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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  December 2, 2015 3:24am-6:31am EST

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president was moving in the wrong direction. what obamacare did was to expand a broken system that everyone knew was too expensive. republicans said so at the summit in february of 2010. and the facts today show that we were right. let's take a closer look at what republicans said then, nearly six years ago, and what unfortunately came true. let's look also at what democrats predicted back then or, better put, what they promised and which of their predictions and promises came true. let's go through them one by one. first, medicaid. during my opening remarks at the blair house at the summit, i said this -- quote -- "nothing used to make me madder as governor than when washington politics would get together, pass a bill, take credit for it and send me" -- the governor -- "the bill to pay. that's exactly what this does
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with the expansion of medicaid. in addition, it dumps 15 million to 18 million low-income americans into a medicaid program that none of us would want to be a part of because 50% of the doctors won't see new patients. so it's like giving someone a ticket to a bus line when the bus only runs half the time." that's what i said 5 1/2 years ago. medicaid had already always been one of the federal government's biggest unfunded federal mandates. and expanding that mandate on states would only wreak more havoc on state budgets that especially at that time during the height of the recession were already struggling. our former tennessee governor, bill bradison, a democrat, said the proposed medicaid expansion under obamacare would represen represent -- quote -- "the mother of all unfunded mandates." when i was governor of tennessee in the 1980's, medicaid made up only about 8% of tennessee's
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state budget. by last year, it was 30.6%. states paying more and more to expand medicaid means less to spend on other priorities, like higher education, roads, schools. in 2012 i said that over the prior 10 years, tennessee's medicaid costs had gone up 43% forcing the state to decrease its funding to colleges and universities by 11%. as a result, tuition went up 120% over those 10 years. according to the congressional budget office, the law will add 14 million new beneficiaries to struggling state medicaid programs by 2025 at an extra cost of $46 billion to states and $847 billion to taxpayers, federal taxpayers, by 2025. why is that so bad? i said at the time, and it's
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still true today, medicaid's reimbursement rates are so low that only about half the doctors will even see medicaid patients and many of those aren't accepting new ones. it's not hard to see why expanding a failed program isn't good for americans who need better health care. and another thing to consider is that states still haven't had yet to pay for covering the new medicaid enrollees under the expansion. the federal government promised to pay 100% for the first few years but starting in 2017, just in a couple of years, states will have to start paying 5% and eventually up to 10%. that may not seem like much in washington terms but it's a lot of money in state budgets. states may have to start raising income taxes or gas taxes or find some other place for the -- to find the money. but regardless of how it's paid for, expanding medicaid puts a
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huge dent in state budgets. does that mean less money for teacher salaries? does that mean tuition is going to have to go even higher at community colleges and state universities? tennessee hasn't expanded medicaid but in its proposal to expand the program called insure tennessee, the governor has anticipated an additional $35 million in costs to the state in 2017. in illinois, medicaid expansion will cost the state $208 million in 2020. in kentucky, kentucky's expansion will -- the state will have to pay $74 million in 2017, an estimated $336 million in 2 2021. governor-elect bevin hasn't started looking for ways to pay near huge increase yet because he plans to try to repeal t. and if you can look at the figures, you can see why he's thinking about that. so we were right that obamacare's enormous impact on medicaid and, in turn, medicai
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medicaid's huge negative effect on state budgets. second, higher premiums. when my turn came at the white house summit, i said directly to the president this -- quote -- "the congressional budget office report says that premiums will rise in the individual market" as a result obamacare. the president turned to me and said, i was wrong about that. a little bit later in the day, i gave the president a letter from the congressional budget office showing that they predicted that i would be right about that. that new non-group policies would be about 10% to 13% higher in 2016 than the average for non-group coverage in that surchcurrent year. his own chief actuary, i reminded the president, for the center for medicare and medicaid services, agreed with the congressional budget office. you might be thinking that turned out better than hi predicted then. better than hi predicted, than the congressional budget office
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had predicted, than the joint committee on taxation had predicted, and the chief actuary for c.m.s. had predicted. but we all were right, unfortunately. that's -- we all were right. obamacare's premiums were and are higher for americans with individual health care plans. we're talking about nearly 16 million americans who purchased these individual plans. they buy these policies for themselves, and the cost of these plans is going through the roof, mr. president. on june 1 of this year, the u.s. department of health and human services announced that nearly 700 individual and small group health plans in 41 states plus the district of columbia had requested double-digit premium increases for 2016. in tennessee, the rate hike was 36%. in maryland, 26%. on average, 2016 premium increases for oregon's biggest insurer on the state health
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exchange will be 25%. and for some smaller providers, more than 30%. south dakotans, 63% for health insurance through the exchange. the list of states experiencing health care spikes goes on. a recent report by the national bureau of economic research confirmed this. going back to the nonpartisan congressional budget office which flictd 2010 that premiums would go up -- predicted in 2010 that premiums would go up. they said recently premiums on the obamacare exchange will increase by 6% on average every year between 2016 and 2024, yet 5 1/2 years ago, the president and congressional democrats told republicans time and time again during the debate, we were wro wrong, that the law would decrease premiums. when, in fact, our predictions, the administration's own estimates, estimates from the national bureau of economic research and the nonpartisan
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congressional budget office all confirmed premiums for individual policies are going through the roof. third, republicans said 5 1/2 years ago that obamacare would increase taxes. it did. obamacare added 21 tax increases to the tax code. that's a trillion dollars over 10 years, according to the congressional budget office. a dozen of these target middle-income americans, in clear violation of what the president had said. and then there was our fourth prediction -- obamacare will cost jobs. sometime a few years ago after the law passed, i met with a large group of chief executives of restaurant companies in america. the service and hospitality industries the largest employers in our country. usually their employees low-income, usually minority americans.
