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Transportation, Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Conference Report - Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, one of the troubling aspects of this conference report is that the appropriators air dropped three very significant spending bills into the text during conference. In other words, three bills without any debate, discussion or amendment were air dropped into this pending legislation. The three bills are the Labor-HHS-Education, financial services and general government, and the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bills. Combined, these three bills spend over $237 billion and contain 2,019 earmarks. It is remarkable and unacceptable that the Senate is willing to approve expenditure of such huge sums without the opportunity to debate and amend their content.

I see the Senator from Hawaii, who will say: This is the way we have had to do business before. We have to do this because of the pressure of time, the fiscal year ended, et cetera, et cetera. Again, we get back to this old line that we heard for an entire year and even early this year about change, about how we were going to change things in Washington. We are going to change the way we do business.

President Obama said about the last omnibus bill passed last March, 3 months into the Obama administration:

The future demands that we operate in a different way than we have in the past. So let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand.

What are we doing today? The exact same thing that we were doing before.

Here is a quote from the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel about the last omnibus bill. This is the one we weren't going to do anymore.

Second, this is last year's business.

He was talking about the one we passed in March.

And third, most importantly, we are going to have to make some other changes going forward to reduce and bring more--reduce the ultimate number and bring the transparency. And that's the policy that he enunciated in his campaign.

Bob Schieffer:

But it sounds to me like what you're--what he's about to do, here, is say, well I don't like this but I'm going to go ahead and sign it--

Talking about the last omnibus bill--

but I'm going to warn you, don't ever do it again. Is that what's about to happen here?

Emanuel:

In not so many words, yes.

And then, of course, the Senate majority leader said about the last omnibus:

We have a lot of issues we need to get to after we fund the government, something we should have done last year but we could not because of the difficulty we had with working with President Bush.

I wonder if we are going to blame President Bush for this one. If it rained, if it didn't rain? We blamed him for almost everything. Whatever it is, let's blame President Bush. The point is, what this bill is, and another one that will be coming up in a couple days, is exactly the same business as usual, a porkbarrel-laden bill with increases in spending when the American people are hurting in the worst possible way. The American people are hurting and the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill has $11.3 billion or a 7-percent increase in spending over last year's spending level. Where are we? This is America. Americans are hurting. There is 10 percent unemployment. People can't stay in their homes. They can't keep their jobs. We are passing a piece of legislation with 1,749 earmarks just in the Labor, Health and Human Services piece of over $806 billion.

Do you want to hear a few of them? They are fascinating. Here is my favorite of all--there are a lot of good ones--$2.7 million to support surgical operations in outer space at the University of Nebraska. I assure my colleagues, I am not making that up. That is an appropriation in this bill. Let me repeat: $2.7 million to support surgical operations in outer space. There are a lot of compelling issues before the American people. Surgical operations in outer space at the University of Nebraska? I guess the University of Nebraska has some kind of expertise that they need $2.7 million so we could support surgical operations in outer space. I wonder when the next surgical operation is scheduled in outer space? Maybe we ought to go into that.

I will be spending more time on the floor on this. But $30,000 for a Woodstock film festival youth initiative? Woodstock was a pretty neat experience, but do we need to spend $30,000 to revisit that one? There is $200,000 to renovate and construct the Laredo Little Theater in Texas. The next time you are in Laredo, be sure to stop by the theater and see $200,000 of your money which is going to renovate and construct this little theater. There is $500,000 for the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth; $200,000 for a visitors center in Bastrop, TX, a visitor center there in Bastrop with a population of 5,340 people. We are going to spend $200,000 of my taxpayers' dollars to build them a visitor center. There is $200,000 for design and construction of the Garapan public market in the Northern Mariana islands; $500,000 for development of a community center in Custer County, ID, population 4,342. If my math is right, that is about $100 per person. Right here in our Nation's Capital, $200,000 to the Washington National Opera for set design, installation and performing arts at libraries and schools. They have an operating budget of $32 million. Their Web site says the secret of its success is due to its position without the crucial government support typical in most world capitals. Then, of course, we always get back to Hawaii: $13 million on fisheries in Hawaii, nine projects throughout the islands ranging from funding the bigeye tuna quotas, marine education and training, and coral research.

The list goes on and on. The next time you are in New York, go to Lincoln Center. We are spending $800,000 of your money for jazz at the Lincoln Center. Jazz lovers, rejoice. For those who are not jazz lovers, we have $300,000 for music programs at Carnegie Hall; $3.4 million for a rural bus program in Hawaii. Apparently, the $1.9 million in the 2009 omnibus was not enough. In other words, we gave $1.9 million for this rural bus program in Hawaii so we have to now give them $3.4 million more.

Custer County, ID, with a population of 4,342, as of the year 2000--I am sure they have grown since--$500,000 for development of a community center in Custer County, ID.

The list goes on.

