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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009 - Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I say to my colleague, not only is David Broder's column this morning important, but he is probably the most respected columnist in America. He talks about it in far more eloquent terms than I can.

I ask my friend from Arizona--a very unusual event happened today. The majority leader, I guess proceeding on the concept, the age-old tried tactic of ``shoot the messenger,'' came to the floor of the Senate and excoriated David Broder, of all people, probably the most respected columnist. I might say, Mr. Broder from time to time has written an article or two or more that has been critical of me, but he always had my respect. For the majority leader, who cannot rebut the facts in David Broder's column, to come to the floor and excoriate one of the most respected columnists in America is remarkable.

One of the things, I say to my friend from Utah, is that I do not think Americans really understand the scam that is going on here of beginning to collect taxes. Tax increases and Medicare cuts of approximately $1 trillion begin 40 days from now. In other words, on the first of January, according to this plan, Americans will begin experiencing cuts in Medicare and increases in taxes, 40 days from now. But then it will be 208 weeks and 1,460 days before any benefits from the legislation come about.

Tell me, isn't that like a couple goes to buy a house and they say: OK, you can have the house for X amount. And by the way, you have to start making the payments now and for the next 4 years before you can move into the house. Is there anybody who would agree that is nothing but a scam on the American people? I do not think the American people truly understand the reason why--and why would they do that? To disguise the real cost of this $2.5 trillion bill. That is why they do it. I think Bernie Madoff went to jail for this kind of behavior.

Mr. BENNETT. I say to my friend from Arizona, he reminds me of a real-life experience of a husband who at Christmastime came back to his wife and presented her with a brilliant Christmas present that she had not been expecting. She said to her husband: How could we afford this because the only amount we had in our Christmas budget was--pick a number--$200, and this is obviously worth more than $200.

He said: Oh, don't worry about it. I paid $200 for it.

She said: How in the world did you get $200?

He said: The department store agreed to take the other $1,000 in payments later on.

That is exactly what is happening here. We are making a downpayment and telling ourselves that the total cost is covered as outlined by the Congressional Budget Office.

Mr. McCAIN. Again, it is so important that we read this hernia-inducing bill, that we understand the details of it. Specifically in these cuts, which are going to take place in 40 days--40 days from now; Happy New Year, America--in 40 days, it will cut $135 billion from hospitals, it will cut $120 billion from 11 million seniors on Medicare Advantage.

I would like to pause there for a moment. Senator Kyl and I represent the State of Arizona. We have thousands and thousands--and I am going to get the number before this debate is over--of seniors who are on Medicare Advantage. They are going to cut out the Medicare Advantage Program and tell the American people that if you like your insurance policy you have, you can keep it? How does that work? Then there is $15 billion going to be cut from nursing homes, $40 billion from home health agencies, and $8 billion is going to be cut from hospice care--my God, hospice care, $8 billion.

Here we are telling the American people that we are going to fix health care in America, and the way we are going to pay for the massive government takeover of health care is through cuts. It is terrible on its face, but does anybody really believe these cuts are going to take place? Does anybody really believe the doctors are going to be cut $247 billion in the next 10 years? Does anybody believe we are going to cut $247 billion--or whatever it is--from Medicare? We are not. Why are we not? Because we are a loving, caring nation. We are not going to tell our seniors that they are not going to receive a high quality of Medicare.

Of course, this latest mammogram incident where a board, not unlike the one that is envisioned in this bill, said that women over 40 should not have mammograms--by the way, I have a close friend, Carly Fiorina, who has just recovered from chemotherapy. What would her situation be today if she had not had a mammogram? Women all over America are rising up about it. If you think that is bad, wait until you get this legislation.

By the way, while my friends are standing, I would like to say please sit down, I have shocking news. The three Senators we were worried about--the Senator from Louisiana, the Senator from Arkansas, and the Senator from Nebraska--shocking news. They are going to vote for this bill to move forward. That was an issue of tremendous speculation with the media. I certainly did not know that with all the protestations we had from those three Senators that, by golly, they were thinking long and hard. Guess what. So, OK.

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Mr. McCAIN. Did the majority leader happen to notice that the AARP has now endorsed this bill? It has endorsed a bill that will cut people, 300,000 of them in my State, from their Medicare Advantage Program, that would cut $15 billion from nursing homes, that would cut $8 billion from hospices, and that AARP, which, by the way, I understand gets some $60-some million out of this deal--I say to the senior citizens in my State: Take your AARP membership card, cut it in half, and send it back to AARP because they have betrayed you.