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in the meeting, the chief executive of ruby tuesday incorporated, which has about 800 restaurants, said to me, and said he didn't mind being quoted, that the cost to his company of implementing the new health care law was equal to or more than his net profit for that year. and as a result, he wasn't planning to build any new restaurants in the united stat states. an even larger restaurant company representative at the meeting said that because of their analysis of the law, instead of operating their store with 90 employees, their goal would be to operate it with 70 employees. that means fewer employees, fewer jobs because of obamacare. more recently, another family franchise business -- this one has 550 employees -- told me, we've already begun cutting the hours of our employees to get well below the 30-hour flesh hold and all of our new jobs postings are for part-time employees -- threshold and all
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of our new jobs post rgz for por part-time employees. as many tennesseans tel tell me0 hours a week is not enough to support a family. this is just basic economics. these costs on employers means they have less money to expand, less money to hire workers, heap even higher costs, they cut hours. higher costs, they lay off employees. we've seen all three as a result the employer mandate that says employers with more than 50 full-time employees need to provide health insurance. what's more, obamacare went a step further and for the first time in our history defined "full-time" as a 30-hour work week. i asked the former democratic chairman of our health committee, where did that come from, france? and nobody knew where it came from. full-time work in the united states is not typically -- has not typically been considered 30
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hours but it is in obamacare. and it's costing large numbers of employees to be able to work only 28 or 29 hours because their employers can't afford to hire them as full-time employees. the congressional budget office has projected that obamacare will result in 2 million fewer full-time jobs in 2017 and 2 1/2 million fewer full-time jobs by 2024. at least 400 employers across the nation, including one -- including 100 school districts, have said obamacare forced them to cut positions or reduce worker hours. now, what we republicans said would happen years ago was this, that medicaid would destroy state budgets. it did. that premiums and taxes would go up. they have. and that jobs would be lost. they have. it's all unfortunately come true. now, what -- what did the
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president, president obama, and congressional democrats promise us about this law? about the time of the health care summit 5 1/2 years ago. were they right or were they wrong? well, the most famous or infamous promise which politifact named -- and you'll use their without objection, so ordered -- as the -- and i'll used thinks words -- as the 2013 lie of the year was the president's -- quote -- "if you like your plan, you can keep it." millions of americans learned very quickly when obamacare was fully implemented in 2014 they wouldn't be able to keep the plans they liked. in october 2013, i received a letter from a woman, emily, whom i met. she lives in middle tennessee. she has lupus. she was one of 16,000 tennesseans who are part of a plan called cover tennessee. she wroatd me about -- wrote me about her chronic illness. she said she was deemed
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uninsurable, the only way to insure her was through cover tennessee. she was glad to have that coverage, and she was glad to hear about obamacare. and then she learned the truth. i cannot, she said, keep my current plan because it doesn't meet the standards of obamacare coverage. this alone is a travesty -- her words. cover tennessee has been a lifeline for me, with the discontinuation of cover tennessee, emily told me, i'm being forced to purchase a plan that will increase my cost by a staggering 410%. my out-of-pocket expense will increase by more than $6,000 a year. please help me understand how this is -- quote -- "affordable ." this is emily in middle, tennessee. we could spend all day telling stories of americans who like their health care plans but weren't able to keep them under obamacare. in november 2013, it looked like that might be as many as five
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million americans. the administration did some last-minute regulatory fixes and lowered that number. but still, still many americans lost their plans, as emily did. the president also said medicare is a government program, but don't worry, i'm not going to touch it. the problem was he did touch it. $700 billion worth was taken from medicare to finance obamacare. i said during the debate in 2009, obamacare cut grandma's medicare to spend on someone else's program, someone other than grandma. obamacare, i said, would do that at a time when the medicare trustees have told us that medicare's going broke if we don't fix it. that's their job to tell us that. i said then, i think what they're saying to us is if you're going to cut grandma's medicare, you ought to spend the money on grandma instead of
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spending it on something else. end quote. again the president went against the promise he repeated over and over again and raided a program that serves more than 55 million older americans. in summary, mr. president, unfortunately republicans were right when we said five years ago that obamacare would force spikes in state medicaid spending, increase premiums and taxes and hurt jobs. and as right as we were, the democrats were wrong. they said that you can keep your plan if you liked it. they were wrong about that. they said medicare wouldn't be affected. they were wrong about that. and finally, we all agree that health care needs to be fixed, so how did we end up with a law that was such an historic mistake? well, one big reason is the debate over obamacare wasn't really a debate. if it had been we might not find ourselves in a mess today.
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the senate democratic leader then had a filibuster-proof majority. he didn't think he needed republican ideas, so they didn't take them. they passed a democrat bill. they voted for it, we voted against it. we sat here in a it snowstorm on christmas eve when they had 60 votes, and they unveiled a bill filled to the brim with items from each democratic member's wish list. along with our warnings about what would happen, we offered a lot of thoughtful ideas about how to fix the health care system in a way that we thought would lower costs and expand access while making sure patients didn't lose control over their own health care. the democrats also had a majority in the house. they had a democratic president. they didn't need our ideas. so we got obamacare. so what do we republicans have to offer americans? mr. president, how much time do i have left? the presiding officer: nine minutes. the senator has nine minutes.
