SMALL BUSINESS TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - July 30, 2007)
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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, 10 years ago a Republican-controlled Congress created and passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program. It targets the health care needs of poor children whose families make too much to be eligible for Medicaid but are still in danger of not being able to afford private health insurance.
In many ways, this program, SCHIP, is a remarkable success. The rate of children in America living without health insurance dropped 25 percent from 1996 to 2005. Last year, 6.6 million children had health care coverage thanks to SCHIP, including more than 50,000 in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Those are some truly astounding numbers.
There is a lot of good in the current SCHIP law that we should reauthorize, but at the same time, we should also modernize and improve it.
Our goal should be to continue to target those low-income children who fall between the cracks and go without health insurance. And we should seek out those children who are eligible for SCHIP, but currently go without, and bring them into the program.
Unfortunately, I have serious concerns with the bill that the Finance Committee sent to the floor. I do appreciate all the hard work of the ranking member, Senator Grassley, as well as Senator Hatch, who is one of the original authors of this program. However, the committee's bill is a dramatic departure from current SCHIP law: It will significantly raise taxes, increase spending, and lead to government-run health insurance.
Funding for this proposed massive increase in spending relies not just on a massive tax increase, but also on a budgeting gimmick. Their plan will increase SCHIP spending every year for the next 5 years, with projected spending of $8.4 billion in 2012.
Then suddenly in 2013, like magic, spending would drop to only $400 million--a decrease of $8 billion in one year. That's not because the funds won't be needed--rather, it is a sleight of hand needed to fit the program within the bill's funding limits.
But does anyone seriously think Congress will decide to cut SCHIP by $8 billion in one year, so that millions who rely on it will lose their health insurance? Of course not. Future Congresses will go back and spend more, and this proposal will end up costing exponentially more than its current price tag.
Under this scenario, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the total cost of this bill over the period from 2008 to 2017 is actually $112 billion--$41 billion more than the advertised price.
And most of this increase will go toward people that SCHIP was never meant to cover.
The expansion proposal we are considering here on the floor will allow SCHIP coverage to extend to families with incomes as high as 400 percent of the Federal poverty level--even though 89 percent of children in families with incomes as high as 300 to 400 percent of the Federal poverty level already have private coverage.
The bill also includes a tax increase, when the American people are already taxed too much. So I hope we will have a free, open debate on this bill, and every Senator will be allowed to offer ideas to improve it.
Senators LOTT, KYL, GREGG, BUNNING and I will propose an alternative measure called the Kids First Act. It refocuses SCHIP to help the people it was designed to help: low-income children.
While considerably less expensive to the taxpayers than the Finance Committee's bill, it's worth noting that many States, including Kentucky, would fare better next year under the Kids First Act than under the committee bill.
Our plan is fiscally responsible and focuses Government assistance on those who really need it. I urge all of my colleagues to seriously consider it.
Many Senators have also worked exceedingly hard to craft comprehensive measures addressing the uninsured in America. I applaud their efforts, and look forward to having a full and open debate on the Senate floor about their ideas.
I especially want to recognize Senators BURR, COBURN, CORKER, DEMINT and MARTINEZ for their work in this regard.
As we begin to consider SCHIP legislation, this Senate should focus on reauthorizing a program that works, instead of transforming it into a license for higher taxes, higher spending, and another giant leap toward government-run health care.
Legislation like that will not receive a Presidential signature. But this Senate can craft something that will. Let's work toward that and produce a bill that focuses on the true goals of SCHIP--providing a safety net for kids in low-income families.
I also have here an editorial from today's Wall Street Journal that describes many of the problems with the committee's bill I just detailed. I ask unanimous consent that it be printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
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