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Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009--Resumed

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009--Resumed -- (Senate - December 08, 2009)

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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, we are in the middle of a very important debate about whether we are going to move forward and make sure our people in America have health care. That is what it is about. I am going to throw out a few numbers that are always on my mind as I talk about this issue. One of them is 14,000. Every day, 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance. It is not because they did anything wrong. A lot of times it is just because they get sick and their insurance company walks away from them or they may reach the limit of their coverage, which they didn't realize they had, and they are done for. They could lose their job and suddenly they can't afford to pay the full brunt of their premium. They could get sick and then all of a sudden are now branded with a PC--and that is not a personal computer, it is a preexisting condition--and they can't get health care.

So we are in trouble in this country, with 14,000 Americans a day losing their health care, and a lot of them are working Americans. As a matter of fact, most of them are working Americans. Sometimes a child, for example, will reach the age where they can no longer be covered through their parents' plan, and the child might have had asthma. When they go to the doctor, they beg the doctor not to say they have asthma. I have doctors writing to me saying that parents are begging them: Please, don't write down that my child has asthma; say she has bronchitis because when she goes off my medical plan, she is going to be branded with a preexisting condition. So 14,000 Americans a day, remember that number.

Then, Mr. President, 66 percent, that is the percentage--66 percent--of all bankruptcies that are due to a health care crisis. People are going bankrupt not because they didn't manage their money well or they didn't work hard and save but because they are hit with a health care crisis and either they had no insurance or the insurance refused them. The stories that come across my desk, as I am sure yours, are very heartbreaking. So people are going bankrupt. They lose their dignity, they lose everything because of a health care crisis.

Yesterday, I brought up a couple of numbers--29 out of 30 industrialized nations. That is where we stand on infant mortality. We are not doing very well. It is no wonder; more than 50 percent of the women in this Nation are not seeking health care when they should. They are putting it off or they are never getting it. No wonder we don't do well with infant mortality.

Now, why don't women do this? Because they either don't have insurance or they do not have good enough insurance or they can't afford the copay or they are fearful. They are fearful that maybe if they go this time, the insurance company will say: No more.

We rank 24 out of 30 industrialized nations for life expectancy. My constituents are shocked to hear that. They are shocked at the infant mortality ranking, and they are shocked at the life expectancy ranking. I have heard my Republican friends try to rationalize this: Well, it is because our population is diverse--and all the rest. This is the most powerful, richest Nation on Earth. There is no reason we have to be 24 out of 30 in terms of our life expectancy, especially when we know so much of our problem deals with about five diseases--diseases such as diabetes, which can be prevented and certainly treated.

The last number I will talk about is 45 percent. The average family in America, by 2016, if we do nothing, will be paying 45 percent of their income on premiums. Now, this is disastrous, and 2016 is around the corner by my calculations. So that means more and more of us will not be able to afford insurance, and we are going to show up at hospital emergency rooms. That costs a lot and the outcomes are bad and America will continue on this downward spiral in relation to our health care system.

Why do I take time to talk about this issue? It is because we need to keep our eye on the big picture, and the big picture is not a pretty picture for our people right now. The status quo is not benign, it is not neutral, it is cruel. Every one of us could wake up in the morning having lost a job and having no health care. So what we are doing is going to help every American, and I think one of the best things we do in the underlying bill is to make sure that health care premiums are affordable for everyone. That is the key, and we do it in a number of ways.

But, Mr. President, in the middle of all this, we have an amendment that would roll back the clock on women's rights. I am here to say, as I said last night--and I am happy to see other colleagues joining me--it is unacceptable to single out one group of people--namely the women of this country--and tell them they can't use their own private money to buy an insurance policy that covers the range of reproductive health care. Why are women being singled out? It is so unfair.

We have had a firewall in place for 30 years. It said this: No Federal funds can be used for abortion, but private funds can be used as long as abortion is legal, and it is. Roe v. Wade made it legal in the early stages of a pregnancy. Women have had that right.

Well, this amendment says there is one group of people we are going to treat differently. We are going to take one procedure, that only applies to them, and say they can't buy health insurance for that procedure--only if it is a separate rider, which everyone knows is unaffordable, impractical, and will not work.