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nine. mr. alexander: thank you, mr. president. i'll wrap up. i see the senator from washington here. throughout the obamacare debate, senator mcconnell, who was the minority leader at the time, was criticized for not coming up with a comprehensive plan of his own. we told the president and the congressional democrats not to hold their breath waiting for mcconnell-care. don't hold your breath waiting for senator mcconnell to come in with a wheelbarrow filled with a 2,700-page of his own because that's now how we thought obamacare ought to be fixed. we're policy skeptics. we doubt anyone here in washington -- republicans, democrats, independents -- have the wisdom to fix such a complex system every in america all at once. the wisest course to try to fix
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our health care system step by step in a way that emphasizes more choices and lower costs. this approach to health care reform is not something that republicans cooked up last month. in fact, if you will examine the "congressional record," you will find republican senators proposed a step-by-step approach to confronting our nation's health care problems and other challenges 173 different times on the floor of the senate during the year 2009. 173 times we talked about our step-by-step direction direction for health care, almost none of which was included in obamacare because they had the votes and they didn't need our ideas. i had hoped the president would listen to us and work with us at the blair house, emphasize more freedom, more choices, lower costs. but that didn't happen. we suggested allowing individuals to buy a health care plan in any state that meets
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their needs. we suggested reducing junk lawsuits against doctors that only increased costs. we suggested expanding health savings accounts and other mechanisms allowing individuals to control how they spend their own health care dollars. we suggested returning power to the states to regulate their own markets and lower costs. we suggested allowing small businesses to assist employees in purchasing insurance and look at other ways to support employers offering health care to their employees. we had specific proposals to do these things. we suggested lowering barriers at the food and drug administration so innovative drugs and devices can get to the market faster. putting the private sector in charge of health information technology. we suggested ensuring americans with preexisting conditions in a way through high-risk pools and other insurance incentives. and there are many other ideas we thought then and we think now we can work together on in a
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bipartisan way to lower costs, increase access, to put patients back in charge of their own health care. this week, though, we're talking about repealing he obamacare. for the last six years we've also been talking about a completely different path of providing health care at a lower cost to more americans. those steps are outlined in 2009, in 2010, in 2011, and they are the same steps, mr. president, that we should be taking today. i've been saying since 2009 that the historic mistake with obamacare was that we had deliberately expanded a broken health care system is that already cost too much. instead of moving step by step to create a system where millions of americans had choices of plans that fit their needs and fit their budgets. and the way we should accomplish this is the same we we passed medicare, the same we we passed social security, the same way
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the congress passed the civil rights act, and in the same way, i hope, and nor quz hopes, we will pass a broad reauthorization of the elementary and secondary act in the next couple of weeks. none of this is done by cramming a bill down the throats of the american people with 60 votes during a snowstorm on christmas eve. so i renew our invitation to the president of the united states, and if he doesn't accept our invitation, to the next president of the united states. and to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. let's forget about party. forget about this side or that side. let's side with the american people whose premiums have gone up, who lost plans they like, whose medicare has been raided, whose state budgets have been destroyed and whose jobs have been lost. work with republicans in congress to fix the damage obamacare has done to health care in america.
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work with us to replace obamacare with real reforms that low costs so more nerns can afford to buy insurance. mr. president, i ask permission to include following my remarks my comments at the health care summit in february of 2010 and the letter that i handed to president obama following our debate at the health care summit in 2010. and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, like many of my colleagues, i am deeply disappointed that republican leaders have dedicated this week to partisan political attacks rather than working with us though deliver results for the families we represent. so i want to take a few minutes today to talk about the work we
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could and should be doing and make clear again that republican efforts to undermine families' health care are nothing but a dead end. i'm pleased that over the last fuel months republicans and democrats have been able to work together on some really important issues. we passed another bipartisan deal. we have worked together on a bill to fix the no child left behind law that is broken. and republicans and democrats are working to pass a transportation bill now that would do a lot to help fix our crumbling infrastructure. but there's certainly a lot more that i be we should be doing to boost wages and to expand opportunity and to make sure our economy is growing from the middle out, not from the top down. i would hope that we would be working on a way to raise the minimum wage or ensure working parents can earn paid sick days or make higher education more
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affordable and accessible for students. with the holiday around the corner we should be focused on what struggling families need in order to make ends meet. those are the kinds of issues i'd like to be working on and many more. but instead, mr. president, republican leaders are insistent on tilting the tea party wind whils by trying to dismantle affordable care act for the umpteenth time. this is just a political gesture here but i want to be very clear about what it would mean for millions of men, women and children across the country if this were to be signed into law. the policies that are being put forward could cause millions of people -- millions of people -- to lose their health care coverage, make premiums skyrocket, increase costs for our hospitals and for our providers, cut off support for important public health programs
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by repealing the prevention fund. and take us back to the bad old days when insurance companies, not patients, had all of the power. mr. president, democrats believe strongly, that while the affordable care act was an historic step forward, the work did not end when the law passed. far from it. we are willing to work with anyone on either side of the aisle who have good ideas about how to build on the progress that has been made so far and continue making health care more affordable, expanding coverage and improving quality of care for our families. so it's really disappointing that republicans, instead, continues to insist that when it comes to health care policies, health care politics, not families, come first. especially because, again to be very clear, this legislation has no chance of becoming law.
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and the very same is true when it comes to this latest attempt to cut off women's access to health care. after years of trying to turn back the clock on women's constitutionally protected rights and undermine planned parenthood, republicans should have gotten their fill of political attacks on women's health. clearly they have not. mr. president, in the wake of the tragedy in colorado spingz last week, i've thought a lot about how important it is that we do more to ensure communities are protected from that kind of violence. and that we continue to stand with planned parenthood as it hps so many people women and men, get the care that they need. so it is very from used that my republican colleagues are doubling down this week on their efforts to defund planned parenthood and get in between women and their health care. if republicans were to succeed
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in the bill that they have before us, in defunding planned parenthood, our nation's largest women health care provider, our nation's largest women's health debate, with the legislation they are proposing to debate they would undermine a critical source of health care that one in five women have relied on from cancer screenings, for h.i.v. tests and for so much more. and they would make it harder for women to exercise their constitutionally protected right to make their own choices about their own bodies and their own doctors. by dismantling critical health care reforms, this proposal would cause millions of women to lose their health care coverage and with it access to everything from birth control to prenatal care. that's simply not going to happen, not on my watch, not on democrats' watch and not on president obama's watch. mr. president, republicans may want to go back to the days when
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being a woman was a preexisting condition, and they may see this entire bizarre effort as nothing more than a great opportunity to pander to their extreme tea party base by attacking health care and planned parenthood, but for the millions of women and families, the policies we're debating today are no political exercise. instead, if enacted, they would represent a deeply harmful step backward, a step away from building a health care system that is affordable, accessible and high quality, one that contributes to economic security and opportunity. women and families have seen these extreme republican attempts many times before, and frankly i think they have had enough. they don't want congress fighting over whether to roll back a law that has helped millions of people get health care coverage and bolstered our nation's public health system, a law that has been upheld time and time again by the supreme court, and they believe firmly
