tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 17, 2013 11:00am-1:01pm EST
increase called for in last year's highway bill. and that, again, is a 10-year tax to build highways for two years. when that highway bill comes up, where are we going to steal the money next time? well, there's always the social security trust fund and a whole bunch of other trust funds out there. i can hear the yelling about that. and i will join the yelling about that if that's even considered. but if you can tap it in the private sector, undoubtedly you can tap it in the government sector as well. $9 billion increase -- that was for the highway bill. now we have another $200 per employee, so we've got another $9 billion increase that's put on the backs of the private sector industry, the ones pulling the wagon that i talked about. to put it simply, over two years, the flat-rate premium will have increased over 40% and over three years the variable-rate premium -- which is a tax if it doesn't go into where it's supposed to -- will
have increased over 100%. that's a huge tax and i guarantee you that will end some companies' willingness to continue pensions. pensions are voluntary. if the cost to continue them goes up, the companies will r reevaluate. in fact, i can tell you that they're reevaluating right now. when you're looking at $200 per year per imleerks you hav emploo take a look at how that affects things. pensions will change drastically because of this agreement. a few of the concerns that i just raised could be addressed. once again, the majority leader has decided that no amendments will be allowed. they won't be allowed to be offered, they won't be allowed to be voted on. i filed two amendments to the budget deal that are relevant to this discussion. one with senator murphy regarding the need to follow congressional intent and clarify that the funding of the accounting standard setting
bodies is not subject to sequestration. now, we have a system where there are rules set up to have generally accepted counting principles, and we have a body that's supposed to be very independent, that's supposed to come up with those rules. now, we do force the companies that are in the account being business to pay -- in the accounting business to pay thor that body to standardize the accounting process. it comes directly from the accountants and it's supposed to go directly to this accounting board, but we've decided that sequestration should take a little chunk out of that. that should not happen. that's stealing money again. so that's one of the amendments. the another one is to strike the language making it permanent for the federal government to withhold 2% of mineral oillet owed to the state -- railt owed towed--
owed-- royalty owed to the states. we should have the opportunity to discuss and debate and vote here on the senate floor. we have got to stop deal-making. we have got to start legislating. our constituents sent us here to legislate. they deserve better than a deal agreed to behind closed doors without input and improvements from the rest of the legislators, not even the committee to which it was assigned. even though i'm disappointed in the process that has led to this point today, i'm even more disappointed in the product that resulted from the deal-making. this budget deal breaks the promise we made to our constituents back in 2011 as part of the budget control act that we would reduce spending. it's worked. it hasn't worked the way a lot of people would like pour it to work -- for it to work because it has been across the board. but since the first time since the korean war, it has reduced spending two consecutive years. we were close.
after 2014 overall discretionary spending would have increased even with a sequester. yes, we were almost at the end of the part of taking down the spending, but we couldn't find the will to prioritize spending this year under the current spending levels an and instead decided to ask merse t americand in more of their money so the federal government could spend it -- the same way we always have. promise the cuts i cuts in the , take more money in the -- promise the cuts in the end, take more money in the beginning. of course, this penalizes them for their principled budgeting that of this a been doing and makmakes it look like they have money. every state could have more money if they were as careful as wyoming has been. washington, d.c., has a spending problem. we don't have a revenue problem. this budget -- we can think of all kinds of things that we'd
like to spend money on. things that we think would be a good deal and probably that would buy some votes out there. that's wrong. we need to get things under control before that 3.90% interest rate goes to 5% or 10% or it's been as high as i think 18% before. the budget deal increases spending and shows the one thing that some democrats and republicans can agree on, and that's putting off our decisions. this plan spends more than the current law. it charges people and states for more things and uses the money to increase spending in nonrelated areas . spending cuts are scheduled for outlying years. so the -- the so-called savings are used up right away. yep, just shift that money from out there and put it into the current spending. that really isn't real. nobody else gets to do it. it is only a government trick.
we cannot spend our way to prosperity. we need to prioritize spending cuts. we need to find the spending cuts that will do the least harm and start there. that goes through an appropriations process that works. we've been doing omnibus bills around here for a long tiesm i have constituents who start coming in january and they want me to take a look at their program and add just a few dollars in there. and i have to tell them, you know, the last time i got to look at a line on the appropriationppropriations was e years ago. we just take one whole lurc lumf $is trillio$1 trillion and voltd down. we need to prioritize those cuts. i'll tell you how wyoming did it. wyoming was facin facing an 8% t they thought. 8% cut. we're talking about 2.3% for the federal government. if we compress is down to just a
few months, we're talking about 5.3%. but the true amount of that sequestration was 2.3%. wyoming thought they were going to get hit for 8% because of mostly some of the regulations on energy that have reduced some of the energy production in i would wievment how di--producti. the federal government said, i want to see how you would spend it if you have to cut 4%, 6%, 8%. you know what he did when he got those four lists from every one of the agencies. he took a look at the throis seo see if the items were the same. that's how you find out what the agency really thinks it can get rid of. that's a simple way of prioritizing the spending. do we ever do that around here? no. we do have a process by which the president can have his agencies say what they intend to
get done and then tell how well they were doing. the ones that come out really rated badly on this just to get continue spending money like they always did. we need to have a prioritization process. we need to have a way that we can look at some of the details of the spending bills. this thing of putting off spending fo forever and ever is wrong. that again is deal manufacture n is deal-making, not legislating. it won't rein in the out-of-control spending. i've talked about the prioritization which we have to start doing. the complaints are that the agencies will always make it hurt. i w567 watched this when i was e wyoming legislature. if we told them how much after cut to make, they always did
something that was very visual that their constituents would notice and their constituents would complain about and their constituents would make us put it back into the spending. they didn't have to do that. there isn't any business, there isn't any government agency that doesn't have some waste. and that's what ought to go first. then the duplication ought to go. there's about $900 billion a year in duplication around here, but we don't even take a look at that. so -- another thing we could do is end the government shutdown legislation. that's one that tells the spending committees, you need to get the leader to bring up your bill and you need to get it finished with amendments in the appropriate time. if you don't, then you'll have to cut another 1% off your spending, every quarter until you get your work done. then we don't have a shutdown, but we have a reduction in spending and some incentive for them to do that. we need to do tax reform. i agree with senator cardin on
that. i think that could make a huge difference in how we're doing our revenue. i also have a penny plan. p the penny plan just takes one cent off every dollar the federal government spends and when i first started looking at this, the congressional budget office said that that would balance the budget in seven years. if we do that for seven consecutive years, one cent off every year, balance it in seven years. but the new evaluation is with the sequestration, it balances the budget in two years. just two years. when i talk to my constituents about that, that would be 3.2% over two years. i think we could do that and i think we could do it with some little pain, people would say, please continue that another couple years and pay down some of the debt. this getting rid of the deficit means we're overspending. but we need to pay off some of
the debt so we don't have to pay so much interest. we ought to use the interest we save to pay down the debt some more. that's how you pay off things. people that have credit card problems know that that's the way that you go about it. i'd also like to see us go to biennial budget. we supposedly spend $1 trillion in discretionary spending and military every year, $1 trillion. that's so much money that nobody can real lay look a really looke don't. but if we divided those 12 spending bills up into two packages of six and we allowed them to have two years' worth of spending each time, they could plan ahead much better and we'd do the six toughest bills right after on election, the year right after an election. we'd do the six easy bills before an election.
