and medical services. incentivize states to reward junk lawsuits. those are the steps in the right direction that we'd like to go.
2:32 pm
when erving crystal died not long ago, james q. wilson wrote a tribute in the "wall street journal" which struck me. he said that when they began their association as neoconservatives -- they were mostly democrats -- he said, we were -- we were policy skeptics. he said, that was mainly what our common view was. and by that i think he must have meant that they did not believe that washington could -- could through a comprehensive piece of legislation fix our whole health care system. that what washington should do, particularly in this iphone age, is to go step by step in a direction that gives more personal freedom to consumers, to americans so they can live longer, live healthier, live safer, be happier. that's what we would like to do. that's how we would like to change obamacare. we would like to have that opportunity. so, unfortunately, an unwelcome
2:33 pm
christmas present this year for 82,000 tennesseans is they're losing their individual polici policies. even more unfortunately, an unhappy new year is coming in which hundreds of thousands of tennesseans will lose their employer policies, the policies they get through employers, because of obamacare. we're ready to go in a different direction and create a way for americans to have more choices, more competition and insurance they can purchase at a lower cost. i thank the president. i yield the floor. mr. warner: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. warner: mr. president, first of all, let me commend my friend, the senator from tennessee. there is no one in this body who is more thoughtful, works harder on issues and has shown more willingness to kind of find common ground on a host of issues. i also want to compliment the earlier senator who spoke, the
2:34 pm
senator from missouri, who laid out a series of items that should be components of any kind of health care reform. as somebody who was a former governor, like the senator from tennessee, who managed the medicaid program, somebody who's been an employer, a private sector employer who's managed private health insurance plans, i know this is a ca conundrum tt has to be solved. what i don't understand is folks recognizing the status quo, who is leading this country on -- status joe was leading this country on a path that was unsustainable. and i look forward to working with the senator from tennessee, the senator from missouri and others if we can go about how we can fix where there are challenges in obamacare. i remember when i voted for what i called a very imperfect piece of legislation but recognizing the status quo was not a place that could be maintained. a couple points i want to make. i'm here to talk about the budget but i do want to make a
2:35 pm
couple points, that when we talk about the very attractive components of not discriminating against folks with preexisting conditions -- i say that as somebody who's got a daughter with a major preexisting condition -- when we talk about preventive care, when we talk about other items are the kind of nice-to-haves or we-like components. any of us who wrestled with health care, and i started the virginia health care foundation 20 years ago, realizing when you push on one end of health care, it pops out someplace else. it would be great to do this in segmented parts, but i believe to get the kind of reform that was necessary, you -- you have to make it a more extensive program. and what i don't hear sometimes from my colleagues is, while there are -- and let's acknowledge the management disaster of the rollout of the web site was unprecedented, as someone who stands here from the i.t. standpoint. but 6 beneath all of these --
2:36 pm
but beneath all of these challenges, there are points. if you look at the rise of health care costs on a macro basis back three years past when simpson-bowles and those of us who were involved in the budget -- and that's what i'm here to talk about -- got engaged in this issue. you look at the decrease in the amount of health care increase, if you look at the slope's decline, it is hundreds of billions of dollars of savings in projected c.b.o. costs of medicare and medicaid. if you look at one of the areas that was of enormous concern, one of the broken parts of our health care system, hospital readmission rates, those rates have dropped dramatically. when you look at stories -- i hear the stories of folks who are upset with the implementation of obamacare but i also hear the stories of folks who've never had health care who are finding it now at rates that are more affordable than in the past. or in the past where they didn't even have the option of getting health care. but this is going to require fixes.
2:37 pm
let me comment on one of the areas that i said. you know, we have this notion that the president made if you want to have your health care, you can keep it. what this senator has tried to do, as we mus move past the rhec into actually how we fix something. i've worked with our state insurance commissioner to take advantage of the opportunity for plans within the commonwealth of virginia to try to extend their coverage for at least an additional year. and we're starting to see some progress, not as much as i'd like, but progress on that. today with a group of my colleagues, we have written the administration to say, so that there is not a gap in coverage, particularly for those folks above the age of 30, that because of the transition, maybe find themselves faced with higher costs, let's present at least a catastrophic plan under the hardship exemption, view that in a broadway so that, again, folks can find in this transition period health care that's affordable.