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that politicians in congress should have better things to do than interfere with women's constitutionally protected health care choices. i'm sure that they would rather see us working to actually improve health care and the many other challenges that our countries face. democrats agree with them. we want to move health care forward, not backward for women and families, and we want to do the other important work across the aisle to strengthen our economy and grow our middle class. so today as my republican colleagues double down on their partisan political pandering, we on this side are going to continue to stand up for families' health care, stand up for women and their rights every step of the way, and i hope my republican colleagues will finally drop the politics and join us. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mrs. cap toe: thank you, mr. president. mrs. capito: i'd like to go back to a speech i made on the house of representatives floor on march 21, 2010, and the previous speaker talked about the partisanship that she perceives now. i thought it's interesting. i'm going to read just a couple quotes from my speech then. and we're thinking about this
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bill as a blanket. this is a quote from me. the obamacare blanket, a blanket of health care legislation that may be draped across america and its population in the coming years, which it has for the last four years, but i talk how its cloth has been cut behind closed doors and its color is tinged by partisan hands. that's the obamacare legislation and the obamacare plan that we have today. its huge holes will not protect the cold winds of job loss, new taxes, government bureaucracy and increased health care costs. all of america will feel the weight of this uncomfortable burden. those were my words on march 21, 2010, in the house of representatives. today later this week, the senate will consider a bill to repeal that bill, obamacare, a costly disaster that four years later -- five years later we see has cost countless people access to their doctor, access to their health care plan of their choice and the thousands of west virginians from my state who have lost or had to change their
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coverage. we ought to ask individuals and families whose premiums and deductibles have skyrocketed and the small businesses who have been forced to cut hours and employees. let's consider the exchanges, the exchanges that are folding and the hospitals that are facing unmanageable costs. even the nation's largest health insurance provider has threatened to pull out of obamacare, citing high costs and growing risks. just today, the c.e.o. of that company said that joining obamacare was -- quote -- "a bad decision. there has to be a better way, and we need to find it. the bill that we are considering this week, the senate will do two major things. it will repeal significant portions of the health care law that are not working. it will also provide a bridge to replace this law with an improved health care system. this obamacare repeal bill would eliminate enforcement for the individual and employer
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mandates. it would repeal $1 trillion, $1 trillion in onerous taxes. it will save and strengthen medicare. and it also will dedicate resources to fight the growing drug epidemic that is sweeping across this country, certainly in our state of west virginia within many difficulties, as many of our fellow americans have. obamacare has upended our health care system and has broken many of the president's own promises. headline after headline in recent weeks has called attention to the increasing premiums americans will face next year. across the nation, rates for one out of every three obamacare plan will double in the year 2016. the plans that are not seeing huge premium increases, rising deductibles are placing excessive burden on patients, but not just on patients. let's think about our health providers, our hospitals, for example.
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when a patient has a high deductible and comes in for an expensive surgery, that patient then has to pay the $4,000 or $5,000 deductible. it's unaffordable for a lot of people, and that hospital is stuck with that bill. the situation in my state is even worse. west virginia is the only state in the country, the only state in the country with only one insurer who is participating on the exchange. remember the president promised us choice, the ability to make decisions for ourselves. we have one choice in west virginia. highmark blue cross/blue shield has been the only company in the west virginia exchange through the first two years of obamacare. and we recently learned that it almost pulled out of the exchange in swict w 2016. it would have been disastrous for our constituents. and why are they pulling out? because they are losing millions and millions of dollars of a health care plan that was promised to be a blanket, to blanket all of us, as the speech
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i gave in 2010, what really turned in to be the blanket with huge holes. with only one provider, choices and accesses are already limited, but for many americans, the exchange is set up -- the exchanges set up under obamacare have become their only option because of increasing costs, many are now unable to afford the health insurance without subsidies. while highmark blue cross/blue shield, the exchange insurance in west virginia did remain in west virginia, premiums are set to increase this year for next year by 24%. these increases are well beyond the financial reach of most west virginians. our unemployment in west virginia has skyrocketed because of the president's energy policies, and now we're looking at hardworking west virginians and telling them their health care that was supposed to be affordable and accessible is going up 24%. that's unconscionable. as one of my constituents
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pointed out -- quote -- this represents a significant challenge to our family budget. as my husband's pay has not increased at the rate that our health care costs have continued to rise. what about obamacare's promise to lower the cost of health care? the reality is really quite different. as another west virginian put it, and i quote -- "the law remains a failure by the administration's own metrics and its harmful impact continue to make life more difficult for millions across the country." end quote. by repealing obamacare, we can revisit the problems caused by the health care law and the problems that existed before, replace them with reforms that work and protect those whose coverage has been disruptive. in order to ensure individuals do not lose access to current coverage, this obamacare repeal bill will provide a two-year transition period. this period will give us time to enact alternative reforms that will provide access to quality,
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affordable care without disrupting coverage. health care reform should give states and individuals choice. remember in my state, we don't have a choice. we have got one provider, no choice. while reducing health care costs over the long term, premiums going up 24%, deductibles skyrocketing, that's not containing costs over the long term. americans deserve a health care system that works for them, and we know that obamacare is not it. there is a better way. i yield the floor,
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e presiding officer: the senator is correct. mr. nelson: thank you. mr. president, i want to take a moment to talk about a piece of legislation that a number of us have filed. there will be several senators speaking here later in the afternoon about the seniors and veterans emergency benefits act. it's a very important piece of legislation to help millions of americans who depend on social security benefits to make ends
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meet. and i want to emphasize that point that a lot of the american population do not realize that there are senior citizens that their sole existence is on the check that they get from social security. and, therefore, if something unexpectedly goes up in price price, and unfortunately we have seniors that have facing the situation of either food or some of their medicine. now how could this be in america in the year 2015? but it is there. it is among some of our senior citizens. the last congress i had the privilege of chairing the aging committee. we held a number of hearings on
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this issue, and it will break your heart, but that is going on today. and so, just to add a little more drama and heartache to this, in october the social security administration announced that for the third time in the past 40 years that there was not going to be a cost-of-living adjustment for 2016. now that's under a formula, and it is legal, and since 1975 the cost of living adjustment has ensured the purchasing power of the social security benefits stays the same regardless of the rising prices or inflation. so when we get to a point that
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the formula says no cost cost-of-living adjustment for a senior citizen, that becomes a fairly big deal, because 65% of all senior citizens depend on social security to provide the majority of their cash income. so it's real money that they depend on to rely to help make the basic expenses. in my state, we have a higher percentage of the population that is senior citizens -- four million floridians that are categorized as senior citizens because of their age -- and when
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there is not an adjustment on the cost-of-living adjustment, these folks are starting to feel the squeeze and be forced to sacrifice on something. now what a group of these senators are going to talk about and what i'm sharing is that we're going to offer an opportunity to act before this no cost-of-living increase would take effect in january, because 20 of us have sponsored legislation introduced by senator warren to fix the fact that there's a lack of a cost-of-living adjustment. and what the bill does -- and then i want to give you some examples of the injustices.