then we could do what my constituents think we're doing, which is looking at every single one of those expenditures and deciding whether they ought to go up or down. allowing amendments on bills, allowing the spending bills to go through one at a time, maybe a he week at a time. we could have them all done before october. then there wouldn't be any government shutdown anyway. there are a lost ideas out there on what -- there are a lot of ideas out there on what we could dovment do.this budget conferenn opportunity to apply reasonable constraints to impossiblely high future spending but instead we got more spending and no real plan to solve the problem. yes, we said, we've got some savings out there in the future. we'll spend that right now. we'll make those cuts later. never happens. for all of these reasons i cannot support the budget deal. i hope our next fiscal deadline dealing with the debt limit early next year will provide an opportunity for my colleagues and me to have a real
conversation about the spending problems our country faces. the spending issue isn't going away. the longer we put it off, the worse it will become. that's the reality our country faces. i hope that we continue on the bill that says, no budget, no pay. and actually get that done so we have the emphasis to actually finish up a budget much earlier. and, yes, there's blame enough to go around on the budget process. we're actually too late for the budget process to have an impact. it's the spending part that we're to. and we're not getting to address that with amendments, and i'm deeply disappointed that we're not legislating. i yield the floor. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i want to thank senator enzi for his leadership on the budget committee. he's a longtime member. he's senior member. he's worked hard on these issues for years.
he is an accountant. he is able to add and subtract. he can see a debt crisis when one is out there, and i appreciate the comments that he's made. i believe he's exactly correct on so many of those points. and senator enzi, you suggested that something is awry on the pension benefit commission in which we, in effect, tax employers more supposedly to help the guaranty fund be able to help people if a company goes bankrupt. but it seems to me in simple dollars and creants cent, if dot you can't spend it on other items related to pension
guarantees. is that the concern that you've raised essentially? mr. enzi: yes, that's exactly the that i was raising. we keep promising people that money is going to go to certain places and then we divert it too other places. now, i think under the system of accounting we use, we probably get to show up in two places and get to spend it twice. that's double the problem. so we've got to start being honest with the public about where we're taking the money and where we're actually putting the money. that was my purpose in making that comment. and i want to thank you for your comments. i want to thank you for your dedication on the budget. i don't think anybody spends as much time looking at those numbers as you do and commenting on them here on the floor. it's in that effort to educate america on what's really going on, and you're really good at it. i thank you for your leadership. mr. sessions: thank you, senator enzi. i just was referring to the fact that senator enzi is the one that has explained to us in a very clear way from his
accounting background on the problems we've had with the pension guarantee fund -- on the pension guaranty fund. it is actuarial unsound in the long run. you can't put it on a better basis if you tax the employers. it may even rediewrks as you say, senator enzi, the number of employers who provide a pension. that would be a terrible, terrible policy error if we keep driving up the cost to supposedly fix the fund but then spend the money on something else and we, therefore, disincentivize the businesses to even have a retirement plan for their employees. so thank you for raising that very important issue. the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i
ask unanimous consent the senate recess from 12:30 until 26789156789 to allow for the -- 12:30 until 2:15 to allow for the weekly caucus meetings and the time run during recess. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection. the senator from georgia. mr. chambliss: mr. president, i rise today to speak on the bipartisan budget deal that is currently before the senate. chairman ryan and chairman murray have shown us true leadership on divisive and complex budget issues. the legislation we have before us today is the embodiment of compromise, something that has unfortunately been absent in washington as of late. they have crafted a bill that sets forth the guidelines for spending for the remainder of this fiscal year and the platform for the next fiscal year. this deal wa will set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion, an amount that
is approximately halfway between the senate budget number and the house budget number. this number is also less than the 2000 spending levels set forth in chairman ryan's 2011 budget. while the overall spending number is higher than what i would have wanted, the house and senate budget committee chairmen were able to craft a budget deal that produces $23 billion in net deficit reduction. now, very honestly, $23 billion with the deficit that we've been running is a mere pittance and i think all of us who are concerned about the debt and the deficit of this country would like to see that number higher. but more importantly, they have produced a budget that will set in place some fiscally responsible spending policies and give us a way forward. regardless of how each member of this chamber feels about the resulting policy, we should all
recognize the importance of this agreement and thank the chairmen for their tireless work to end this chapter of political disagreement. although i would still prefer a grand bargain to solve our fiscal crisis, this deal marks the first step in that journey. congress will now be in a better position to tackle the issues of taxation and entitlement reform in the short-term and i truly hope that the committees of jurisdiction will take this as a sign that that does need to be what happens next if we are truly going to address our fiscal issues. mr. president, the budget deal before us is not perfect. there's a lot in this proposal to like and there's a lot in this proposal to dislike. but there's one provision related to military retirement pay that will certainly have to be addressed after the passage of this bill and it's one of the provisions that, frankly, i don't like.
i'm told by pentagon officials that this provision basically came out of nowhere. i think it is terribly unfair to our men and women in uniform. they should not have a disproportionate share in our deficit-reduction measures. however, i feel confident that this issue will be resolved in the near term. i've had a conversation with the chairman of the committee on armed services as well as a number of other members of the armed services committee that are committed to making sure that we address it and that hopefully we come up with some alternative before this provision takes place, which doesn't happen, interestingly enough, until december of 2015. many georgians have served with honor in our military, and while the changes to their annual cost-of-living increase may appear insignificant on paper in this bill, this is real money promised to those who put their life in harm's way in defense of
this nation. and i want to assure our servicemen and women that there is ample time to address this issue before it takes effect and i'm committed to addressing it and i will not turn my back on those who fight and have fought for this country. that said, this budget deal is a necessary and crucial step towards a functioning congress. with passage of this budget de deal, we can close the book on discretionary spending arguments for the next couple of years. we can turn our full attention to entitlement reform and tax reform as congress debates raising the debt ceiling once again next year. also, with this bill we will no longer need to provide additional flexibility for defense spending. this bill will give the defense community the resources they need, number one. in conversations with top officials at the pentagon and within the intelligence
community over the weekend, they have urged the support of this bill as a way to address the current budget crisis. and i am extremely sympathetic to both those communities and wanted to make sure that whatever product came to the floor of the senate, that it did that and this bill does address the shortfalls as well as the flexibility issue in the defense community as well as in the intelligence community. i was pleased the approach that the budget chairmen took will not turn off sequester but will instead extend the mandatory cuts for an additional two years beyond what the budget control act proscribed, because as i see this, this is about an $85 billion fix on the sequester that keeps it from going too deep into the defense budget that had the potential for causing real problems within the pentagon as well as within the defense -- the intelligence community.
mr. president, with this budget deal, we can also put in place a 302-a budget allocation, the top-line number that congress can spend on discretionary spending. this will for the first time in several years allow the appropriations committee to do the job that is actually intended that they do. our appropriators have previously been forced to make spending decisions without a top-line number and through continuing resolutions. they had no information and no guidance from congress. it's no wonder that our spending has caught up with us. the country benefits when congress approaches the appropriation process through regular order and not through last-minute continuing resolutions. this agreement makes that process more likely. the budget committee chairmen have also made a gad-faith effort to -- a good-faith effort to attack the real problems in our budget by cutting money from mandatory
programs rather than searching for more discretionary cuts. in their agreement, they took notice of how often the federal government has given special treatment to certain groups and they have taken efforts to curb that. and while many outside groups may attack these reforms, they are representative of the types of reforms that will have to be included in any future agreement to achieve entitlement reform, which at the end of the day is where the real problem in our federal budget lies. mr. president, this deal does little to address the $17 trillion debt but it is a start down that road, and i truly hope this will lead to more serious discussions on the floor of the united states senate about our debt and a solution for how we're going to see that $17 trillion we paid. -- repaid. in all, mr. president, this budget deal represents a partial completion of the work the american people expect from us.