2:38 pm
and as someone who believes that we need to make sure that commitment that the president and others -- i've stated it as well -- that you can keep your health care plan, i've joined with senator landrieu, if these other items don't go far enough for a legislative fix as well. and as other senators have said, there will be other issues coming. when you are going through a reform of 17% to 18% of our whole economy that is connected into health care, it is going to take a willingness of good faith of peete on both sides of the aisle to actually not simply relitigate but to recognize how we move from here. and i would welcome any colleagues that are willing to engage in that kind of productive dialogue, discussion and laying out of ideas. but this afternoon, we actually are going to be doing something that, in an otherwise fairly bleak year of accomplishments on a congress that may set record lose in terms of legislation
2:39 pm
passed and approval ratings, we'll actually end this year with something that i think we should take -- at least recognize as a step forward. i would remind my colleagues, it was two months ago at this point that we were in the midst of an unprecedented government shutdown, where millions of americans were furloughed, where america had furloughed three nobel prize-winning physicists who work at nasa who were somehow deemed nonessential, where private-sector folks in the tourism industry, whether they were in new mexico or virginia, were seeing dramatic fall-off in tourism because of national parks being closed, where we were inflicting upon this economy somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 billion to $40 billion of economic loss -- unprecedented simply because we couldn't get a budget. well, this afternoon my hopes is that we will at least close that
2:40 pm
chapter. my hope is this afternoon we'll vote on a budget agreement for two years that is not as grand or as comprehensive as i would have liked. we'll demonstrate perhaps to the american people that at least up here, we perhaps have to crawl before we can walk, before we can run and put forward a bipartisan compromise. and a great deal of that credit goes to chairman murray and chairman ryan. it says for at least the balance of this fiscal year and for the next, let's take off the threat of another shutdown, of unprecedented furloughs. let's not relax our focus on deficit reduction. let's not add to the debt. let's actually do a little bit more, about $20 billion more in deficit reduction, but let's show that this -- these institutions can actually put country ahead of partisan interests.
2:41 pm
now, in this compromise not everyone got what they wanted. i would have argued strongly that the big entha enchilada res how do we really take on in a major way that $7 trillion debt that clicks up about $4 billion a night? and that would mean both political parties have to give on their sacred cows. it means we've got to generate additional revenues through meaningful reform of a completely disastrous tax code, and, yes, it means for folks like -- on my side, we've got to make sure that the promise of medicare and social security and other entitlement programs are here not just for this generation but for 20 and 30 years from now. but some of those challenges will have to be put off to another day, and there are many of us in this body on both sides of the aisle who may have a chance to surprise some folks next year in laying out some ideas, specific ideas, on how we can move to that bigger bargain.
2:42 pm
but we should not underestimate what we do today. i've spent a longer time in business than i have in elective office, and what this country is yearning for, what consumers are yearning for, what business leaders are yearning for, is just a little bit of predictability. we've seen growth rates go up higher than estimated. we've seen job growth coming quicker than -- as monthly revisions are made, going up even higher than we thought. the single best thing we can do is make sure that we remove the cloud of further disruption caused by washington. so what we do today with this small step, but a step that we shouldn't underestimate, gets rid of that threat for the next two years. so i look forward to supporting this bipartisan agreement. as i mentioned, it rolls back the most draconian parts of sequestration. sequestration which, again, was set up to be "the" most stupid option so that no rational group
2:43 pm
of people would ever agree to it. i call it stupidity on steroids. so this budget agreement gets rid of the worst brunt of that sequestration and then gives this body and our colleagues in the house the ability to actually fashion a budget for two years that will also allow them to allocate within these still lower numbers than historically. but in any compromise -- i'll vote for this compromise but there are particular provisions of this compromise that i would not have agreed to and that i do not support. and that is that component that i believe unfairly singles out our military families. our military families over the last two -- last decade-plus have fought two wars. they have made unprecedented sacrifices, oftentimes they are the only americans making sacrifices through many of the years of the last decades.