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i'm glad to see that senator warren is here. i could not join the distinguished senator later on, so i took the liberty of going ahead and telling from my point of view this legislation is going to give to about 70 million americans a onetime payment of approximately $580 to help them have the basic needs for things like food or rent. nearly 4.5 million people in florida would -- a little less than a quarter of the state's population would be eligible for that lump sum payment. nine million veterans who receive social security benefits
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would receive a benefit under the bill. in my state, 323,000 veterans and their family members would get that benefit. 40% of the seniors in the u.s. have incomes below the poverty line. if they do not have social security assistance. let me say that again, and that's a shocking statement. 40% of our senior citizens in this country would have incomes below the poverty line if they did not have social security assistance. and, therefore, this legislation that we're filing would lift over one million people out of
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poverty. you know, to some, a benefit of $580 may seem insignificant, but in reality it's going to make the difference to millions, because it may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people that there is no cola, but if that senior does not have the money to pay the rent or utility bill or a trip to the doctor or the groceries that they need for their nutrition, that $580 is the difference. many americans are living paycheck to paycheck and are
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forced to make these tough decisions. and we ought to be making it easier for them. that's our job. there are no excuses. so i intend to work with our colleagues to see if this is a possibility. and while she is here, i would like to engage the senator from massachusetts. if i might yield to her for answering, as we sat on the aging committee and we heard the testimony of just how dire and on the line, on the razor's edge the income is for senior citizens with these social security benefits, where that does not keep up with the cost of living that surely there is a
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cost of living increase in one year over the other. but if they don't reflect that in their social security check, does that not invite a tremendous hardship on that elderly person? mrs. warren: yes it does. senator nelson put his finger on a very serious problem. and that is every year because of policies made in the senate we do a calculation of cost of living changes for social security. the problem is that calculation for cost of living changes is based on only about a quarter of the population. it's not based on the whole population, certainly not based just on those who receive social security. we know from independent analysis the costs have gone up for seniors. but because of the policies made here in congress, there will be
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no cost-of-living increase for seniors this year. that means they face higher costs and yet at the same time they're going to have a flat income. the proposal here to give them a one-time payment of about $581 is enough to pay three months' worth of food bills for the average senior. it's enough to help cover the costs of prescription drugs that are not covered by medicare. these are significant differences for seniors who most need it, and i appreciate senator nelson coming here early to be able to talk about this, to raise this important issue. he is exactly spot on about the difficulty. i yield back. mr. nelson: so, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from florida's time is expired. mr. nelson: mr. president, i ask for 30 seconds. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. nelson: and therefore, i conclude my resting the case.
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if the cost of every person's daily living is going up, in fact, and yet our formula shows that they get no cost of living adjustment, is that not putting a burden upon the ones that we should be respecting and protecting that should not be there, and we can do that with this l floor. the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. ms. warren: thank you, mr. president. the clock is ticking. exactly one month from today, american seniors with disabilities and others who depend on social security and other benefits will get their first check of the new year. for those 70 million americans, that's one in five americans, january 1 is supposed to be a day of relief. this is the day when the federal
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government boosts their checks just a little bit to help with the rising costs of housing, food and medical care. but unless congress does something right now, for just the third time since 1975, seniors and veterans won't be receiving any cost of living increase on january 1. not one penny more. look at who gets left out in the cold. two-thirds of seniors depend on social security for the majority of their income. for 15 million americans, social security is all that stands between them and poverty. but not one of these americans will see an extra penny next year, and millions of other americans whose benefits are pegged to social security, millions who received veterans' benefits, disability benefits and other monthly payments won't see an extra penny either. times are tough, but not for everyone. last year, the c.e.o.'s at the
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biggest 350 american companies received on average a 3.9% pay increase. how much money is that? well, since the average c.e.o. at one of those top 350 companies made a cool $16.3 million, a 3.9% raise landed them an additional half a million bucks each. so everything's just great for america's top c.e.o.'s who got huge raises while 70 million seniors, veterans and others who worked hard will be left with nothing. why? it's not an accident, it's not inevitable. it's the result of deliberate policies made right here in congress. social security is supposed to be indexed to inflation so that when prices go up, benefits go up, but congress' formula looks at the spending patterns of only about a quarter of the country, and the formula isn't geared to
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what older americans actually spend their money on. in fact, official estimates show that the cost of core goods and services has increased but seniors won't be getting a raise. costs go forward while social security falls behind, all because of the way that congress says to calculate cola. skyrocketing c.e.o. pay is also in part the result of policies set right here in congress. taxpayers subsidize c.e.o.'s huge pay packages through billions of dollars in tax giveaways, including a crazy loophole that allows corporations to write off gigantic bonuses as business expenses. sure, companies should make their own decisions on how much to pay their executives, but because of laws congress has passed, american taxpayers are forced to subsidize these multimillion-dollar pay packages. two decisions -- how to
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calculate social security raises and whether to give tax breaks for multimillion-dollar c.e.o. bonuses are made right here in congress, and right now senators bow and scrape for highly paid c.e.o.'s while they turn their backs on retirees and vets. we're here because it is time for congress to make different choices. representative tammy duckworth and i have introduced the seniors and veterans' emergency benefits act, the save benefits act, to give retirees, veterans and americans with disabilities a one-time payment of about $581. that is the equivalent of a 3.9% increase over the average social security benefit, the same percentage raise that c.e.o.'s received just last year. now, where would the money come from? well, we can pay for it by -- just by closing the tax loophole for the c.e.o. bonuses that exceed a million dollars.