while far from perfect and leaves much to be desired, but the prospect of compromise on the single most important issue of our time requires the attention and serious looking by every member of this body. i will vote for the passage of this bill because it lays the groundwork for the next chapter in our pursuit of fiscal sanity. mr. president, for three and a half years now, senator warner and i have been involved in seeking out a much larger debt and deficit-reduction deal than what is currently before us. we know the american people are tired of out-of-control spending and don't understand why congress can't address our $17 trillion debt. it's not rocket science. the bowles-simpson commission gave us a road map three years ago this month and i regret that the white house has not followed the leadership of its own commission. but this bill represents a small
step towards the type of cooperation that will be necessary to comprehensively address our debt and deficit. it is my hope that this agreement allows that effort to restart in a meaningful way. and, mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: i would ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: mr. president, i wish we had had an agreement that is grand and great and would do what a lot of people have been dreaming of for some time that would put us on a sound financial path for decades to come. it's within our grasp, but it seems we are unable to make those choices or bring that forward. i really believe if the president had led, had given commitment to fixing our financial problems in america, that we could -- we could have done it in the last few years, but he's not, and so it's put us in a bad position and we end up with the agreement we have today which essentially would save some of the risk of government
shutdowns and reduce some of the tension which a lot of people think is great, and i do, too. it would be good for the country to have more predictability. it would be good for the defense department to have more predictability. it would be good for the financial community to have more predictability about what's happening in washington, but what occurred is not sufficient in any way, and it's been postured to look a good bit better than it is. essentially we remain on an unsustainable financial path in america. the numbers are real clear. we're seeing a reduction in our deficits in the near term, but the congressional budget office tells us in the next several years we will begin to see the relentless increase in deficits every year, reaching almost
$1 trillion again by the end of this ten-year window. that is not a good path to be on. we pay interest on the debt that we accrue each and every year, plus all the money we have borrowed previously. the amount is -- is notable. we have exceedingly low interest rates so that is not impacting us as much as it's likely to impact us in the future when rates go up, as they will return to the mean and we'll see rates go up. but just to point out, this agreement that's before us today, the legislation that's before us today spends $63 billion, $65 billion in the next two years. well, where does that money come from? essentially it adds to the debt, but we are told not to worry
because we have other cuts in spending, other fees that will come in that will eventually pay for it. but over half of the pay-fors occur outside the eight years that's left on the budget control act window, and the last two years of this legislation, this ten-year legislation. but the congressional budget office has scored that because we're spending more money sooner, money that has to be borrowed, it would add $7 billion to the interest payment of the united states over this ten years. so the claim that it's going to reduce net over time if every bit of this is adhered to, which our pattern is not to adhere to what we promised, but if we were to adhere to it over the ten years, the savings wouldn't be $22 billion, it would be $15 billion because we -- the
legislation supporters haven't discussed the interest costs of this gimmicked up bill where you spend more now and save later. it's just a very serious matter. so they say the sequester is horrible, the sequester is so bad that it just cannot be sustained, america will collapse and we will not be able to act in a compassionate way and be supportive of people in need or meet the basic needs of the government. speaker -- former speaker pelosi, now leader of the democrats in the house, said that the cupboard is bare. there are no cuts to make, no more cuts to make. she said that on september 21 of this year. there are no more cuts to make. well, there are plenty of more cuts to make. there are ways to save money. for example, the majority in the
senate changed the rules of the senate, using the nuclear option to ram through the appointment of three new federal judges. each one of those cost the taxpayers with their staff a million dollars a year, a million dollars a year. and they had -- it was for the d.c. circuit, which absolutely does not need these judges. they are not needed. the d.c. circuit has by far the lowest caseload per judge in america, even at the -- with the vacancies on the court. so what we should have done -- and i worked toward previously -- what we should have done is taken those judges and not filled them and moved it to other circuits that need judges that we're going to have to fill. that would have saved $3 million a year. that's just an example of the waste of money. it's the equivalent of burning a
million dollars or $3 million a year on the mall out here because those judges were not needed. so to say that there are no cuts to make, we can't reduce spending any more is not contract. it's all through the system. senator enzi said his state was prepared to take an 8% cut, but under the budget control act which includes the sequester, we are not cutting spending over ten years, we're increasing spending over ten years. we're just increasing it $2 trillion less than before. we were on path to increase spending at the time the budget control act was passed by $10 trillion, from $37 trillion to $47 trillion over ten years. that was the path we were on. we passed the budget control act and it said it would increase to $45 trillion instead of $47 trillion. so it would go from $37 trillion
to $45 trillion. that was the -- essentially what the agreement was. it passed both houses of congress. it had no tax increases in it. it was simply a commitment to contain the growth of spending, and it sharply reduced spending, it reduced spending in the near term, and after this year, though, spending is allowed to continue for the last seven years, eight years of the budget control act agreement. 2.5% a year annual increase every year after this year. so the -- so the cuts begin to bite this year, they were being felt this year, and what did congress do? it folded up like a house of cards. congress couldn't sustain the heat, couldn't honor the promise we made in august of 2011 to reduce the growth of spending just a little bit.
that was the promise to raise the debt ceiling $2.1 trillion. we agreed to reduce the growth of spending by $2.1 trillion over ten years. now, we already have hit the debt ceiling, we already borrowed another $2.1 trillion, so now we hit the debt ceiling again, but the -- but we're not honoring the promise to reduce spending. so what happened? the sequester said that we had to have more cuts this year, more reductions this year, and congress couldn't sustain it. it just couldn't. would not take the heat, and we came up with this new plan that's before us today to avoid a shutdown. so i guess we can see we have voted a shutdown, but we can also say that we did not do the right thing about spending in america. we have not faced up to the
challenge we have, because we have remained on an unsustainable financial path. we're going to be in a couple of years back on a deficit growth pattern that's going to be very serious and will threaten the financial future of america. that's president obama's simpson-bowles debt commission that has told us nothing fundamentally has changed in that. so we have our colleagues that are just anxious to have more taxes, more revenue, they call it. what they're talking about is more taxes. house minority leader pelosi says there are no more cuts to make, american people. we have cut all that we can cut. there is no more that we can cut. so now we've decided the problem is you, american people, you haven't sent us enough money. we demand, we insist, we require you to send us more money so we don't have to make any tough
decisions any more. we don't have to make the financial choices they made in wisconsin or alabama or wyoming, that every state and city has had to face during this financial crisis, and they are leaner and more productive and more efficient as a result of having to make those choices, frankly. but we don't have to because we want to have more revenue. and so after this august of 2011 budget control act passed that reduced spending over ten years by $2.1 trillion, the president signed and agreed to, had no tax increases in it, it was just a commitment that we would contain spending. that's what that agreement was, a spending containment bill, in january, president obama submitted a budget that just wiped it out, busted it wide
open. it would have added $1 trillion in new taxes and $1 trillion in new spending. wow. what kind of commitment was that to the american people? you sign a bill, you say you're going to do something, and before the ink is dry, you're proposing a different idea. it goes back on the very promise that was made, and eventually this year the senate democrats passed a budget, increased spending a trillion dollars, increased taxes a trillion dollars. that's what it did. a tax-and-spend budget. it's the same budget the president submitted each year. well, they said we're going to have a balanced approach. what they wanted the american people to hear when they said a balanced approach is we have a plan to reduce the deficit, and the plan is we're going to cut
some spending and we're going to increase some revenue. that was what they wanted the american people to hear. it was subtly and carefully crafted and carefully messaged, but that was not the truth. the truth was they wanted to spend more and tax more. that taxes were not used in a balanced approach to bring down the deficit from an unsustainable path that we remain on. the taxes were used to fund additional spending above the amount we agreed to in the budget control act of august of 2011. that's still in effect. it was -- unless this legislation passes and that's going to amend it. and that's the fundamental fact. our colleagues want to tax and spend. they say they've cut all that they can cut and they want to have more revenue, more money from the american people. just send it up here to us, a understanand we'll spread it ard
we'll do all the good things that we can dream of with your money. and we don't have enough of it. we want more. i don't think that's good for america. i don't think that's good for the economy. i think we need a vibrant private sector with growth possibilities and the opportunity to have innovation and creativity and the efficiencies that occur in the private sector that nowhere are affected in the government sector. we can't run this government. we've never managed the government effectively. it's so massive. we spend so much money. we need to be leaner, more productive. we need to decide areas in our country that we don't need the government to undertake and let the private sector handle that, wherever possible. and then we can manage a
smaller, more efficient government, and we need to extract then less money from the american people. but we've got commitments. we've got people -- we've committed to social security, we've committed to medicare, and we're committed to other issues of funding that we need to make sure we're honoring. but you can't -- at one time you can't -- you can't take money from medicare, our seniors' health care program, and then spend it and say you've strengthened medicare mandate it better -- and made it better because you've reduced its cost. that money needs to be used to strengthen the long-term viability of medicare, which is in great doubt. it is not on a sound path. and i just know that we can do better. we're going to have to face up to this. it's not going to be easy. it has challenges for us all,