2:44 pm
and virginia is home to the nation's largest concentration of active duty and retired military personnel, and i consider it an honor to represent them near congress. -- them here in congress. and the component of the budget compromise that single singles t these military retirees for a decrease in their cos cost-of-lg increase i think was not an appropriate component. but rather than saying, let's flush the whole deal down, i will vote for this deal but then with the idea, similar to my approach to the health care bill, let's go out and if you've got a problem, let's fix it. i've got a fix that i would propose to replace this component going forward. i've been joined in this effort by my friend, the senator from virginia as well, senator kaine, and my good friend, former governor as well, senator shaheen to eliminate -- to introduce legislation that would eliminate this close to
2:45 pm
$6 billion hit on our military retirees. our legislation would replace -- doesn't add to the debt or deficit -- our legislation would replace this i believe unfair hit to our military retirees by closing certain corporate tax loopholes that would generate sufficient revenue to make sure that our military families would not be unfairly affected. i have a grander -- in a grander bargain, all things may be on the table, but in this smaller deal, we should not be singling out our military families and those retirees with this undue burden. so i believe and i hope that other colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we get this budget compromise passed will join in this effort to substitute out this $6 billion provision for what i believe would be a much more readily acceptable $6 billion provision
2:46 pm
in terms of change in the corporate tax laws. i know the chairman of the budget committee from our side of the aisle would be welcomeing this -- would welcome this kind of substitution, but her job was to get a deal. she did that job, she got a deal, and i look forward to supporting. i'll close with these comments. virginians have served with honor our military for generations, and i want to assure our service men and women that because of this provision that was put into this budget compromise that doesn't take effect until 2016, we have ample time to make this substitution. i see we're being joined on the floor by senator shaheen, one of the original sponsors of this legislation, and i remain committed to working with senator shaheen, senator kaine and any member of this body from either party to work on this -- this deficit reduction package,
2:47 pm
this substitution that would relieve this burden. mr. president, i hope that we can build later this afternoon on the overwhelming support this compromise budget measure received in the house and believe that a strong bipartisan vote today -- or actually yesterday when we cleared cloture was an indication that we'll hopefully get that same kind of vote today. but regardless, it will show that -- and i believe we will pass this budget compromise, that this body can work, that american families can go into the holiday season without the potential threat of another government shutdown hitting them mid january. and i want to close with again thanking the chairman of our budget committee for the enormous amount of time that she put into this effort. she had lots of folks pushing and pulling her from every direction. as someone who still aspires to be part of a grander bargained a bigger deal, our day will come again, but in the meantime,
2:48 pm
later this afternoon, we do the people's work, we make sure that we -- we do our most essential requirement, which is to present a budget that is fiscally responsible, that takes down our deficit and allows this government to move forward and allows our economy to grow. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the final 20 minutes before the cloture vote be equally divided and that i control the final ten minutes of that. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mrs. shaheen: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. mrs. shaheen: mr. president, this afternoon, we will vote to pass a budget for the next two years. it sounds really good when we
2:49 pm
think about actually getting a budget for the next two years. and i support this budget because i think it provides the certainty that our businesses and our economy needs, that our families need. it replaces some of the reckless across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, and it ensures perhaps most importantly that we won't have another government shutdown. the alternative, allowing this budget to fail and setting up another government shutdown, is simply unacceptable. we saw the impact that the government shutdown had on our economy, on the people who depend on vital services, as well as on our national defense and our military readiness. so while this budget is not perfect, it's not something that i would have written, i'm sure it's not something that senator murray would have written, but the budget deal struck by senator murray, the chairman of the budget committee, in the
2:50 pm
senate and congressman paul ryan, the chairman of the budget committee in the house, is a product of bipartisan compromise, and that's something that we need a whole lot more of in washington these days. it represents a small but important step forward for our government and for our economy, and while the budget we're going to vote on today is not perfect, i do believe that it is a step forward. it doesn't close a single corporate loophole, it doesn't extend unemployment insurance, which i would like to have seen, for people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. that's probably going to cost our economy about 200,000 jobs. and there are provisions included in the bill that i think are misguided and need to be fixed, but the fact is this is a step forward also in addressing sequestration in a way that i think is absolutely
2:51 pm
critical to anybody who does business with the federal government or with companies and families who are dependent on services and on contracts with the federal government. i was at v.a.e. systems in nashua, new hampshire, on monday, and i heard from the employees there, from their leadership how important it was to have a budget for two years to provide some certainty for the company so that they knew what programs they're working on and they do defense contracting, they could count on, that it would provide certainty for them, and that's very important because one of the things that we have heard on the defense side of the budget is that the cuts from sequestration were having very detrimental impact on the readiness of our military, on our men and women who are serving, on the men and
2:52 pm
women who work for the department of defense. we have seen it in new hampshire at the portsmouth naval shipyard where we saw furloughs of people at the shipyard, we saw the impact that the uncertainty as a result of sequestration was having, has been having on the ability to know what they're going to be working on, and to be assured that the work will be there in the future. we've seen it with our national guard in new hampshire where the training that they need to have to keep people current is being affected, where people are -- were furloughed as the result of those sequestration cuts, and so this is legislation that will address that in a way that is critical to our national security and critical to the men and women who serve in our military. now, there are provisions in the bill that i think need to be fixed. i'm very concerned, as so many
2:53 pm
other people in this body are, with the impact of the bill on military retirees. i'm disappointed that congressman ryan was so committed to including this provision in the compromise bill, but one of the things that i wanted to speak to this afternoon is an effort that i am working on with a number of my colleagues here in the senate to try and fix that provision, to try and address the negative impacts that the bill might have on military retirees' benefits, because what the bill does is include an unnecessary reduction in benefits for military retirees under the age of 62. now, i think there are lots of other ways that we can find budgetary savings rather than cutting those retirement benefits for men and women who have served our nation in uniform, and the good news is that this provision does not go into effect for another two years, so we have time to fix
2:54 pm
this. we've already heard from the chairman of the armed services committee that he is interested in trying to address this provision as we take up the defense authorization bill in the coming year, but i am ready to get to work right now to address the provision. and yesterday, i introduced legislation, the military retirement restoration act, with 15 of my colleagues that would replace the military retiree benefit cuts by closing a tax loophole that some corporations are using to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. these corporations set up shell companies and tax havens to avoid being considered an american company, even though they are controlled and operated on american soil. i think most americans would agree that this kind of tax avoidance is unfair and that we should close this tax loophole rather than reducing military retiree benefits.