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Mr. BENNETT. If I could make the comment, Mr. President, among the people who do not believe these changes would not occur is CBO itself. CBO itself agrees this is smoke and mirrors. They do it in very polite language, but let me share with you the language. They say:

These longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next 2 decades, which is often not the case for major legislation.

That is about as gentle a way as CBO can put it. They don't believe this thing is going to stand without these kinds of changes. Yes, they have come forward because their computers say: You put the numbers in this way, this is the result you get. But human beings are saying that is not what is going to happen over the next two decades.

Mr. KYL. If my colleague will yield, Broder, in his column as to this estimate of budget deficit, he says it depends upon two big gambles.

Will future Congresses actually impose the assumed $420 billion cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other Federal health care programs? They never have.

Mr. McCAIN. Also, I would like to follow up on what the Senator from Tennessee has said because, particularly from some quarters on the other side of the aisle, we have been attacked: Where is the Republican plan?

A very important article was written by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post on November 16--again, one of the most respected economists in America.

I don't lay off these opinions of my own on them, but the fact is, when you have highly respected people like Robert Samuelson, one of the most respected economists in America, I quote from his column--the title is ``Obama Care, Buy Now, Pay Later.'' That is the title of it. He says--which I think is directly in consonance with what the Senator from Tennessee said:

[A] prudent society would embark on long-term policies to control health costs, reduce government spending and curb massive future deficits.

Then he goes on to say:

So what do they do? Just the opposite. Their far-reaching overhaul of the health care system--which Congress is halfway toward enacting--would almost certainly make matters worse. It would create new, open-ended medical entitlements that threaten higher deficits and do little to suppress surging health costs. The disconnect between what President Obama says and what he's doing is so glaring that most people could not abide it.

That is strong language from an economist. I think what the Senator from Tennessee is saying, and what we are trying to say is, let's go forward. Let's have malpractice reform. That is nowhere in this monstrosity. Why don't we encourage health savings accounts and expand them? Why don't we let people go across State lines to get health insurance policies of their choice? Why don't we reward wellness and fitness? There is a long list of amendments, of fixes to the long-term costs of health care that we could control, that we could enact tomorrow on a bipartisan basis. They do not add to the deficit. In fact, what they do is control health care costs, which is what is wrong with health care in America.

The quality of health care in America is outstanding. It is the cost. We could be working together step by step, as the Senator from Tennessee says, with a long list. I am sure he will add to them the ones I just gave out to control health care costs in America. We stand willing to do it.

After this bill fails, because the American people overwhelmingly are beginning--it may pass the Senate. It may pass the House. It will not pass.

Then why don't we sit down together for a change, Republicans and Democrats, and move step by step to fix the health care problems in America?

Mr. ALEXANDER. The Senator from Arizona is exactly right.

There is no Senator in the Chamber who has a better record of working across party lines on bipartisan steps in the right direction than the Senator from Arizona. But going to Mr. Samuelson's comment--I was talking to a businessman this morning.

I said: If you had a problem in your company, would the first thing you would do is to tear the whole company down and start over again? Or if the football team had lost two or three games, would you blow up the stadium and run everybody off? No, that is not the way you do it.

The person I was talking to said: What I would do, I would identify the problem, I would test the solution, I would phase it in, and I would make sure we can afford it.

The American people know that. I think they are sitting up there looking at us saying: What are these guys doing? Two-hundred-fifty million of us have health care policies, 85 percent. We would like for the rest of America to have that opportunity too. But we know we can't afford that until we get the costs down.

Why don't we do as the Senator from Arizona suggested, let's move step by step in the right direction to re-earn the trust of the American people by reducing costs?

He said: Why haven't we done that? One of those steps is to allow small businesses to pool their resources and purchase a health plan, which the Congressional Budget Office has said would allow nearly 1 million more employees of small businesses to be covered. Their rates would be lower than they are paying today. It would save $1.4 million of Medicaid. This is what the Congressional Budget Office said. So it would reduce costs, increase insurance coverage, and lower premiums. The reason we are not considering it is because when we brought it up, the Democrats said no. They filibustered it. They didn't come across the aisle and say that is a pretty good idea; let's put that together with two or three of ours, and we will reduce costs.

I say to Senator Bennett of Utah, you have founded a company. You have run a company. If you were having a problem with the cost of a product or some other fundamental problem, is the first thing you would do, is to think you were wise enough to tear the whole thing down and start over again? Or if you called in a consultant and he recommended that to you, what would you say to him?