but reductions in federal spending can work. for example, they say we need more revenue. well, have we got more revenue? yes, we have already. this budget control act did not include more taxes. the budget control act represented a $2.1 trillion in reduced -- reduction in the growth of spending. but in january of this year we passed a $600 billion tax on the rich, upper-income persons, and the obamacare legislation included a $1.7 trillion tax increase on top of that, and this bill adds $34 billion in fees and taxes. so is this not revenue around
here? so revenue is being increased, but the problem is, it's not being used to reduce our deficits. it's not being used to put it on a sound financial path. it's being used to advance more spending. and that's the danger we're in, and that's the danger we've got to watch. that's the danger that threatens us all. and i just know how seductive it is for us to think that we just can't reduce spending. the cupboard is bare, minority leader pelosi says. we can't cut anymore. well, we can. there's a lot we can do to make this government leaner, more productive, and we're required to do so. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. thune: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. thune: mr. president, i
was listening to the senator from alabama talk about the current budget discussion and debate that we're having on the floor, and i couldn't help but think of the discussion that we had when we were debating the obamacare legislation a few years ago and how many of us at the time were making the argument that this is the biggest expansion of government literallgovernmentin literally . and i think it is becoming increasingly clear that that was in fact the case. we're seeing dramatically more levels of spending. i think we're going to see dramatically higher levels of debt over time. but you would think with half a trillion dollars in cuts to medicare, half a trillion dollars in tax increases -- and when it is fully emblemed, i imt is much bigger than that. when fully implemented, it went to about $2.5 trillion. the passage of obamacare was stunning. you would think with that, you
would see some relief, if you will, in terms of the burdens that are being placed upon middle-class americans. but in fact we're seeing the opposite. many americans already are feeling the effects of obamacare, whether it is higher insurance premiums, canceled health plans, the loss of a doctor that they like. but it is middle-class americans, mr. president, who are going to be hit the hardest. lower-income families will face steep premiums and deductibles under obamacare, but they're going to get some help in the form of subsidies from the government to pay for some of their health care costs. of course, upper-income families are also going to face higher income costs. some premiums will rise by $4,500 next year. but affluent americans will be able to absorb those increases. but what about a middle-class family facing a $4,500 increase in health care costs, a family whose budget is already at its limit between housing costs,
school expenses, and grocery bills? that family won't be able to absorb those costs. that family doesn't have a spare $4,500 anywhere in its budget. for that family, the $4,500 will have to come from money that was aloe indicated for orthodontist -- allocated for orthodontist payments for money for a new car. back when the president was trying to sell his health care proposal to the american people, he promised that obamacare would "cut costs" and make coverage more affordable for families and small businesses" -- end quote. unfortunately, the last few months have made abundantly clear that this proble promise t being kept. middle-class americans are seeing steep premium hikes and soaring out-of-pocket costs. those americans who've been lucky enough not to have their plans canceled have been receiving insurance plan renewal letters with staggering premium
increases, in some cases double or even triple what they've been paying before. one constituent e-mailed me to tell thee that manx to obamacare -- to tell knee thanks to -- tot thanks to obamacare, her premium will increase by 45%, just for health care. that's more than most americans pay for their mortgage. americans whose health care plans have been canceled as a result of obamacare and who are being forced to shop on the exchanges are frequently facing higher premiums and drastically increased out-of-pocket costs. an article in "chicago business" a couple of days ago reported that an average chicago family with a mid-level health plan would go from a $3,500 deductible to a $10,000 deductible, if they obtained a similar plan in the exchange. that's $10,000 on top of the
$9,000 a year that family would already be paying in premiums. in federal exchanges, many families are facing deductibles as high as $12,700. barring catastrophic illness and injury, in many cases a family with doubles that high might as well not have insurance at all. many platinum plans, which are the high-end plans, for example, have no deductible at all. but as cbs news points out -- this was for a houston text texs family -- "that means shelling out $12,400 a year or about the same as the deductible for the bronze plans. either way, families and individual whose don't qualify for tax credits may find obamacare failing to deliver on
its promise of affordable health care." that's end quote. that is from cbs news and talking about a specific family in houston, texas. what makes it even swors -- and this is -- as the associated press reports, many families don't fully understand the expenses they're taking on when they sign up for plans with high out-of-pocket costs venal the associated press notes, "only 14% of american adults with insurance understand deductibles and other key concepts of insurance plans, according to a study published in year in the journal of health economics." if people with insurance don't understand it, it's likely that uninsured americans grasp is even fuzzier." end quote. that is from the associated press. a family shopping on the exchange fay snap up plans with relatively low premiums without realizing that in effect they are purchasing nothing more than catastrophic coverage that may leave them on the hook for thousands and thousands of
dollars in medical costs each year. madam president, so far i've talked about the direct financial consequences of the president's health care law. but his effects don't end with higher premiums and skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs. middle-class families will also take a financial hit thanks to the damage obamacare does to businesses. obamacare puts in place a slew of new regulations, new taxes, new fees on businesses large and small. businesses when faces with that will have two choices: they can absorb the cost of new taxes and fees, thereby reducing the amount of capital that they have to expand their businesses, hire new workers, or promote existing ones, or they can pass on these costs directly to their workers, further burdening families already facing steep health costs. it is a lose-lose situation. madam president, small
businesses are being hit particularly hard. susan gabay published a come up on saturday in the "washington times" in which she discussed the effect of the president's health care law and the effect that it is having on her business. thanks to obamacare, the health plan that she offered to her employees, was canceled. the new coverage she was offered contains a 48% premium increase, which she says, "translates into approximately $1,676 in added costs per year for every individual covered on our plan." madam president, that's $6,704 for a family of four -- increase in premium. that's approximately $44,000 in added annual costs for her business that otherwise could be used to hire a college graduate, she says. maybe her employees are getting
better coverage, right? thanks to obamacare's regulations. well, actually, the answer is no. let me read her answer to that observation. shshe says, "the response to our plight is that we're supposedly getting more, much better coverage. but that isn't true either. we have ahistorically provided our employees with 100% coverage for in-network preventive care and low out-of-pocket maximums. conversely, our new 'great alternative plan' offers comparable benefits with much higher out-of-pocket maximums." end quote. so again, madam president, thanks to obamacare, ms. gabay's business will pay more for health care and so will her employees, without either receiving any meaningful increase in benefits. as every middle-class parent wondering where money for the next dentist bill or tuition
payment will come from knows, america's economy is still struggling to recover from the last recession. burdening any business, particularly our nation's small businesses, which are responsibility for a majority of the new job creation in this country, is the worst possible thing that we could do for our economic recovery and for the millions of middle-class americans searching for better jobs and opportunities. democrats and the president made the american people a promise. they said, we will make health care more affordable. as long as obamacare is in place, that promise will continue to be broken. and middle-class families will suffer as a result. in fact, just recently, secretary sebelius, when asked a question in an interview about the health care plan, said, "there are some individuals who may be looking at increases. i think you cannot make a statement based on cost unless
you compare what they had to what they're going into." end quote. secretary i sebelius saying thee are some individuals who may be looking at increases. i think that's -- that is the understatement of the year. based upon the experience of literally millions of americans, some of whom have lost coverage entirely, but millions of americans who are suffering with the sticker shock of dramatic increases in the premiums that they pay for her health insurance coverage, dramatic increases in the deductibles that are available now under their policies and a dramatic decrease in the amount of money, the takehome pay that they have to meet the other obligations that they have for their families. this is a direct hit to the pocketbooks and the economic vitality and future of middle-class men's. -- of middle-class americans. madam president, i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
mr. mcconnell: madam president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mcconnell: earlier this morning, the senate voted to advance advance the ryan-murray budget agreement that passed the house last week. the legislation's been a topic of much discussion over the past several days and there are sincere arguments on both sides. while i appreciate the challenges that house and senate negotiators faced in crafting these budgetary guidelines, i voted against this legislation
because, in my view, congress should continue to adhere to the fiscal restraints that both parties agreed to under the budget control act. i was the principal republican negotiator of that agreement. i've been particularly invested in its success and was very proud of it. as a result of the budget control act, government spending has declined for two years, two years in a row, for the first time since the korean war. this was hard-won progress on the road to getting our nation's fiscal house in order. as i said, i fully appreciate the constraints that chairman ryan and chairman murray faced in their negotiations and there are clearly some good things to be said about their agreement. but in my view, we should not go back on the commitment we made under the b.c.a. nonetheless, this has been a very important public debate.
