The Week Just Past
"The headlines this week were filled with stories about the Senate Finance Committee's vote to approve its version of the President's health care bill. However, the fact is, their bill will never come before the Senate, nor the House.
"We don't know what the final bill will contain but what we do know is that the bill to be actually voted on by the full House and Senate will be written behind closed doors by the White House and the Senate and House Leadership in the Capitol with no opportunity for bipartisan input.
"And it is very likely that it will be well over 1,000-pages and will slash a half-trillion dollars from seniors' Medicare, add new taxes and raise premiums. That approach is not worthy of the label reform'.
"The American people want reform, not a trillion-dollar experiment that increases taxes on families and small businesses, cuts Medicare, and jeopardizes the private health coverage that millions have today.
"Americans want lower health care costs and greater access to quality health insurance, but that's not what the current Senate and House bills do. It puts us on the path to government-run health care and will lead to higher premiums, higher taxes, fewer jobs, and fewer benefits for seniors at a price tag our nation cannot afford.
"There are common-sense solutions to lower health care costs and increase access to affordable insurance -- all without destroying jobs, exploding the deficit, or putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions that should be made by doctors and patients. Unfortunately, these ideas are not even being entertained by the Majority Leadership.
"It's time for Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid to scrap all of these big government-run plans and work with All of their colleagues to make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans."
Recommended Reading: From Tuesday's Washington Post: "Mayo Clinic Faulted for Limiting Medicare Patients, Critics Say Move Shows That Facility Is Not a Model for Health-Care Reform"
"Junk Lawsuit" Reform Works
Anyone who has sought treatment from a doctor or hospital is aware that doctors often order numerous tests, examinations and procedures, first and foremost, to ensure proper treatment of their patients. However, some physicians find themselves practicing defensive medicine' -- ordering unnecessary and expensive tests to protect themselves from legal liability in the event that they face patient lawsuits. In many of these cases, the costs of litigation and defensive medicine are passed off to the patient in the price of health care. By placing a reasonable cap on unquantifiable damages, we can help reduce costs and pass on the savings to patients.
Yet, notably absent from the Senate Finance reform' bill, and indeed, from every one of the House Majority's health care proposals, is an effort to reduce junk lawsuits, or tort reform.'
Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that revealed that billions of dollars would be saved on health care costs by implementing tort reform' now. The report found that addressing liability reform would reduce health care spending by an estimated $11 billion in 2009. The CBO also found that a national tort reform effort could reduce federal budget deficits by roughly $54 billion over the next 10 years!
Among the reforms reviewed in the study, CBO considered a cap on pain and suffering damages first on its list of lawsuit reforms that would lead to significant cost savings.
President Obama has said he wants to establish demonstration projects' to measure the effectiveness of tort reform. This study and the states that have already passed laws are proof enough that tort reform works. We don't need to test tort reform. We need to enact it.
Speaker Pelosi Forges Ahead On A Second Stimulus
At Speaker Pelosi's urging, the House Majority Leadership was scrambling this week to design a new plan to boost the economy as unemployment hurtles toward double digits, after months of insisting that talk of another stimulus package was premature.
Among the new' ideas apparently under consideration for inclusion in a new stimulus' package: a tax credit for hiring workers, accelerated depreciation for new equipment, more aid to the states and another one-time check to Social Security recipients. A host of tax break extensions seems likely to be included, as are extensions of unemployment benefits and health care subsidies for the recently unemployed.
"The fact that the Speaker is even talking about another stimulus' package proves that the first one was poorly-conceived, poorly- crafted and poorly-executed," Rodney said. "The only location in the nation that has seen a net increase in jobs, not surprisingly, is Washington, D.C. - where the federal bureaucracy is growing government jobs like weeds. In terms of creating sustainable private sector jobs, the trillion dollar stimulus has been an abject failure -- a failure for which our children and grandchildren will pay for generations."
Support for the Homeland Security bill
With Rodney's "yes" vote, the House yesterday approved the final version of legislation that will fund the operations of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the current fiscal year. However, before voting in favor of the bill, Rodney supported a motion that would prevent the Obama Administration from transferring terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the United States for criminal prosecution.