Mr. BENNETT. Obviously, I would not respond in the way the folks across the aisle have responded to this health care crisis. The example the Senator has given is a valid one. That is not how you deal with it.

The other point I would make is that if I had a serious problem that was causing difficulty for the survival of the company, I would not put the solution off for 4 years while I raised prices on the existing products to try to pay for it. I would try to do what I could to get the fix upfront as soon as possible.

As both Senators have pointed out, we Republicans have fixes that could start now and don't have to wait until 2014 in order to get a good CBO score.

Mr. McCAIN. Along those lines, again, about this Madoff-type budgetary procedure, I am not that good at math. I am sure the Senator from Tennessee is. Help me out.

We have $1 trillion that they want to make in offsets, right, in this 10-year plan. If you started the program at the same time that you enacted the savings, that would be $1 trillion, right? That would be $2.5 trillion. So the deficit, if you used correct accounting procedures--in other words, you bring in the benefits at the same time you start paying for it--you would end up with a $1.5 trillion deficit to the budget? Does that make sense?

Mr. ALEXANDER. It sounds right to me. It is another part of the arrogance of this bill, which is to say we are not smart enough to figure it out. The majority is saying the 10-year cost of the bill is $849 billion, but it doesn't start counting until the fifth year, and Senator Reid thinks the American people are not smart enough to figure that out. That is part of the arrogance of the bill.

Mr. McCAIN. If the benefits kicked in at the same time the taxes did, you would be talking about a $2.5 trillion cost.

Mr. ALEXANDER. That is $2.5 trillion, right?

Mr. BENNETT. I point out the CBO makes the same point at these 10 years. Again, quoting the CBO letter, talking about the 10 years following, when you have the full 10 years of expenditures instead of just 5 or 6 years of expenditure, it says:

Under the legislation federal outlays for health care would increase during the 2010-2019 period, as would the federal budgetary commitment to health care.

So those who are saying this is going to be a saving to the government and you are going to turn the cost of health care--turn the cost curve with respect to health care down, the CBO has said: No, that is not the case. The Federal commitment would go up in those years.

Again, by delaying the implementation of the expenditure while implementing immediately the implementation of the revenue, they are creating the kind of financial chicanery that, as Senator McCain has said, put Bernie Madoff in jail.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I bring up another issue to the Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from Arizona and Utah. A New York Times article this week stated: ``Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform.''

Even as drugmakers promise to support Washington's health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the Nation's drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.

In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale price of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That would add more than $10 billion to the nation's drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.

So the moral of the story is, you lie down with dogs and you get fleas. So they cut a deal with the administration to cut drug costs, and guess what. With inflation zero, no inflation, they have decided to raise costs by more than 8 percent. Oh, the Consumer Price Index has fallen by 1.3 percent. The Consumer Price Index has fallen by 1.3 percent, and the prescription drugs have increased in cost by 9 percent.

What does this do to seniors? Seniors are not going to get a COLA in Social Security this year because the consumer price index has fallen--which is the indicator as to whether cost of living adjustments are given to Social Security recipients. So what does the drug industry do? Without inflation, they raise the cost of prescription drugs by some 9 percent at a time when Americans are hurting more than ever. Shame on the drug industry. Shame on those people, and shame on the administration for cutting a deal with them.

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thank both Senators from Utah for their thoughtful comments and significant involvement. I wish to return to the issue of what we need to do. I say that because criticism has been leveled at this side of the aisle that we have no plan; therefore, since we have no plan, we should embrace this. The fact is, we have had plans. We have had proposals. We have tried to get them listened to. They range from medical malpractice reform to other free market cost reduction measures that add competition and quality to the health care system. Our objective is affordability and availability.

I want to talk with the Senator from Tennessee about the issue of medical malpractice reform. Here is a huge piece of legislation. Yet I ask my friend from Tennessee, is there any measure in this bill we have been able to detect so far--we have been able to detect $100 million in additional Medicaid benefits for the State of Louisiana, but we haven't been able to determine all of the aspects of this bill. On the issue of medical malpractice reform, physician after physician in America says they have to practice defensive medicine for fear of finding themselves in court. Why is it that we have literally no addressing of an issue that could significantly reduce cost?