unfortunately, our colleagues on the other side do not seem terribly interested in substantial debate on this or any other substantive issues this week, least of all obamacare, which has been wreaking havoc on our constituents for months now but which democrats seem entirely uninterested in discussing. instead, for much of this week, the democrat-run senate has decided to devote its attention to pushing through nominations. nominations. they'd rather do that than spending time -- they want to spend time seating political appointees at places like the department of interior, positions that while they may be important, are certainly not in any way emergencies that need to be attended to right this second. meanwhile, out in the real world, millions of americans will continue to suffer under a law they told washington not to pass in the first place, a law that washington democrats still
stubbornly refuse to change in any meaningful way. our colleagues on the other side seem to think they have no responsibility to do anything about the impact of obamacare since the white house issued a press release declaring partial victory -- partial victory -- in fixing the web site. that's their whole approach to this rolling disaster -- let the white house dodge and deflect on any problem that arises until people forget about the last one. point the finger at some bureaucrat or some web technician and basically do nothing. well, we're now nearly three months into this national calamity and what we -- what have democrats done about the national calamity? well, they've issued a lot of talking points and some halfhearted apologies. they've mouthed nostrums about private-sector velocity. they've waived laws for fear of the political impact of leaving them in place, and there's hardly been any accountability for the massive consequences
faced by american consumers as a result of this failed law. in other words, they haven't done much of anything. they've treated this whole thing like a public relations problem to get past rather than a real-life problem for middle-class americans to be solved. they're engaged in daily battle aimed at one overriding goal -- protect the law. and yet nearly every day we hear more about its painful impact. since the october rollout, millions of americans have lost their insurance mr. president. more than 280,000 have lost coverage in kentucky alone. and so many are feeling the squeeze -- the squeeze -- of this law. folks like lionel lynch, a mom from brandonburg who told me the annual out-of-pocket expenses for her family rose from $1,500 to $,00 7,000 under obamacare.
and folks like barrett simpson from sweden, kentucky. barrett had a health plan he liked and wanted to keep, a $540-a-month policy that was, in his words, perfect, perfect for his family. the folks responsible for obamacare apparently thought they knew better than he did about the needs of his family so he lost it. here's what he had to say about that. "my plan is being eliminated because of the a.c.a., obamacare, and the cheapest closest plan will cost us $1,400 next year. we can keep the plan until the end of next year but we will have to pick a new one. we don't need the extra coverage for maternity, or vision or dental but yet we'll be forced to pay for it." and he continued, "these changes are absurd. most people in this country who were content with what they had are now paying for what obama is
trying to do for a very few." barrett closed his letter by asking me to work to repeal obamacare. well, barrett and lana should know this -- in fact, every kentuckian should know this, every american should know this -- the members on my side of the aisle hear you loud and clear. we're not going to give up this fight. no matter how much the other side tries to distract the country's attention, we won't be fooled and we know you won't be either. look, the folks each of us were sent here to represent -- not the government -- should be the ones choosing plans that make more sense for their families. and when our colleagues on the other side go around referring to insurance being lost as -- quote -- "junk," that's just because -- that's just beyond offensive to the people we represent. there's a lot of ivory tower thinking that goes on in this
city, way, way too much of it. it's time for our washington democratic friends to finally climb out of the ivory tower and see the reality of their ideas in action. to witness the failure of their policies firsthand. it's time for washington democrats to drop their refusal to change anything of substance in obamacare and it's time for them to listen closely to the people who sent us here in the first place. and here's what so many americans are saying. here's what they're saying. that they want democrats to start working with republicans to improve our nation's health care system in a positive -- a positive -- way. to help us implement real patient-centered, commonsense reforms that can actually lower costs and improve the quality of care. because we were sent here to solve problems, not to make them worse, as obamacare does. so let's erase that mistake. let's get rid of it and start over with real reform.
mr. sessions: madam president, i would ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sessions: i would like to continue to raise a simple point but a point of profound financial significance to america. one of the things that's happened in the bill that's before us today is there has been an extension of the 10-year
b.c.a. plan which was enacted two years ago, only eight years left, an extension of a 2% reduction in payments to providers -- hospitals, doctors, to medicare -- who provide services for medicare, treat patients and get paid by the united states government. so they were reduced 2%. and this is scored as a savings for the country and, in effect, it's perceived as a savings that allows us to spend more money somewhere else. and that savings, as was done in this legislation, involved the last two years, years nine and ten of the ten-year window from today. and it creates some money, they say, because we have reduced medicare costs and that we can spend that money today and this year and next year on nondefense and defense
discretionary spending, and we're going to promise to use the money we save in years nine and ten, outside the promise d.c.a. ten-year window, which is already moving along. what i want to raise is a deep and fundamental point. medicare is already in deficit. medicare is already spending more money to provide for seniors than is being taken in off people's paychecks every week. but medicare does have a trust fund, as part a does. social security has a trust fund. people have that money come off their paychecks every week when they go to work, and they believe, correctly, in my opinion, they have a right to receive the benefits of that. they're not happy. they believe america is going on the wrong track when we take
that money and spend it, therefore jeopardizing the confidence they should have that their retirement and social security is going to be in place. now, we know there are some deep problems with medicare and social security actuarially because there are people living longer and more people are retiring and we have to deal with some problems there, but what i want to say is the worst thing you can do is to do the things necessary to make medicare sound, tighten up payments to providers, perhaps, although there is a limit at some point to how much you can do there, and do other things to make medicare more financially stable, but you shouldn't see that savings as something you can spend on a new program. the entitlement programs that went into obamacare, the affordable care act, $500 billion of that money that supposedly was used to fund it
was based on reductions in medicare and some social security and other fund expenditures. saving money in those accounts. but those are trust accounts. they have trustees. and when they ran surplus, as they have done for many, many decades but not now, when they were running a surplus, the money was loaned to the federal treasury, and they spent it, but the federal treasury owes it back to them, and now that both of those programs are heading into steep fiscal decline, they're calling the notes. they're calling back the money that they loaned, the trustees of those organizations know who they represent. they help social security recipients. they represent medicare beneficiaries, and they are demanding their money, and they're going to get it and we're going to honor it. and so what i'm saying is you
can't count that money twice, and that's what mr. elmendorf, the director of the c.b.o., told us on d.c. 23, the night before the bill was passed on the floor of the senate, obamacare bill was passed in 2009. he said you can't count the money twice, and to suggest you are strengthening medicare and simultaneously providing a source of money to spend on the new obamacare program is double counting. he used the word double counting. how simple is this? and my question to him when he gave the letter -- and i asked him to put it in writing. i insisted that he did. he worked for us and he did what he was supposed to do. he said even though the conventions of accounting might suggest otherwise, you cannot
simultaneously use the same money to strengthen medicare and fund obamacare. that's what he said. so under our conventions of accounting, we have what we call a unified budget. the c.b.o. does it both ways, but the one that we talk mostly about, the one everybody focuses on is the unified budget. so if social security is a little better off, it's assumed that it's in the same pot. everything is in one pot, so anything that cuts expenses of medicare and social security to make them strong is utilized and considered to put more money in the pot to be spent somewhere else. and so i -- what is happening to us now is the unfunded liabilities in pension funds, retirement funds, medicare,
social security and other accounts is reaching unprecedent ed levels. some say nearly $100 trillion, and it's growing considerably, and this is a long-term threat to america, and this is a thing that several attempts have been made in recent years to fix, to confront, to put us on a sound path financially, with but it hs always failed. people can blame everybody and everybody is subject to blame, i assure you. however, i do believe that it's quite plain it will not happen unless the president of the united states leads and participates and says i want to fix it. he's basically saying we don't have a problem, that we're doing fine, and he's not willing to call on the american people and use his bully pulpit to lay out the challenges that we face and how we could put ourselves on a financially sound path without destroying the country.