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in fact, according to the chief actuary of the social security administration, closing just this one loophole will create enough revenue to give a $581 raise to seniors and vets and still have billions of dollars left over to help boost social security trust fund for the future. the save benefits acts will give seniors, vets and the disabled an extra $581 a year. $581 a year may not mean much to a c.e.o., but that money would cover almost three months of groceries for seniors or a year's worth of out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs for someone on medicare. for seniors and vets, that $581 means a lot. already 21 democratic senators have signed on as cosponsors. dozens of organizations, social security works, afl-cio, move
4:21 am, vote vets, the national council of la raza. i could go on and on on this list, have already endorsed the bill. and across the country more than 400,000 people signed petitions urging congress to pass the save benefits act. this is about money, but it is also about values. for too long we've listened to a handful of the rich and powerful insist that we cut taxes for those at the top and leave everyone else behind. and now across this country people are saying enough. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize millionaires, c.e.o.'s, while seniors and vets have to fight for whatever scraps are left behind. the clock is ticking. it's time for congress to step up. the money is there either way. it can go for a payment to 70 million americans who need it
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and who have earned it, or it can go to c.e.o.'s and the wealthiest corporations. let's vote on the save benefits act. let's show everyone where we stand, whether we stand up for tax breaks for the country's most highly paid c.e.o.'s or whether we work for the seniors and vets who work their hearts out to build this country. senator mcconnell, bring this bill to the floor and let us vote. thank you, mr. president. i yield. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from hawaii. ms. hirono: mr. president, last month i joined senator warren and others in introducing the seniors and veterans emergency benefits act, also known as the save benefits act. this legislation is needed because for the first time in over 40 years our seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities won't receive a cost-of-living adjustment, or
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cola, for 2016. we're here again to urge our colleagues to support this much-needed legislation which would provide a 3.9% cola increase next year. there's a reason that we hit upon that 3.9% as the appropriate increase. i'll get to that. many of our people who rely on social security and other federal benefits are on fixed incomes. every extra dollar helps them buy basic necessities. these americans worked hard and earned modest benefits. however, based on the current benefit formula this year, they're out of luck. they won't see any increase in their income, but here's the thing. that's thought the case for our -- that's not the case for our nation's top c.e.o.'s. according to analysis by the economic policy institute, c.e.o.'s of some of america's biggest, richest corporations
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not only earn an average of $16 million per year, but they received a 3.9% salary bump in 2014. hence, a 3.9% cola increase. and what does a 3.9% increase mean to these c.e.o.'s? about $635,000 more a year in their pockets. far, far more than most workers who rely on social security saw in one year or ten years or perhaps even in their lifetimes. by contrast, what does a 3.9% increase mean to most seniors in hawaii? about $580 more a year. again, focusing on wyoming, that's about enough -- focusing on hawaii, that is about enough for a hawaii senior to buy almost three months of groceries or cover the average cost of a year's worth of prescription drugs. $580 is a big deal for a lot of people in hawaii.
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this bill would help about 19% of hawaii's population or 268,000 people. it includes seniors, children, disabled workers who rely on social security to make ends meet. it includes 24,000 veterans and their family members who will receive an increase to their well-earned benefits. and that extra payment of $580 would help to prevent some 2,000 people in hawaii from falling into poverty. and we are hearing from people all across the country about what will happen next year without the cola increase. one woman from lamae city in hawaii wrote -- quote -- "i feel it is deplorable that social security did not receive a cola increase. many seniors and poor people rely on this money to help them make it through the month. and although i am not one of them, i still want to speak for them as i feel it is important."
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end quote. this person from lanai said this is a deplorable situation, and i agree. and that's why we need to pass the save benefits act. this bill is paid for by closing a tax loophole that benefits the wealthiest c.e.o.'s. remember that $600,000-plus salary increases they got? some of that is paid for by us taxpayers because of this tax loophole. this bipartisan idea of closing this tax loophole was even included in the former chairman of the house ways and means committee's 2014 tax reform proposal. we only have a few days left for congress to act before the end of the year. i urge my colleagues to join me in letting seniors in hawaii and across the country know that we are on their side by cosponsoring the save benefits act. and let's just think about the disparity. 600,000-plus increases for
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c.e.o.'s making over $16 million a year versus the millions and millions of seniors and veterans and disabled people who rely on social security, who need and deserve this cola increase. so i urge my colleagues to bring the save benefits act to the floor for a vote and voting on it, sending it on to president obama for his sig mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: the senate is not in a quorum call. mr. schumer: thank you, mr. president. today i want to join my colleagues in strong support of the save benefits act and i want to commend the excellent work done here by my friend and the senator from massachusetts, senator warren. millions and seniors and veterans deserve more money in their is social security checks to help pay for the ever
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increasing costs of rent and groceries. the save benefits act would provide it. a fair and well-deserved payment to our seniors receiving social security and veterans receiving federal benefits who will not see a cost-of-living adjustment in their benefits next year. you see, next year there will be no official cost-of-living adjustment, or cola. chiefly because the formula that determines it is heavily tied to the price of gasoline, which is low. but all the other cost of living indicators are up. rent, medicine, groceries, these are the costs our seniors are juggling most often. i talked to seniors. they say what is this, there's no inflation? my life costs me more each year, considerably more. but because there was no official cola, even as those costs are going up, social security benefits will not increase by a single dime in 2016. and, madam president, about two-thirds of seniors rely on social security for over half
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their income. if we don't help offset the increase in costs with an increase in these modest benefits, many will be left with one of those excruciating choices: do i buy more groceries or pay the rent this month? can i afford putting off taking my medication for another day or another week or even another month? in the past when we had years without an official cola, congress stepped in. in 2009 there also wasn't a cola. we were in the throes of recession, but congress stepped in and passed a law i strongly supported the arra to provide a onetime $250 payment to social security recipients and veterans to help them get through these tough times. next year we should do the same. but i hasten to act, i don't like to be partisan, in 2009 the house and senate were democratic, caring about social security. in 2015, the house and senate
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are republican, and we're getting no relief for seniors. well, i hope that will change. the save benefits act will change it. it would provide a onetime check of approximately $580 for our veterans and our seniors and fully pay for it by closing a loophole that benefits corporate compensation packages over $1 million. to boot, it would provide this benefit while also using some of the revenue to extend the life of social security. in my state, over four million people would benefit. 1.5 million women over the age of 65, a quarter million children, half a million disabled workers in new york alone. in we think about it in real terms, that $580 is almost three months of groceries, or the average annual out-of-pocket expenses that a senior needs for prescription drugs for medicare. this is the right thing to do.
