SMALL BUSINESS TAX RELIEF ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - August 02, 2007)
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, when this debate first began, I came to this floor to say that SCHIP has proved to be, in many ways, a remarkable success for this Nation.
Thanks to a program passed by a Republican-led Congress 10 years ago, the rate of uninsured children in America has dropped by 25 percent from 1996 to 2005. Last year, 6.6 million children had health care because of SCHIP--and over 50,000 of them were in my home State of Kentucky.
SCHIP has accomplished what it was designed to do: protect children in low-income families, families too well off to qualify for Medicaid but still needy enough to have difficulty affording private insurance.
When the program came up for reauthorization, this Senate's goal should have been to retain what works, and to strengthen the law in areas where it has been misused.
Unfortunately, that is not what happened. SCHIP was originally created to help the needy. But it is clear the authors of this new proposal have overreached.
Some have seized the reauthorization of SCHIP as a license to raise taxes, increase spending, and take a giant leap forward into the land of government-run health care.
The problems with this bill are numerous, and I have spelled them out on this floor before. Because of a budgeting gimmick, the current bill, H.R. 976, will end up costing $41 billion more than advertised.
It will raise taxes at a time when the American people are already taxed too much by more than doubling the Federal tax on tobacco.
It will leave open loopholes allowing some States to raid their kids' health funds and use the money for adults. The ``C'' in ``SCHIP'' stands for children.
It will allow families in certain States who make as much as four times the Federal poverty level to still qualify for SCHIP insurance. A family of four in New York City making as much as $82,600 could qualify.
That means thousands of families in New York alone will be poor enough to receive SCHIP--yet also rich enough to pay the alternative minimum tax, a tax designed specifically to target the so-called ``wealthy.''
By luring people away from the private market, H.R. 976 will eventually remove 2 million people from private health coverage.
Senators Lott, Kyl, Gregg, Bunning and I saw the problems with this bill, and proposed an alternative. The Kids First Act would have reauthorized SCHIP and ensured that states had sufficient resources to cover all of the kids already enrolled.
It would have added an additional 1.3 million children to the program by 2012. And it would have done all of this without raising taxes or increasing the deficit.
The Kids First Act kept the focus on SCHIP's true goal: protecting low-income children.
Many States, including Kentucky, would actually have had more SCHIP funds to spend on kids under the Kids First Act than under the bill on the floor. I am sorry the Senate did not see fit to adopt our proposal.
I know many Senators worked their hardest during this debate to craft comprehensive solutions for the uninsured in America. I appreciate their efforts. I look forward to continuing that work.
Unfortunately, so much effort has not produced an answer. This bill is unlikely to receive a Presidential signature. Nothing will have been accomplished. We will have to pass a temporary extension of SCHIP, and then go back to the drawing board for a long-term reauthorization.
When we do, I hope the Senate can stay focused like a laser beam on what SCHIP is truly all about: providing a safety net for kids in low-income families.
I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to craft legislation that can meet that goal, pass this Senate, and be signed into law.
But for now, the bill on the floor will not accomplish that. I intend to vote ``no.'' And I urge my colleagues to do the same.