we can do that. we really can do that, but it will take belt tightening in every aspect of our government and everybody should share equally in the belt tightening, not just a few, not just veterans. military people who have served 20 years and disabled veterans having their retirement cut as this legislation does. it needs to be something where everybody participates in tightening the belt, and we could get the country on a sound path. but i want to register again and i'm going to continue to talk about this because i think it leads to a false impression, it leads to the impression we have more money than we really have, and you can't use social security's money, medicare's money to fund obamacare, the defense department or nondefense discretionary spending. it's not possible to use that money twice. madam president, i thank the chair and would yield the floor.
mr. blumenthal: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. i ask unanimous consent that i be permitted to speak for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. blumenthal: thank you, madam president. over the weekend, the state of
connecticut and the country and the world commemorateed with grief and continued pain the first-year anniversary of the tragic massacre in newtown, and on the morning of saturday, one year after the newtown tragedy, i attended a church service, a beautiful, moving, powerful celebration of faith at the st. rose of lima church whose pastor monsignor robert weiss has been a great friend to many in the community and such a source of strength and comfort. later in the weekend, i visited with the family of erica robinson of west haven,
connecticut, who was shot and killed at a nightclub in new haven on october 26. this seemingly random act of violence left erica dead and five other individuals injured by gunfire. i have spent months and have been grateful for the experience with the families of those victims in newtown, and i was equally grateful to spend this time with erica's family, celeste and greg velcher at their home and i want to thank them for welcoming me to their home on that day. erica robinson was only 26 years old when she became a victim of gun violence, and she clearly
was a person full of joy and life and goodness for all of her 26 years and including the day that she perished. she was building a business, a clothing line, and as her business grew, a local store started selling that line of business, and those who knew her described her as hard working and driven, and she was compassionate. most recently, she released a special collection in honor of the breast cancer awareness month. she had enormous potential, she did everything right, she played by the rules, she stayed out of trouble, and she had the support of her two loving parents, and she was on track to fulfill the american dream, and now her life tragically has been reduced to a statistic unless we make sure that it is more than a statistic and that we work and fight to
make her legacy one of helping to protect others, helping to prevent gun violence and take victims like her who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time as she was that night in new haven when a shooter who was illegally in possession of a firearm in fact apparently on bail, turning to take as a victim someone else in the crowd that evening in the nightclub, and she became a victim that night, inadvertently, unintentionally, and five others were wounded. i have her picture here.
erica was more than a statistic. she was a person. and part of her clothing line was this small card that she fashioned herself. it's so regular for us to say you only live once, but do you deeply understand that it's real? what i am trying to say is be fearless. do things you always wanted to do. never let anyone hold you back. enjoy this thing we call life while we can. people going to talk regardless, so be you. forever, erica robinson. and may that legacy be forever. may that legacy be with us forever and inspire us to work as we have done on behalf of the families of newtown and as we
should be doing on behalf of the 10,000 other victims of gun violence since newtown. and the victims are not only the victims who have perished among those 10,000. they are others who have been injured like the five who were injured that night when the shooter at that nightclub in new haven was aiming for someone else and sprayed gunfire that killed erica, took her as a casualty but also injured others severely and traumatized countless others who saw or watched or heard what went on in that nightclub that night, an establishment that was legally licensed by the state of connecticut, legally licensed to entertain people and charge for their being there, an establishment that was the last place erica robinson knew.
such a promising young woman at the wrong place at the wrong time, a woman who could have contributed so much to new haven, to connecticut, to our country. a tragic loss for her family that continues to honor her life, her courage, and strength, and a tragic loss for all of us, and for the thousands of people who came to her funeral because she had already in those young 26 years, already touched so many lives. we owe it to her and to her family that her legacy will be one of protecting others like her, protecting others across america, regardless of the
neighborhood or the place in that neighborhood, whether it is downtown new haven, and urban area, or newtown, a suburban neighborhood. it should not matter where gun violence is a threat. we should eradicate it everywhere. and it should not matter who may be the victim of gun violence, what her background may be, her race, religion, anything about her. every human being, every person in the united states of america is deserving of protection that our society failed to give to this young woman. we do a great disservice to our nation when we fail to honor
those individuals who may not be in the headlines, who may not be from neighborhoods that we know but others that are unfamiliar to us. and we owe it to ourselves, not just to erica and her family, but to ourselves as a nation to do better and to make america safer. she deserved better from the greatest country in the history of the world, and we, as citizens of that country, deserve better and have an obligation to do better. and so we will, i hope, leave a legacy for her in her name that speaks to a safer, better america. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor.
hour. a number of items, could get questions on, the budget debate on the remaining items on the senate's agenda. the president is meeting with a number of high level tech companies today. "politico" is reporting that the white house is tapping the private sector for the next point man to fix the troubled obamacare website. they are set to announce an executive at microsoft will succeed jeff zeints in leading the overhaul of the embattled the healthcare.gov according sources with knowledge of that decision. mr. zeints is scheduled to head the economic council next year forcing the administration to quickly find his replacement. we'll take you live to the white house briefing when it gets underway. meanwhile here is discussion of u.s. trade policy from today's washington journal. heavy heavy joining us is sandy reback with bloomburg government he is the director of global business. >> guest: thank you very much.