I don't see any amendment saying to men that if they want to have a procedure that relates to their reproductive health they can't use their own private money to buy coverage for it. No, it is not in there. We don't tell men, if they want to make sure they can buy insurance coverage through their pharmaceutical plan for Viagra, that they can't do it. No, we don't do that, and I wouldn't support that. It would be wrong. Well, it is wrong to single out women and to say to the women of this country that they can't use their own private funds to purchase insurance that covers the whole range of reproductive health care.

You have to look behind this amendment to understand how pernicious it really is. I have five male colleagues on the other side of the aisle who were on the Senate floor for at least an hour or so talking about this amendment, and one thing about each and every one of them, they want to make abortion illegal. There is no question about it. They want to take away a woman's right to choose, even in the earliest stages of the pregnancy, even if it impacts her health, her ability to remain fertile, or her ability to avoid a very serious health issue such as a heart problem, a stroke. They do not want to have an exception for a woman's health. No question, that is what they want.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's 10 minutes has expired.

Mrs. BOXER. I ask unanimous consent for an additional 30 seconds, and then I will turn to Senator Lautenberg.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mrs. BOXER. So to sum up my part, the amendment that has been offered by Senators Nelson, Hatch, Vitter, Brownback, et al., hurts women. It singles out one legal procedure and says: You know what. You can't use your own private funds to buy insurance so that in case you need to use it for that legal procedure, you can. So I hope we will vote it down.

I yield the floor, Mr. President, and note that Senator Lautenberg is here for 5 minutes. Oh, I am sorry. May I say that the order was Senator Murray for 5 minutes to be followed by Senator Lautenberg for 5.

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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I thank Senators MURRAY, LAUTENBERG, and CARDIN for participating in our half hour of debate. Our block of time has almost expired. I would like to close the half hour by saying one word that I think is a beautiful word, and that word is ``fairness.'' ``Fairness'' is a beautiful word. It should always be the centerpiece of our work here. We should never single out one group of people as targets. We should treat people the same.

It has been very clearly stated that the Nelson-Hatch amendment, like the Stupak amendment in the House, singles out an area of reproductive health care that only impacts one group, and that is women. It says to women that they can't use their own private funds to buy coverage for the full range of reproductive health procedures. It doesn't say that to a man. It doesn't say to men: You can't use your own funds to cover the cost of a pharmaceutical product that you may want for your reproductive health. It doesn't say that they can't use their own private funds for a surgical procedure they may choose that is in the arsenal that they may choose for their own reproductive rights.

So we say to the men of this country: Look, we are not going to single out any procedure or any pharmaceutical product you may want to use for your reproductive health care. We are saying, if a private insurer offers it, you have the right to buy it. We are singling out women.

Again, let me say this as clearly as I can. We have had a firewall between the use of Federal funds and private funds. Senator Reid has kept that firewall in place in the underlying bill. He keeps the status quo of the Hyde amendment. The group here who is coming on the floor continually--mostly men; I think so far all men; there may be some women who have spoken on their behalf, but I have not heard it--are basically saying: Forget the firewall. Forget it. Women, you cannot use your private funds, and government will tell you what you can or cannot do. I will tell you something. That is not what Uncle Sam should do. Uncle Sam should respect women, should respect men. I hope we defeat this amendment.

I yield the floor.

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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I gave birth to two beautiful children, and I am proud to say that I have now four grandchildren--the light of my life. I am just here to say as a mother, as a grandmother, and as a Senator from California that I trust the women of this country. I don't want to tell the women of this country--or tell anybody else anything like this--that they can't buy insurance with their own private money to cover their whole range of legal reproductive health care. We don't do that to the men. We don't say they can't get any surgery if they might need it for their reproductive health care. We don't tell them they can't get certain drugs, under a pharmaceutical benefit, they may need for their reproductive health care. Imagine if the men in this Chamber had to fill out a form and get a rider for Viagra or Cialis and it was public. Forget about it. There would be a rage in this Chamber.

We are just saying treat women fairly. Treat women the same way you treat men. Let them have access to the full range of legal reproductive health care. That is all we are saying. Vote no on this amendment, the Nelson-Hatch amendment, because Harry Reid takes care of the firewall between private funds and Federal funds. We keep that firewall.

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Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, before we turn this over to the Republican side, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a letter from religious leaders who support maintaining the underlying bill and who oppose this amendment, and they are: Catholics for Choice, Disciples Justice Action Center, The Episcopal Church, Jewish Women International, Presbyterian Church Washington Office, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Union of Reform Judaism, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Methodist Church-General Board of Church and Society, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

We are proud to have their support for our position.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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