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social security and veterans benefits should rise to keep pace with prices. but unless congress acts, our seniors and our veterans will not see any increase in their own benefits next year. it's time to fix that. i want to ask who on the other side would say millionaires should continue to get to deduct their bonuses while senior citizens get no cola? what percentage of republicans in america would say that? what percentage of independents? this should not be a partisan issue. we should just pass it. help the seniors like we did in 2009 when congress was under a different control. and this is a real test. who cares for the seniors? who he understands their struggles? who understands the sweat seniors break out in when they have to pay the bills and they don't have enough money to pay basic expenses? well, those who cosponsored this bill understand it. those who support this bill
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understand it. and i'd like to hear from my colleagues who don't support it, what their alternative is. i urge my colleagues on the other side to join us in expending to our snis -- seniors and veterans a fair increase in benefits they earned. i yield the floorobjection. mr. leahy: i thank my distinguished presiding officer, my neighbor in new hampshire. i want to thank senator warren for her leadership on a matter of great importance to millions of americans. in october, the social security beneficiaries received some upsetting news. i know it was upsetting to a lot of vermonters, and i have talked with a lot of those vermonters in grocery stores and on street corners, even coming out of church on sunday. for the third time in 40 years, the social security administration announced in 2016
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social security payments will not include a cost of living increase. now, unless congress acts, seniors and others who receive social security benefits will not see an additional dime in payment this year. for the nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries who depend on social security for at least half of their income and for the 24% of those where social security is a sole source of income, the news isn't just distressing, it's devastating. i certainly am not going to take the time here, but i can tell so many stories of vermonters who told me and i share their concern, so in order to address this issue, i am proud to stand with thousands of vermonters and millions of americans and to support senator warren's bill to provide social security recipients, those who receive disability benefits and veterans, among others, a
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one-time payment next year. the payment would be equivalent to an average increase of 3.9%. incidentally, that's the same pay increase that the top c.e.o.'s in the united states saw last year. many in congress have turned a blind eye to the problems facing social security. they argue that we can't as a country possibly afford to spend resources on our seniors. but every year, hardworking americans subsidize billions of dollars in tax subsidies with the compensation packages of corporate c.e.o.'s. i no longer allow corporations to receive tax deductions for performance pay packages for their executives, we could give a one-time emergency payment to our nation's seniors and we could increase the solvency of the social security trust fund without adding a penny to the deficit. it's a win-win. it's a matter of priorities. are we as a country going to support the millions of
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americans and the thousands of vermonters who depend upon social security to make ends meet? are we going to continue to allow the country's top c.e.o.'y in 2014 topped $16 million each. more than a million dollars a month -- to continue to rake in billions of dollars thanks to the performance paid tax loophole? the choice should be clear. social security is an immensely important program. if these c.e.o.'s want to make more money, fine, but don't do it using a special tax loophole to do it. we ought to be thinking about those social security recipients. it's an immensely important program. it's how millions of americans stay out of poverty once they enter retirement. this program has always represented a strong commitment to our nation's seniors. ever since ida may fuller of
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vermont received the first social security check issued, vulnerable seniors have had a safety net to fall back on in retirement or to supplement individual retirement savings and pensions. support for this bill represents a continued commitment to our nation's seniors and also those with disabilities. so let's redouble our commitment to seniors and veterans and those with disabilities in this country and pass this important legislation. it's the least we can do. madam president, i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, madam president, very much. madam president, i am very proud to be a cosponsor of the save benefits act, and i think that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to senator warren, my colleague from massachusetts,
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for the legislation which she has introduced because she is going to make sure that the social security benefits for seniors, for veterans, for those who are disabled will be protected, and i applaud her for her enormously innovative way that she has framed this debate for our nation. the social security administration recently determined that seniors will not receive an increase in their benefits for the next year, and that means that approximately 70 million americans, seniors, veterans, the disabled will not receive any increase in their benefit, including the 1.4 million people in massachusetts who are dependent
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upon these benefits. and that is just completely unacceptable. what senator warren has done is to say that for these seniors, for many of them, social security is their sole basis for having any income at all and for most seniors it's the majority of their income in their retirement, and those seniors depend on these benefits to pay for food, to pay for rent, to pay for medicine, to pay the electricity bill, in their world, prices for food and clothing and medicine, they're not going down. they are going up. these are the necessities of life, and our seniors should not have to choose between heating and eating. so we have a simple question to ask ourselves. who contributeed most to our country over the last
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generation? is it a small handful of c.e.o.'s who are now paid exorbitant salaries or is it every american that got up over the last couple of generations to build us into this incredible country that we now live in? i think it was grandmother and grandpa. those are the people who got up every day. those are the people who built this great country. and right now, we're being told that their standard of living is going to stay the same or go down. there will be no increase for them. well, unfortunately, c.e.o.'s in america make about 2773 times what the average american worker makes, and last year, america's c.e.o.'s saw their pay increase by about $635,000 to an average of $16 million, and a family in
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the top 1% has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family. that is just unacceptable, and it must change. shouldn't our seniors, shouldn't grandma and grandpa who built this country receive an additional benefit from the economy which they created? this incredible wealth which they created in our country. when do they get their rest? they got up every morning. my father worked up for the hood mill company. he got up every morning. he worked as hard as a human being can work, and so have hundreds of millions of americans. they built this country with their hard work. they deserve a social security raise. they deserve a raise that they now have disabilities -- if they now have disabilities. and if they're veterans, they not only got up and worked every single day, but they also served our country.