>> host: there is picture of president obama, and joe biden talking with others about trade policy. what is going on? >> guest: in the second term of the palm administration the president obama has decided to try to reshape the global trading civil. he was during the first term more concerned about things like the affordable care act and dodd-frank legislation. he has turned oversees in imany ways. he has negotiations going on. trans-pacific partnership. another one to start with europe called the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. those are the two big ones going on. >> host: why focus on asia-pacific? >> guest: this is part of administration's so-called pivot to asia is a. there is concern in the boil tish shuns in the united states as well as some other countries in region that china has gotten powerful in the region. they have grown tremendously economically and grown militarily and diplomatically. the administration believes in things like trade agreements that is a way to assure u.s.
allies in the region that the united states will remain engaged in the pacific as china rises. >> host: there are charts that show the trade imbalance what the u.s. sends out and what the u.s. takes in. give us a sense how that applies to asia-pacific countries guest guest this deal they're -- >> guest: this deal was not that paying after deal until frankly this year. there was countries involved in the asia-pacific. a lot of them the u.s. already had trade agreements with. canada,, mexico, chile in south america. malaysia and vietnam are two growing markets coming in. this year japan decided to start the negotiations. united states has a pretty big trade imbalance right now primarily due to auto trade. japan sells a lot more cars here. we sell very few there. that is one of the things the administration is trying to address in the trade negotiation. >> host: it is very complicated. what is the essential parts of
this. what is the administration asking for and what are they looking for in return? >> guest: this is so-called, 21st century trade agreement what the admin said. they're looking to lower tariffs. when united states send products abroad to remove taxes countries put on those. in japan those generally speaking are fairly low. they're also looking to do things to kind of adapt trade agreements to the 21st century in their view. this means trying to insure that information flows freely across borders. if the united states has companies, have employees or customers overseas they can bring that information back and process it and do other things that they need to and also do things to put conditions on state owned enterprises. state-owned enterprises are corporations in vietnam for example, it is a good case of that. the government actually owns a number of, owns or controls a number of corporations. the idea in this trade agreement to try to put conditions on those that u.s. companies which
are privately-held can compete with those other companies. host trade agreements is topic going on for the first 45 minute segment this morning. if you want to ask our guest about what you heard not only about the asia-pacific deal and here is how you can do so. 202-585-381 for republicans. 202-585-3880 for democrats. 202-585-382 for independents. if you want to tweet us a question or comment do so at c-span wj. email us, firstname.lastname@example.org. because china is in the background. critics say this is way of containment for the administration. part of the reason they're focusing on this deal. talk about that comment and is there truth to it? >> guest: certainly there are people out there who think this is a way to try to contain china. i think others would argue china ask welcome to join this agreement. the administration said this would be a high standard agreement. in other words they want
countries to remove most of their barriers to trade and frankly china is not ready to do that yet. so it may be more of a midterm prospect for china to come into the agreement but i think the notion is both in this agreement in the pacific and the agreement with the europeans to raise the standard of trade and to give a standard for china to meet going forward. so i think that's probably the better way to look at it. >> host: are there similarities between the trade agreement between asia and trade agreement to europe? >> guest: there are some similarities. they start on basis of north american free-trade agreement negotiated back in the 1990s but there are important differences as well. with the europeans the united states are generally negotiating with countries with developed economies and more or less standards of living equal to the united states. in asia there are a number of developing economies where wages are lower, per capita gross domestic product is lower and that creates some of its own problems as well. there are certainly similarities but there are differences as
well. >> host: when it comes to the asia deal where are we on the timeline? >> guest: looks like we could be nearing close to the endgame. it is always perilous to predict when trade negotiations are going to end but there was a meeting in december among the chief negotiators. that seems to have resolved some issues. they kicked some back to the beginning of the year. some people speculated president obama has a trip to asia planned in april. perhaps there will be a real push to try to wrap it up in the april time frame. >> host: end this month and wrap things up this month? >> guest: that's correct. that's correct. there were, in many ways that didn't seem to be very realistic. it is unfortunate for the administration to try to put a goal out there and not reach it. what they have said is, look, we'd rather take our time and get the agreement right than to get it fast. so they have done everything they can to try to preserve the momentum of negotiations. you're hearing a lot of talk about this now which is a good indication things are come
together final stages the. >> host: are we just talking about goods oar services as well? >> guest: we're talking about services and that is a very important part of united states. the united states is very competitive in services trade internationally. think of things like financial services, insurance, health care services other kinds of services like that. generally speaking the united states has trade surplus with other countries in services trade. one of the big targets for the u.s. companies in this negotiation to try to open up the japanese market especially in areas like financial services and insurance. because u.s. companies see that as a big, big opportunity. services are real important part of this and increasingly important part of this as well. >> host: so sandy reback in 2012 we had $2.2 trillion in exports, about -- >> we will leave this "washington journal" segment to go live to the white hughes for today's briefing. here is spokesman jay carney. >> good afternoon. ladies and gentlemen, thanks for being here. thanks for coming to your daily briefing. before i take your questions i
have something to say about health care for seniors. you're catching on. today we're highlighting thanks to the affordable care act millions of seniors and people with disabilities have access to more affordable prescription medications and free preventative services through medicare. according to new data released by the centers for medicare & medicaid services today more than 25.4 million people covered by original medicare received at least one preventative service at no cost to them during the first 11 months of 2013 because of the affordable care act. the health care law is also closing the gap in prescription drug coverage known as the doughnut hole where people with medicare have had to pay the entire cost of prescription drugs out-of-pocket. as a result, since the health care law was enacted more than 7 million seniors and people
with disabilities have saved a total of nearly $9 billion on prescription drugs. that's an average savings of about $1200 per person. if opponents of reform had their way, and repealed the law, millions of seniors would not have access to prepreventative services under medicare and would once again have to shoulder the burden of higher, out-of-pocket costs for their prescription drugs. taken together, this is yet another way that the republican repeal plan would raise costs for millions of americans. i also wanted to mention that tomorrow president obama and first lady michelle obama will meet with a group of moms in the oval office to discuss how health care could help their families. moms are a key part of our ongoing outreach and enrollment efforts and have an important role to play in helping their adult children, family members,
and pierce to sign up for coverage -- piers. that i will take your question. i hope you noted the graphic, part of a pattern here. jim. >> thanks, jay. couple questions on the nsa decision yesterday ruling. does the ruling in any way effect reviews of nsa practices that are taking place at the president's direction? in other words is he asked for some of the concerns raised in this ruling to be considered as part of this review? >> well, first of all the ruling just came down as you know yesterday and for reaction to a martie like that i would refer you to the department of justice. i can tell you that doj has said, quote, we have seen the opinion and are studying it. we believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found and we have no further comment at this time. so that's obviously part after
legal review they're undertaking with regard to the review that the president asked for, the president's review group on intelligence and communications on friday submitted their report to the president. the president is grateful to the group. richard clarke, michael more rel, cass sunstein and peter squire several months for providing input for the administration to consider as we review signals intelligence collection being lead by the white house. it draws on the group members considerable expertise in intelligence, counterterrorism, civil liberties and law and privacy matters and on their consultations with the u.s. government privacy and civil liberties advocates in the private sector. as i mentioned yesterday over the next several weeks we'll review the review group's report and its more than 40 recommendations as we consider the path forward including sorting through which recommendations we will
implement, which might require further study and which we will choose not to pursue. we would expect the overall internal review to be completed in january and the president will deliver remarks. as i mentioned yesterday the review group's report we expect to be released publicly. >> i'm sorry, released what? >> publicly. >> next month? >> i don't have timing on that but we do expect it to be released publicly. >> will the review or the ruling subject of a discussion with the tech leaders who were here today talking to the president? >> we will have a fuller readout for you. that meeting was ongoing as i came down here. the, but as i mentioned yesterday or we mentioned yesterday, the president invites and are going to meet and currently meeting with executives from leading tech companies to discuss progress made in addressing performance and capacity issues with healthcare.gov and how government can better deliver
