DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - October 26, 2005)
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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, yesterday I spoke on the floor about the need for fiscal responsibility and the need to pass a deficit reduction bill to get our fiscal house in order. These are serious times, difficult for our country and for many of our citizens. Americans are demanding bold and immediate action.
The Senator from Oklahoma, Dr. COBURN, made some important remarks on the floor last week. I want to associate myself with them. Senator Coburn talked about a distant rumble, a rumble at the grassroots level, the sound of hard-working Americans who are getting increasingly angry with out-of-control Government spending, waste, fraud, and abuse.
This rumble is becoming a roar, and it is the sound of the growing frustration of the American people. It is a sense of increasing disgust about blatant overspending, our inability to make the tough budget choices the American people make every day, and our unwillingness to make priorities rather than spending our children and grandchildren's future.
I am very pleased the Senate Republicans are developing a deficit reduction package that will cut Government waste and reduce Federal spending. The fiscal discipline comes at a critical time. There are many wasteful practices of Government, and I will look at one of them today in Medicaid.
In New York, there was a dentist who overbilled Medicaid, claiming to perform as many as 991 procedures in a single day. It was also reported that school officials in New York have enrolled tens of thousands of low-income students in speech therapy without the required evaluation. This created more than $1 billion in questionable Medicaid payments for their districts. In fact, one Buffalo school sent over 4,000 students into speech therapy in a single day without talking to them or reviewing their records.
In Illinois, another dentist cheated Medicaid out of more than $200,000 in bogus payments. This man falsely claimed to treat abused children in the care of the State's child welfare agency for 7 years.
In California, a Medicaid fraud scheme involved more than 15 clinical laboratories that illegally billed over $20 million for tests that were never authorized by physicians.
In Florida, an ophthalmologist wrote prescriptions for a single drug worth over $2 million over a 2-year period.
The list goes on and on. We are talking about Medicaid fraud and abuse, not medical care for the poor. The Government Accountability Office reports that perhaps 10 percent of all Medicaid spending is questionable or fraudulent.
We must stop this waste. The Republican deficit reduction package will create some needed accountability to this program.
I have heard objections to these savings from those who believe that these savings will fall on the poor. This is absurd. We are trying to catch a thief, not hurt the poor. If we let billions and billions continue to be wasted, stolen, or embezzled, that will hurt the poor. This is a small amount compared to the overall budget. This plan, this total deficit reduction plan we are talking about, which includes the changes in Medicaid, will reduce mandatory spending by only $35 billion over 5 years, which is less than one-half of 1 percent of total spending this year.
These spending reductions represent only about one-third of the reductions Congress passed in 1993 and 1997. In 1993, Congress passed a reduction package that trimmed about $78 billion. That is 2.6 times greater than what we are talking about today. Unfortunately and curiously, many Democrats who supported this larger effort in 1993 are opposing our modest downpayment today.
In 1997, Congress passed a reduction package that trimmed about $89 billion. That is over three times greater than what we are talking about today. Unfortunately and curiously, many Democrats who supported this larger effort in 1997 are opposing our modest downpayment today.
This plan, this $35 billion reduction, is a small amount to ask in the context of our total budget, and it is only a downpayment on our future deficit. We need to do much more.
I cannot understand why some of my Democratic colleagues will not support this modest effort, given all the waste, fraud, and abuse we have in Government today. I find this opposition intriguing because many of these same Senators supported similar measures that were far more substantial. In fact, in 1993, they thought $78 billion in savings was not big enough. Here is a quote from Senator Kerry from Massachusetts:
My own personal view is we have not cut enough where we could have and should have cut more.
And Senator Dorgan from North Dakota:
I favored a more robust deficit reduction by cutting another $100 billion in wasteful or low-priority spending.
Senator Biden from Delaware:
Specifically I want more spending cuts.
In 1997, when Congress cut $114 billion, my Democratic colleagues applauded it and some wanted more. Senator Byrd of West Virginia said:
If the budget resolution included only the aforementioned spending reductions, I would likely be standing on the floor today declaring my unequivocal support for its passage.
Senator Conrad from North Dakota:
I rise to support the budget agreement. I believe it is a modest step--I want to emphasize ``modest''--in the right direction.
And Senator Durbin from Illinois:
This budget package cuts 115 billion over 5 years, without excessive new burdens on seniors ..... This budget cuts only $13 billion from Medicaid over 5 years ..... On balance ..... the spending package ..... [is] worthy of support.
I think it is important to note that 33 of my current Democratic colleagues were in the Senate at the time and supported the deficit reduction package. I am deeply troubled by the apparent flip-flopping around here. We hear a lot of talk from my Democratic friends about the need to keep our fiscal house in order, but then they offer amendment after amendment to increase spending.
Mr. President, I know this is difficult to read from where you sit, but these are the amendments to add to the budget this year by Democrats which totaled $460 billion.
During the debate on the budget resolution, they tried to increase spending by $192 billion--here on our Democratic ``spendometer.'' During debate on the emergency supplemental, they offered amendments to increase spending by another $10 billion. During the debate on the various appropriations bills, they tried to increase spending by another $253 billion. I think all of this shows us something, something the American people understand very well: Democrats are not for keeping our fiscal house in order. They are for higher spending and higher taxes. Rather than making modest reductions today, they prefer to spend, spend, spend. This new spending sets them up to tax, tax, tax. We need to wake up. We cannot keep spending and taxing, taxing and spending.
There is no problem too big for America to solve if we have the commitment and the strength to do it. The time for excuses and obstruction is over. I am here today to appeal to every Senator to support our deficit reduction package that will help cut the cost of Government so we have all of our strength to secure America's future.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.