As I recall, the CBO said that medical malpractice reform could reduce direct medical costs by some $54 billion over 10 years. There are other estimates that say if we added in the cost of the practice of defensive medicine over prescription medicines and drugs because of fear of finding themselves in court, this could be as much as $200 billion. Yet there is not one significant addressing of the issue of medical malpractice in this legislation. I think that is a testimony to the influence of the American trial lawyers association.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Mr. President, I would say to the Senator from Arizona, that is a part of the problem. But I think of it a little different way. There has been a lot of talk this week about medical care availability for women in America. In Tennessee, in 45 of our 95 counties, there are no OB/GYN doctors. So pregnant women in Tennessee in those counties have to drive 50, 60, 70 or 80 miles for prenatal health care. They might have to check into a hotel for a few days in a big city in order to have their baby.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I add, the mirror opposite of that is the State of Texas which was hemorrhaging medical doctors and care providers and then, after they enacted a very modest malpractice reform, there was a flood of physicians returning to the State of Texas. Isn't that the case?

Mr. ALEXANDER. That is exactly right. In fact, a number of us have offered to the Senate, as a part of the way we would go about reducing health care costs, basically adopting the same kind of provisions they did in Texas which still leaves anyone who is hurt, a complete right to recover from that injury, but makes a major change in the availability of doctors to that patient. And in the case of Tennessee, we were talking about OB/GYN doctors to women who are about to have babies. The Senator from Arizona said that would save at least $54 billion over 10 years. No one doubts that reform of medical malpractice, junk lawsuits against doctors, would reduce costs. The point we are trying to make here is, instead of that historically arrogant 2,074-page bill that presumes we know enough to change every aspect of health care in America, why don't we re-earn the trust of the American people, who have lost a lot of confidence in those of us in Washington, and start taking steps in the right direction to reduce cost? We could do it by adopting our legislation to reduce unwarranted medical malpractice suits. That would be one step.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I revisit with the Senator an issue we talked about a little earlier and with my friend from Utah as well. This is the recent spate of publicity concerning a recommendation that women wait until 50 years of age before--I see our physician Dr. Barrasso is here also--getting routine mammograms. That ignited a firestorm throughout America and story after story of women who have experienced breast cancer who state categorically that if they hadn't gotten the mammogram when they did, it is possible they would not be alive today.

Now that is a nice academic discussion. But I would ask--maybe Dr. Barrasso would answer it--isn't that the kind of advisory board this legislation could put into law; that those kinds of mandates could come down, which could literally jeopardize the health and lives of Americans?

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I would say to my colleague and friend from Arizona, this type of legislation would have cost my wife her life. She is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed by a routine screening mammogram. She was in her forties when that mammogram was performed. She went through the testing and had the operation. In that age, in her forties, she already had the breast cancer spread from her breast to one of the lymph nodes. It was a screening mammogram that saved her life. She has had three operations, two bouts of chemotherapy. As a result, she is a survivor--6 years later.

But this piece of legislation says: No, no, do not worry about it. There is not going to be any denial of care. There is not going to be anything like that. But if you turn to page 1,150, it talks specifically about this preventative task force, specifically saying when they make their recommendations there is going to be money that taxpayers are going to pay to tell people what those recommendations are. Then, if you go to page 1,190, it says that if it is not approved, they will deny payment for that service--deny payment. It does not say they might.

Mr. McCAIN. I say to the Senator, you would not describe that as a ``penal panel''?

Mr. BARRASSO. Some people might.

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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator.

Could I go back, again, and reemphasize with my colleagues and the American people what is very odious about the bill that is before us; that is, the Madoff-style budget gimmickry associated with this legislation. In 40 days--in 40 days--tax increases and Medicare cuts of approximately $1 trillion will begin--in 40 days. That is 6 weeks from now. But any benefits that would accrue from this legislation would begin in 208 weeks--1,460 days.

So why in the world would we approve--and, obviously, we know why it is done. It is to make the budget look better, when it is deception being perpetrated on the American people because we are not telling them the true cost. We are not telling the truth because, if the benefits started at the same time the taxes started, it would be a $2.5 trillion deficit over 10 years.

It is unfair to the American people, who are going to have to foot the bill for this massive piece of legislation--it is unfair to them to tell them they are going to have to start paying the taxes and footing the bill for it and only 4 years later would any benefits come to them. I think that is a really wrong thing to do to the American people.

Do you know what. The American people are beginning to figure it out. Mr. President, 51 to 35, the American people do not want this. The American people do not want an increase in the deficit. They want the spending stopped, and they are figuring it out. I am afraid my friends on the other side of the aisle may have underestimated the intelligence of the American people.

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