i.t. to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service. in the meeting the president also announced that curt delbene, most recently served as president of the microsoft office division will succeed jeff zeints as senior advisor to secretary sebelius in leading the charge, or our charge with healthcare.gov and the health insurance marketplace. he starts tomorrow. the group discussed the challenges around federal i.t. procurement. the meeting also is addressing national security and economic impacts of the unauthorized intelligence disclosures. so that goes to the subject of your question so it is certainly under discussion. i am not aware that the court ruling was part of that but again i don't have a full reedout for you as the meeting is ongoing. >> the government accountability project which aims to protect whistle-blowers argued today that this strengthens its position, the ruling strengthens
snowden's claims for whistle-blower status. i wonder if the white house has any reaction. >> again i have no comment on the ruling beyond what i cited from doj i would certainly repeat what i said yesterday that you know, it is, remains our view that mr. snowden is aexcused -- accused of leaking classified information and he faces felony charges here in the united states and he should be returned to the u.s. as soon as possible where he will be accorded full due process an protections. >> last question on the ukraine. putin today extended an offer to provide $50 billion in bond asset purchases as well as lower energy costs to ukraine. does the white house see that as interfering with the decision-making in the queue or -- >> what i can tell you we've
seen the reports of that agreement and we're reviewing, rather we're awaiting details and we'll review them when we see them but any agreements concluded between kiev and moscow will not address the concerns of those who have gathered in public protests across ukraine. as we've said in the past we urge the ukrainian government to listen to its people and to find a way to restore a path to the peaceful, just, democratic and economically prosperous european future to the ukrainian citizens aspire and we urge the ukrainian government to enter into immediate dialogue with the opposition and all other stakeholders who expressed their desire for a better ukraine through public demonstrations. again, we will look at the details as they become available at these agreement that is have been reported but they don't address the concerns that peaceful demonstrators have
expressed in ukraine. jeff? >> jay, can you tell us how curt delbene was chosen for this job? >> as you know the position at the secretary, at the department of health and human services. as jeff zeints has done, his successor, mr. delbene will be serving as senior advisor to secretary sebelius. and so the secretary obviously makes the choice. the search for the successor involved, in addition to the secretary and members of her team, certainly mr. zeints and and -- peace of technology and,
the president and the secretary are very grateful that he agreed to take on this position. >> he will be on the government payroll. can you tell us what he will get paid? >> i don't know the status of what el get paid or how much. i think we said in the past that mr. zeints was essentially volunteering but, taking i think, a small nominal salary. i don't know the case with mr. delbene but we'll get that to you. >> and can you give anymore details what gene will do with his last month in january? will he be involved with the budget bill staying a little longer? >> sure i will confirm that gene sperling will be remaining in his position through at least january, into early february to participate as he has so effectively over these many years in the process around the state of the union address that
the president will deliver a the end of january and to continue work on some of the issues that he has been focused on. so el also obviously assist in the transition to jeff zeints who will take over that position and we expect in early february. >> last question following up on snowden. he apparently has sought asylum in brazil. is the united states in touch with brazil about that request? >> our view, as i said earlier, has not changed. we believe that mr. snowden ought to be returned to, ought to return to the united states where he faces charges for leaking classified information and where he will receive full due process and protections. you know, the broader issues of, with regards to brazil and other nations, and the disclosures are one that is we discussed directly with those nations
through diplomatic channels and with our brazilian counterparts and that will continue. but when it comes to mr. snowden our views certainly haven't changed. bill? >> jay, nsa review panel's report. when did you say that would be released to the public? >> i said publicly. i don't have a date for you. as i mentioned yesterday we expect that it will be released. >> did you say january? clarify you said review would be completed in january? >> what i know is that our internal review, the word is being applied to several different things but the overall review that's happening here will be completed in january. the report, the review group's report which has been completed and submitted to the president will be release the publicly. i just don't have a date when that will happen. i suspect it will be no longer later than january. >> when again, jay. >> no later than january. could be sooner. i just don't have a date.
sorry. bill? >> what is the reason for not releing it now? if you're going to release the full report -- >> it is extraordinary, part of the committee's transparency this will be released. i just don't have a date for you. i -- >> would transparency argue releasing it now so we know what the panel recommended? >> i don't have a date for you bill. when it's released, which i expect will be between now and the conclusion of the review here at the white house you'll be able to examine its contents and make assessments accordingly but it is my understanding that it will be released publicly. ed henry. >> how are you, sir? >> good. >> want to talk to you a little bit about polls. i know we often talk about them, look we're not going to govern based on that but you said yesterday the president's hopeful still getting immigration reform done. assuming he has a lot on his agenda for 2014. if you look at "washington post/abc news poll" they say he ends his fifth year in office
with one of the worst approval ratings. only nixon was worst at end of fifth year. george w. bush was higher, bill clinton was higher, both parties. howe can you reasonably expect to get any big issues like immigration reform done next year? >> because it is the right thing to do. these are issues traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. they go directly to his promise to have as his top priority economic growth and job creation and creating a more secure and expanding middle class. because it is in the interests of democrats and republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform. that's what law enforcement groups say. that is what big business says. that's what small business says. that is what faith leaders say. that's what democrats and republicans in the senate say. it's what republican political leaders outside of congress say. so we think that that kind of
consensus demonstrates why it's so important that we get this done for our economy, for the effect that it would have, the positive effect it would have on increasing border security. for the effect it would have on creating fairness in the way that our laws are applied and fairness when it comes to employers and making sure they all play by the same set of rules. so that's why. i also think, you know, there's no question that the american people are frustrated with washington and with the seeming, if not inability then minimal ability to get the kind of things done that will address their lives and help them economically, especially the middle class. i think we've seen in recent days, including today, some
glimmers of hope that there might be a willingness to cooperate in a bipartisan way that we vane seen recently in the past especially out of the house of representatives. so for that reason i think, as we talked about yesterday, there's at least, the possibility of greater cooperation and progress on a range of issues including immigration reform. >> you've been on both side of this podium and you understand a president also needs to be able to move the public and that can move the congress. you made those arguments on immigration reform et cetera before. does he really still have the clout to move the public, to move the congress on these big issues when his approval ratings continue to sink? >> well, ed, again i, you won't hear an argument from me that everyone in washington is taking a hit because of washington's performance of late. now in recent days and weeks there has been, i think, some demonstrated improvement in
washington's performance when it comes to the budget agreement and also when it comes to the fact that we're seeing government, washington do some things that it is supposed to do. congress doing things it is supposed to do, like confirm qualified nominees for executive branch positions and for the bench. so this is progress and all we can do here in washington, everyone, in, congress and the administration is, get to work on the issues that the american people care about and hopefully when the american people see that washington is doing just that then they will see the resulting improvements in the economy and in their own personal lives that these initiatives are meant to address. so, you know, that is all we can focus on. i would also, you know, simply say that you know, this president has been focused on these issues since the day he
took office amidst the worst economic collapse of our lifetimes and he has been focused on them every day until leaves office. >> a couple quick ones on health care. you mentioned the microsoft executive coming in. vast experience operating complex operations. statements from bill gates, luminaries this person will be terrific and do a great job. why didn't the white house hire someone like this, summer, spring, a year ago to role out healthcare.gov? >> i think your question goes to the absolute acknowledgement that we've made that healthcare.gov had a terrible start. and there is no question -- >> but why didn't you go to the tech community and say, give us somebody who knows how to run a complex operation? >> i think it is fair to say given the experience we've had and given the improvement that is have been overseen by jeff zeints and continued improvements we expect to see under mr. delbene that, you know, we think that was the
right decision to make and obviously we would have much preferred a more successful launch and you know, if that, if that could have been affected by having somebody in the position in the past absolutely we should have had somebody in that position in the past. what i've think you you've seen me do and about the do and everyone involved in the effort do, acknowledge at the outset response to questions of this nature, yes, healthcare.gov got off to a terrible start and that is our responsibility. that is on us and that's why we were so committed to making improvements we made and why every time i get asked on the positive side, you know, aren't you pleased by the, dramatic increases in enrollments or by the -- >> error rate coming down. >> error rate, stability, answer is yes. we have work to do. yes, but we still have to deliver on the promise of the affordable care act which isn't, which wasn't a promise to