2:55 pm
this is just one idea. i'm certainly open to other solutions. i hope that we can continue the bipartisan work that began with senator murray and congressman ryan that we saw again in the vote to end the filibuster on this bill, that we can continue to work in a bipartisan way to replace the cuts for military retirees' benefits, that we can do it in a way that's smart, but that we can move forward to end the uncertainty, to get a budget in place for two years and to make sure that we address the really devastating impacts that we have seen since march of sequestration, those automatic cuts and the impact that they are having on the domestic side of the budget, on the defense side, and i see senator mccain on the floor. i know that earlier today, he talked about hearing from every
2:56 pm
single service, uniformed service leader of the four armed services, including the chairman of the joint chiefs about the impact that further effects of sequestration would have on our national security. i think that is testimony itself to the need to move forward to get this budget deal done and to come back and revisit the concerns we have about other provisions. so thank you very much, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous consent to address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. mr. mccain: i thank you, mr. president. today i am introducing the empowering patients first act, companion legislation to h.r. 2300 introduced in the house of representatives by congressman tom price. i would like to thank congressman price for all the hard work that he did on this
2:57 pm
legislation, and i am very grateful for all of that, and i believe that this legislation would give patients' families, the doctors power to make medical decisions and not washington. specifically, this legislation would enable everyone to purchase health insurance through deductions, credits or advancible credits. equalized tax treatment of employer-sponsored plans and plans purchased by individuals by letting individuals buy health insurance with pretax dollars, let's small business owners band together across state lines through association health plans known as a.h.p.'s and take advantage of the increased purchasing power that larger businesses are able to take advantage of. through increased bargaining power, volume discounts and administrative efficiencies. it would let consumers buy insurance across state lines and
2:58 pm
let individuals own their insurance like a 401-k plan so they can take it with them across state lines if they change jobs. mr. president, i don't think there is any doubt in the majority of americans' minds and poll after poll indicates that obamacare is a failure and the american people do not believe in it, and it isn't just the problems with the rollout of the web site. it is all of the aspects of it that have become so complex and so difficult and basically it is as some of us who fought it day after day here on the floor an experiment in social engineering where young people who are healthy are going to pay for the health care of those who are older and sicker. a redistribution of the wealth that then-senator obama favored
2:59 pm
when he was -- stated when he was running for president. that's not the way to address health care needs in america. itit has not bent the health cae curve now. it has not allowed people who if they wanted to keep their insurance to keep it. i notice that that was voted as the biggest lie of the year by one of the periodicals here. and it is a failure. so we -- we on the other side of this issue are also required to come up with alternatives because we vowed to repeal and replace obamacare, not just repeal it. and i believe that what congressman price has introduced and i'm introducing today as a companion bill is a step in that direction. it's time that we on this side of the aisle came up with our
3:00 pm
agenda for health care in america because we know that the inflation associated with health care costs is unsustainable, that there are millions of americans who are -- do not have health care, and there is particular problem for those with preexisting conditions. so we need to repeal this horrendous mistake -- which, by the way, was done on strictly party-line votes. the first entitlement program ever enacted that was done without a single bipartisan vote on it, and as many of us predicted back in 2009 when this legislation was passed, it was doomed to failure. and time after time, amendment after amendment, as we attempted for i believe it was 25 days of floor consideration back i


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on