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many of them overseas protecting us against our enemies. so that is what senator warren's very wise piece of legislation focuses on. we know that grandma and grandpa deserve a raise. we know that the system that's been created allows those in the upper 1 percentile to -- one percentile continue to receive and had a here it's on average a $635,000 raise up to an average $16 million for salary, and we're saying to the people who did the work you don't get a raise at all. i think for their sacrifice, for their hard work every single day, they deserve something. they built the greatest country in the history of the world. so let's give our seniors the 3.9% raise that senator warren has proposed. let's give them the kind of comfort and thanks they deserve for a lifetime of hard work. and let's thank senator warren for reminding all of us the
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obligation that we have to those great americans so that we don't forget them when it comes time at the end of the year to hand out bonuses. they deserve their raise in the same way we know that c.e.o.'s across our country, from wall street to silicon valley, are going to receive their bonuses at the end of the year. we just shouldn't turn our backs on those seniors. thank you, senator warren, for all of your great work. madam president, i yield back the balance of my time. mr. franken: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, madam president. madam president, we're just one month away from the new year. 2016 will bring a lot of new things, i hope good, but one thing that it will not bring is a cost of living increase for seniors, for veterans and for people with disabilities. despite the fact that the cost
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of health care and prescription drugs and housing are increasing the size of the social security check won't go up one cent on january 1 unless we act, unless congress acts. that's why senator warren and my colleagues and i have introduced the senior and veterans emergency benefits act or save benefits act. the save benefits act is a one-time payment to seniors and veterans receiving their earned -- their earned benefits so they can better meet their basic living expenses. the stagnant level for benefits in 2016 and its damaging effects are part of a bigger problem. too many of our seniors are
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feeling the squeeze and just aren't secure enough in their retirement. today's social security benefits are not enough to live on, and other retirement savings aren't filling the gap. you see the share of private sector workers with pensions has fallen precipitously in recent years, and yet today half of all americans don't have retirement accounts like 401-k's or i.r.a.'s. so without sufficient pensions or retirement accounts, many seniors depend on social security. social security benefits comprise over 90% of income for the poorest 25% of retirees, and social security comprises 70% of income for the middle 50% of
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retirees. with the cost of things that seniors have to spend money on increasing the absence of a cost of living increase in social security benefits is especially damaging. now, i've heard from many minnesota seniors who are deeply worried about the squeeze that no increase in social security will put on their budgets. jack from minneapolis wrote -- quote -- "food prices are up, my rent is up 4% in 2015 and will be up again in 2016." he continues -- "i lost most of my i.r.a. earnings in the 2008-2009 debacle, and now i rely almost entirely on social security." if we want minnesotans like jeff
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and millions of americans across the country face ago similar situation, if we want them to have a secure retirement, we need to increase these benefits. that's what the save benefits act does. under our bill, seniors and veterans get a 3.9% increase. the same percentage increase that c.e.o. pay went up from 2013 to 2014. for the average beneficiary, 3.9%, that raise would come to about $580 a year. now, while that may not sound -- $580 may not sound like a lot, of course compared to the raises that c.e.o.'s are getting, $580 can make a big difference to the average american, especially the average senior. $580 may cover several months of
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groceries or out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for a senior on medicare. -- who's gotten into their doughnut holes. now, some may ask, if we can afford to give seniors and veterans a raise right now. too often the ideas we've heard -- quote, unquote -- "for fixing social security" deal with raising the retirement age for the chained c.p.i. we need to strengthen our social security system by protecting and enhancing the benefits that seniors and veterans have earned. and that means improving social security's finances. and a good place to start is by
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removing special provisions for the wealthiest americans in our current tax code. right now individuals making millions of dollars a year still only pay payroll tax on the first $118,500 of their income. over the long term, that is the sort of thing we need to address in order to strengthen social security. and this bill proposes to pay for the one-time increase in social security benefits in the same spirit, rebalancing our tax code by ending a tax deduction for c.e.o. pay that really doesn't make sense and just allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. c.e.o.'s and big businesses will still do just fine under this bill. at the same time, the save
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benefits act will provide critical assistance to americans struggling to meet their expenses. in fact, this increase -- this increase in benefits will lift about 8,000 minnesotans out of poverty and thousands more in every state of our union. ultimately the debate over this bill comes down to priorities. what's more important to us? protecting high pay for the wealthiest americans or tax deductions for corporations on that high pay? or ensuring that veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities have the income security that they need to pay
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for health care, prescription drugs, and housing? madam president, as this year comes to a close, it's time to get our priorities straight and stand up for our seniors and our veterans. they need a raise in 2016. thank you, madam president. i would yield the floor. mr. whitehouse: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: thank you, madam president. i'm here to join the chorus for providing some additional help to our seniors on the on on socl security. what can i say? here we go again. in 2010 and in 2011, america's seniors got told by the social security administration there'd be no cost-of-living adjustment, no increase for them. and now it's happening a third time. we all know that the price of the things that seniors actually
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buy has continued to go up, and yet no cola. in 2010 and 2011, we tried to remedy that with senator sande sanders' emergency senior citizens relief act. we did not succeed. there was opposition from the other side. we did succeed at getting a one-time $300 payment to seniors under the economic stimulus act in 2008, back in the depths of the great wall street recession, and another $250 under the recovery act. so we've done this before, and it has helped, and i strongly encourage that we do it. there is a flaw built into the social security cola, which is that the c.p.i. measures things that a lot of seniors don't buy. it measures laptops and it measures flatscreens and it measures a lot of technology.
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but seniors in rhode island who make a little over $1,200 on average, are not buying a lot of tv's and laptops. what they're buying is food, medicine, and maybe something for the grandchildren at christmastime and that all keeps going up. we should fix that formula. there should be a c.p.i.e. -- a c.p.i. for elderly folks that tracks what their pocketbooks get spent on that does not track what c.e.o.'s buy. in the meantime, we should do this. i think it's paid for very sensibly. we established as a country that beyond $1 million in executive compensation, it wasn't going to be tax deductible any longer. if you are a big corporation, you want to pay your c.e.o. more than $1 million, fine. you can still do that, but you don't get to have the american taxpayer kick in for the more
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than million-dollar salary. so what did corporate america do? they took it out of salary and moved it over to bonuses. so now get these big bonuses over $1 million, and they dodge that exemption and now the american taxpayer is back on the hook again to kick in for a plus-million-dollar corporation package for a corporate c.e.o. come on! we ought to be able to get beyond that. so we've got a way to pay for it that's fair and sensible and consistent with the policy we've already agreed with as a nation, that above a million bucks in compensation, taxpayers shouldn't be kicking in any longer to help the company pay these exorbitant salaries. i think we've got a very good way to spend those resources, which is helping seniors, which now for the third time since i've been in the senate, are getting a zero cola while everything else goes up around them. so i commend senator warren for taking the lead on this. i am pleased to be a cosponsor of her bill, and i'm
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