SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009 -- (Senate - December 20, 2009)
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I appreciate the chance to hear my colleague from South Dakota speak and talk about the bill. Statements he has made I am in agreement with. This is a huge bill the American public doesn't want. Gallup polling finds 61 percent of the American public oppose the Senate Democratic health care bill. In Kansas, I find widespread opposition--much higher than that. You can look at these numbers and quickly see why. Just one of the pieces of it--the Medicare cuts--will hurt Kansas. There is a 63.7-percent cut in Medicare Advantage. The benefits will affect more than 1 in 10 of Kansas Medicare beneficiaries. Those cuts are to the point that the program will no longer exist.
There is $1.5 billion in cuts to Kansas hospitals--many of our rural hospitals operating on the margins, on the edge. They get cuts. There is $239.8 million in cuts to home health agencies. This is going to put over 60 percent of them out of business in a 10-year timeframe. They don't like this. Great Christmas present.
There is an 11.8-percent cut in hospice payments. Hospice? Of all things to cut. It is a program that has been helpful to so many people late in life, and it is being cut. There is $124.2 million in cuts to skilled nursing facilities. All of those are things being cut directly to Kansans, directly to people who benefit under current programs, and this is all to start a new entitlement program--cuts Medicare and raises taxes, neither of which we can afford. Medicare is already scheduled to go bankrupt, as we well know, so this is like writing a big fat check on an overdrawn bank account and saying we will come up with the money. It is not going to work. It is going to take money from Medicare. It is going to raise taxes in a weak economy. It is going to hurt overall.
One of the issues that has come down to be one of the final pieces of this that the Democrats have put forward is the issue of funding of abortion. We have had 30 years of agreement in this body and in this Capitol that the Federal Government would not fund abortions other than in cases of rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother. That was it.
Thirty years ago, the Hyde amendment was put in place. It said we would not fund abortions. There was a big debate in the country about abortion, but there has been no debate about funding of abortion. We said we are not going to fund it. Taxpayers should not be funding abortions. If people want to do that, that is their choice on elective abortion. We are not going to fund it.
In this bill, we are going to break that amendment for the first time in 30 years.
What the President said in the joint session of Congress is no longer true. This will not be true if this passes in this bill. What the President said in the joint session of Congress:
One more misunderstanding I want to clear up.
I was listening.
Under our plan no Federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and Federal conscience laws will remain in place.
I point out that he said ``no Federal dollars'' and ``Federal conscience laws will remain in place.'' He said he wanted to clear up the misunderstanding. This is not the case.
We just got the managers' amendment recently, so this has been feverishly where we have had to go through what is actually in the managers' amendment. What you will find is that all the major pro-life groups are opposed to the managers' amendment because it does fund abortion. I will go through the specifics.
Bart Stupak a Democratic Member on the House side. He has been the lead guy on the House side to say we should continue with the Hyde language. There are disputes about abortions. There is not a dispute about the funding of it by taxpayer money. So Bart Stupak has led a group of Democratic Members on the issue overall and said we are going to pull it out. It is not in the House bill, but now it is in the Senate bill. He says:
Not acceptable ..... a dramatic shift in Federal policy that would allow the Federal Government to subsidize insurance policies with abortion coverage.
That is what Bart Stupak says about it. What do some of the other pro-life groups say about what is in the managers' amendment. These groups track this stuff. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which wants a health care bill--I think they are a pretty fair reviewer of this because they want a health care bill to go through, but they are committed to life. They do not want taxpayer money to go to end a child's life. They are opposed to that--completely opposed to that on moral grounds, saying this is the highest moral order that has to be protected. Human life has to be protected, and they say, of this legislation, the managers' amendment:
This legislation should not move forward in its current form. It should be opposed, unless and until such serious concerns have been addressed.