Then, of course, it is loaded with controversial policy riders that should have been debated in the Senate.

In the Department of Labor bill, the conference rescinds $50 million from unobligated immigration enforcement funds under section 286(v) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This will result in a decrease in the enforcement of immigration law. I guarantee you, if that provision had been debated here on the floor of the Senate, that $50 million would never have been removed.

The conference agreement includes new language providing authority to the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the agency charged with carrying out the Department of Labor's international responsibilities. This may be a worthy program, but it should be addressed in legislation.

There are so many other policy provisions in this bill which have not been authorized, which is supposed to be done by authorizers.

The conference agreement provides $35 million for the Delta Health Initiative. The Delta Health Initiative provides a service to individuals in only one area of the country, the delta region of Mississippi. I have visited the delta region in Mississippi, and there are severe health needs. But couldn't we authorize this program? Couldn't we authorize it? Couldn't we have the proper debate and discussion?

The list goes on and on.

Of course, there is $25 million ``for patient safety and medical liability reform demonstrations'' that was not included in the House or Senate. Medical liability reform demonstrations--there is a demonstration project already in being. It is called the State of Texas, where they have reduced medical malpractice costs dramatically, and the physicians and caregivers are flowing back into the State of Texas.

Mr. President, I will be talking more later this afternoon about all the pork and earmarking that is in this bill.

I have to tell you that the anger and the frustration out there is at an incredibly high level. Those of us who--I am sure most of us do--spend a lot of time at townhall meetings and hearing from our constituents know there is a level of anger out there, the likes of which I have not seen before. Here they are, hurting so badly because they cannot keep their homes and their jobs. My home State of Arizona is No. 2 in the country of homes where the mortgage payment is higher than the home value--48 percent of the homes in my State. So here we are with 10-percent unemployment, with deficits--this year of $1.4 trillion--and there are dramatic increases, a 7-percent increase in spending in one, a 14-percent increase in spending in the other, and they do not get it. They do not get it. They do not get it. Americans are having to tighten their belts.

My home State of Arizona is in a fiscal crisis. They are having to cut services to our citizens because we cannot print money in Arizona. They only print money here. And here we are with Omnibus appropriations bills with as high as a 14-percent increase in spending, loaded down with billions of dollars worth of porkbarrel projects.

I predict to my colleagues that the anger out there will be manifest in a number of peaceful ways, including in the ballot booth. They are sick and tired of this. I saw a poll yesterday where the approval rating of Members of Congress has fallen below that of the approval rating for used car salespersons. I think it was at 4 percent, as I recall the poll. I have not met any of the 4 percent. I have not met anybody who approves of what we are doing.

This exercise we are in right here, on December 11, 2009, with a pork-laden Omnibus appropriations bill which frivolously and outrageously spends their dollars when they are struggling to keep their heads above water is something that is going to be rejected sooner or later by the American people. I have warned my colleagues that the American people are sick and tired of this. They did not like it before. Now they are fed up with it.

We will be hearing more this afternoon.

So, Mr. President, I rise today to raise a point of order under rule XXVIII against H.R. 3288, the Omnibus appropriations bill. I do this to ensure that this bloated legislation is not permitted to proceed to full consideration by the Senate.

Specifically, rule XXVIII precludes conference reports from including policy provisions that were not related to either the House or the Senate version of the legislation as sent to conference. Several provisions included in division D--the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act--of this omnibus bill are out of scope and were never considered on the floor of the Senate.

Mr. President, I raise a point of order that the conference report violates the provisions of rule XXVIII.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?

Mr. ALEXANDER. If I may finish my point.

What does this bill do? It would cut $1 trillion from Medicare. I ask the Senator from Arizona, if the program is going broke and you cut $1 trillion out--and then it has been suggested over the last few days that we add several million more people into Medicare--what do you suppose the result would be?

Mr. McCAIN. The answer is, obviously, that I don't know.

I would like to say to the Senator from Tennessee--and Dr. Barrasso is here as well--a lot of Americans have heard of the Congressional Budget Office. I am not sure many have heard of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Are they not the people whose entire focus is not on the entire budget, as CBO's is, but just on Medicare and Medicaid, so that they can make determinations as to the future and the impact of various pieces of legislation on specifically Medicare and Medicaid? Is that a correct assessment?

Mr. ALEXANDER. The Senator from Arizona is exactly right. I believe I have my figures right. I think Mr. Samuelson said in his column the other day that in 1980 the Federal Government was spending 10 percent of all our dollars on health care and today it is 25 percent. And this is the agency in charge of most of that massive Federal expenditure every year.

Mr. McCAIN. I thank my friend. Because the findings as of December 10, 2009, which is entitled ``Estimated Financial Effects of the `Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009,' as Proposed by the Senate Majority Leader on November 18, 2009,'' have some incredibly, almost shocking results, I say to my friend from Tennessee.

