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

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Nov. 21, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, the bill we have before us today is a 2,074-page, multi-trillion-dollar bill written in the dark of night. This process brings back the worst of Washington. The substance of the bill raises taxes during a recession, compromises individual health care choices, cuts Medicare to pay for the uninsured and will eventually explode the deficit--the combination of which will jeopardize the finest health care system in the world without lowering costs. Today we are voting on the motion to proceed to the bill and I will vote no because this bill is broken beyond repair. Instead of proceeding to a flawed bill, we should stop and start over.

Despite President Obama's repeated statements that Democrats would legislate in an open and transparent manner, this bill was drafted in secret and Republicans were excluded. As a candidate and now as President Obama, he even went so far as to tell the American people that the negotiations would be broadcast live on C-SPAN. Instead of the change Americans thought they voted for, we have gotten more of the same.

The bill we are moving to consider will cost $2.5 trillion once fully implemented; nearly three times the official CBO score of $848 billion. The Democrats are playing a shell game to hide the true cost of this legislation. With this bill we get 10 years of taxes and only 6 years of programs. While some may claim that the bill is deficit neutral, the Federal Government's financial commitment to health care under this bill actually grows. Health care costs are not contained or reduced, they are simply offset by reductions and tax increases elsewhere in the Federal ledger.

A central premise of this legislation is that Congress will allow nearly half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts to go into effect. Congress has not had the political will to allow these types of cuts to stand in the past, so why should we believe that future Congresses will not follow suit. Case in point, the ``doc fix.'' When we passed the Balanced Budget Act in 1997, we included a formula to limit the cost growth in physician spending in Medicare. Congress allowed that formula to reduce payments to physicians only once and has not done so again. We leave the flawed formula in place and each year we act to block the scheduled cuts to physician payments instead of fixing the problem. This bill increases doctor payments by half a percent in 2010 and then assumes a 23-percent cut in 2011, budget gimmickry at its finest.

Medicare is currently $36 trillion in the hole, but as we have seen, Congress doesn't have the will to cut Medicare by fifty cents, much less $500 billion. When we tried to rein in Medicare costs in the budget in 2007, we proposed $33 billion in savings and only got two dozen votes.

In a nod to Congress' traditional actions, or lack thereof, Democrats even included an Independent Medicare Advisory Board that can cut Medicare provider payments if Congress fails to act. Cutting an already cash-strapped program is not the way to finance health care for the uninsured.

In addition to the nearly half trillion dollars in cuts contained in this bill, we get a half trillion dollars in new and increased taxes. The bill would tax Americans who choose higher cost insurance plans, it would tax employers for not providing health coverage, it would tax Americans for not buying health coverage, and it would increase the Medicare payroll tax on some Americans to fund a new health care entitlement program. In the midst of the worst recession this country has seen in decades, how can these job-killing tax increases be justified?

I believe the provisions contained in this bill are bad for America. We must work to enact policies that preserve patient access to care, rein in ever increasing costs in the health system while ensuring the viability of current programs, and promote choice. This bill is a budget buster that does none of those things.

Mr. President, I cannot support this bill.

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