"The question is not whether terrorists should be brought to justice. Of course they should! The question is where and how," Rodney said. "And the answer should be perfectly clear to the President: the right forum is military commissions at the very secure and modern facilities we already have at Guantanamo, not in civilian courts in U.S. communities."
Two days after his inauguration, President Obama announced his intention to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay within one year. This clearly will not happen as the Administration has still yet to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with the dangerous terrorists currently held in Cuba, and elsewhere, for that matter, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The President should not have set an arbitrary deadline for closing this facility just to satisfy a political campaign pledge," Rodney said. "Instead of taking unilateral action that could put our nation at risk, the Administration should outline a comprehensive strategy for keeping these terrorists off U.S. soil and for guaranteeing that they can never return to the fight' against America and the West."
Overall, the final version of H.R. 2892, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2010, includes $44.7 billion for the operations of DHS, the Coast Guard, FEMA and other agencies including Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The bill provides $800 million for border fencing, and extends for three years the authorization for the E-Verify program, in which employers can check the legal status of workers.
"Ensuring homeland security starts with controlling our borders and ports of entry," Rodney said. "This additional funding for border fences is, therefore, extremely important."
The final bill also doubles current spending for installation of explosive detection systems for airports and surface transportation.
House Boosts New Sanctions on Iran
In Moscow on her first trip to Russia as Secretary of State, Secretary Hillary Clinton said this week that the time had not yet come for more sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. (That statement might be related to the fact that she was unable to gain any concessions from the Russian government on this key issue, despite the fact that the Obama Administration made a huge concession to the Russians by scrapping missile defense sites in Eastern Europe!)
She quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying sanctions against Iran might be inevitable, adding, "we are not at that point yet. That is not a conclusion we have reached. And we want to be very clear that it is our preference that Iran works with the international community...to fulfill its obligation on inspections."
It is clear that time is on the Iranians side as they continue to hide nuclear facilities, defy U.N. resolutions and drag their feet in negotiations with the international community. And each day brings them closer to nuclear weapons capability.
In this context, the House this week approved H.R. 1327, the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act. This legislation, which Rodney has cosponsored, would provide support for states, municipalities and colleges and universities which chose to divest from persons or institutions that do business in Iran's energy sector. Today, states all over America are ending their institutional support of firms that prop up the Iranian economy by divesting their pension funds from companies investing in Iran's petroleum sector. This bill would amend the Investment Company Act of 1940 to shield any registered investment company from civil, criminal, or administrative action based upon its divesting from securities in support of Iran's oil and gas business.
"The energy sector is a key part of Iran's economy and attacking investment in this sector could be very painful to Tehran's regime," Rodney said. "With respect to diplomatic efforts to end Iran's nuclear enterprise, we would be wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Ratcheting up sanctions gives our diplomats another set of tools to get Tehran's attention."
New sanctions or measures to tighten existing sanctions would send a strong signal to Iran's Islamist dictatorship that its support for terrorism, duplicity on its nuclear program, and widespread human rights abuses will trigger increasingly severe repercussions. Tehran is likely to end these actions only if the regime is convinced that failing to do so would bring consequences that threaten its own hold on power.
Recommended Reading II: Matthew Levitt writing for Middle East Strategy at Harvard on October 10: "Afghan Hezbollah? Be careful what you wish for"
Bad Idea of the Week: Paying OPEC if we STOP using their Oil
This from Wednesday's New York Times:
"Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers."
After OPEC has had oil consumer nations over a barrel' for decades, we should remain over a barrel' if we slow our use of their product?
Census Seminar: Maximizing New Jersey's Count
In an effort to maximize local participation in the upcoming 2010 Census, Rodney will conduct a Census Seminar tomorrow in Somerville.
"Across the nation, more than $300 billion in Federal funding is distributed annually to states, counties and municipalities and community program based on formula derived from Census figures," Rodney said. "In a state which time and time again gets shortchanged on the return of our tax dollars from Washington, it is vital that everyone be counted! This meeting is designed to enlist the support of local leaders to assure the widest possible participation and then most accurate count of everyone in our communities."
The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at the Somerset County Human Services Building, 27 Warren Street, Somerville.
Representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau will be on hand to explain the importance of the task ahead and to answer questions about the Census process.
Rodney previously held two similar seminars in Morris County.