We know the bill before us does not bring costs under control. But as I understand this--and it is pretty, may I say, Talmudic in some ways to understand some of the language that is in this report, but is it not true that the Reid bill, according to this report--this is not the Republican policy committee but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services--doesn't it say:

The Reid bill creates a new long-term insurance program--

Called the CLASS Act--

that the CMS actuaries found faces ``a very serious risk'' of becoming unsustainable as a result of adverse selection by participants. The actuary found that such programs face a significant risk of failure and expects that the program will result in ``net Federal cost in the long term.''

I would like to mention two other provisions to my friend from Tennessee and Dr. Barrasso, who is very familiar not only with this center but with Medicare and Medicaid services.

The Reid bill funds $930 billion in new Federal spending by relying on Medicare payment cuts which are unlikely to be sustainable on a permanent basis. As a result--

According to CMS--

providers could ``find it difficult to remain profitable and, absent legislative intervention, might end their participation in the Medicare program.''

The Reid bill is especially likely to result in providers being unwilling to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients, meaning that a significant portion of the increased demand for Medicaid services would be difficult to meet.

They go on to say:

The CMS actuary noted that the Medicare cuts in the bill could jeopardize Medicare beneficiaries' access to care. He also found that roughly 20 percent of all Part A providers (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) would become unprofitable within the next 10 years as a result of these cuts.

Finally, he goes on to say:

The CMS actuary found that further reductions in Medicare growth rates through the actions of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board--

Which is one of the most controversial parts of this legislation--

which advocates have pointed to as a central lynchpin in reducing health care spending, ``may be difficult to achieve in practice.''

This is a remarkable study, I say to my friend from Tennessee.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I thank the Senator from Arizona for being so specific about this and making it clear that this is not a Republican Senator talking, this is a Republican Senator reading the report of the Federal Government's Chief Actuary for the Medicare and Medicaid Program. Senator Barrasso, a physician for 25 years in Wyoming, brought to our attention some of these things earlier this week when he pointed out what this also says.

Isn't the point that if we keep cutting Medicare, there are not going to be any hospitals and any doctors around to take care of patients who need care?

Mr. McCAIN. May I also ask, in addition to that question, has Dr. Barrasso ever heard of the CMS being biased or slanted in one way or another? Isn't it one of the most respectable and admired objective observers of the health care situation as far as Medicare and Medicaid are concerned?

Mr. BARRASSO. My answer to that is they are objective. That is why we did not get this report--I have the same copy my colleague from Arizona has. This just came out, and the reason is because they wanted to take the time to study the bill which they got in the middle of November. So they needed the time to actually go through point by point what the implications were.

The Senator talked about the one segment where they talk about they ``face a significant risk of failure.'' They actually go on to say: ``This will eventually trigger an insurance death spiral.'' This is for people who depend upon Medicare for their health care.

There is an Associated Press story out today that says this provides a sober warning--a sober warning--today to Members of the Senate. This is a time when the Senate raised the debt limit in this country by over $1 trillion. As the old saying goes--I say to my friend who served in the Navy--they are spending money like drunken sailors, and yet they want to keep the bar open longer. They want to increase the debt at a time when our Nation cannot afford it, when we have 10 percent unemployment.

The folks who know Medicare the best and can look at this objectively and share with the American people what their beliefs are as to what the impact is going to be say that is going to be devastating for patients who rely on Medicare for their health care--our seniors--and devastating for small community hospitals. I see the former Governor, now Senator of Nebraska, is here, and he knows, as I do from Wyoming, the impact on our small community hospitals.

But as the Senator from Tennessee said, this is all being done in a back room. We are not privy to the newest changes, which I think are actually going to make matters worse. The New York Times today says Democrats' new ideas would be even more expensive. Questions exist about the affordability. What we are dealing with is a situation that is unsustainable, and that is why the newest poll out today by CNN--certainly not biased one way or the other--finds that 61 percent of Americans oppose this bill. It is the highest level of opposition to date because more and more people are seeing and learning the truth about what is being proposed in the bill before the Senate.

Mr. McCAIN. This is the information on the bill as it is; correct--the original bill? This is without the expansion of Medicare taken into this study, which already, as the Senator quoted from the New York Times and other health care experts, is going to increase costs even more. As you expand Medicare, among other things, you run the risk of adverse selection, which means the people who are the sickest immediately enroll, which then increases the cost, and then who would be paying the increased Medicare payments? The young and the healthy. I ask my friend from Wyoming, should we do that to the next generations of Americans?

Mr. BARRASSO. Well, we should not. We need to be fair. We need to deal with this in a realistic way. But the bill in front of us now is going to raise taxes $500 billion, it is going to cut Medicare by almost $500 billion for our seniors who depend upon it, and for people who have insurance they like, it is going to increase their premiums. They are going to end up paying more than if no bill was passed at all.

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