This is on the abortion language. Now let's look at the National Right to Life Committee. The National Right to Life Committee--they are the gold standard of review. They have been looking at this issue and tracking it since Roe v. Wade was passed. They are committed to life at all stages, in all places, believing that life is sacred; it is unique; it is beautiful; and it should be protected. What do they say about the managers' amendment? They say:
Light years removed from the Stupak-Pitts amendment that was approved in the House of Representatives on November 8 by a bipartisan vote of 240-194.
The new abortion language solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill, and it actually creates some new abortion-related problems.
Let's go through the specifics, because I think what we should do is go through the specifics of this bill and look at what are the specific areas of concern. Many of the abortion changes that Senator Reid smuggled into his managers' bill behind closed doors make the bill worse than ever before. It violates the Hyde amendment and Hyde principles set in precedent through all other Federal administered health programs like Medicare and Medicaid. It preempts State laws and conflicts with some existing laws on abortion.
Third is the so-called firewall. There is a firewall provision between Federal and private funds. That is inconsistent with the Hyde and Stupak-Pitts amendment. The firewall language is not very fireproof. It is a mere accounting gimmick, where they put the money in one pocket and pay for abortions from the other. It is still money that goes through the Federal Government to the Federal Government to pay for abortions.
Fourth, it departs from the way the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program is governed with respect to private plans covering abortion, so it changes that.
Fifth, it allows executive branch officials to require private health plans to cover abortions simply by defining them as ``preventive care.''
We have debated this piece calling abortions preventive care in committee and on the Senate floor. Both times we have tried to take that out and say preventive care does not include abortions, and we have not been able to get that definition to the point where abortion can still be called preventive care. This is the Mikulski amendment, which mandates that all plans cover abortion by defining abortion as a preventive service. If you just define it as a preventive service, you can pay for it. But it is still being paid for then, and that is in this bill.
No. 6, it inserts text of the Indian health reauthorization bill. That passed last year and didn't get signed into law. It passed this body. That does not contain the Senate-passed Vitter amendment to permanently prohibit coverage of elective abortions in the federally funded Indian health programs.
And, No. 7, basic conscience protections, like the Weldon language, are not included in the Senate version. There are other problems, but these are just seven of the most egregious. I can't imagine that people across the country--certainly people across my State and other places, such as Virginia, Missouri, California, Wisconsin, or anyplace else would agree that the Federal Government should break with longstanding policy against federally funded abortions, but that is exactly what has happened and what is in this bill.
Abortion is not health care. Why is it even in this bill at all?
The President himself said that at the joint session of Congress.
At the end of the day, the vote for cloture is an affirmative vote for the Federal funding of abortion. There is no way around that fact. Some people on the Democratic side, particularly Senator Nelson of Nebraska, with whom I have been working closely on this issue, want to keep abortion out of this bill. I believe there are huge flaws still in it. He has been fighting to keep abortion out of it. He said this:
Taxpayers shouldn't be required to pay for abortions.
That is his statement on the issue. He says it should not be in there. He worked to try to get this out. I think there are still enormous flaws and holes in this.
If we start the funding of abortions, the last time we did fund them, over 300,000 were paid for by the Federal Government in a 1-year period of time through Medicaid Programs; 300,000 annually were funded from 1973 to 1976. How many are we looking at now if we start down this road?
We need one Democrat in the Senate who will stand and say this is not taking care of the unborn. This is breaking the Hyde language that many on the other side have supported for years, saying they are pro-choice, but they don't think the Federal Government should fund abortions. This breaks the Hyde language in the six ways I mentioned and, seven, it does not provide for conscious clause protection so someone, maybe they are in a Catholic hospital and they do not agree with providing abortion services. They would be required to do things in certain circumstances--maybe that is not one of them--but certain circumstances to which they would not agree.
This is a big part of this debate, and it has certainly elevated it here. The American public does not want the abortion language in the bill. Mr. President, 6 in 10, in a CNN survey, say they do not want it in this bill. In fact, one-quarter of House Democrats voted for the Stupak-Pitts amendment. That is the compromise that continued on the Hyde principle and said we will not fund this.
National Right to Life, I mentioned earlier, goes through some of the specifics on this language.
I will just say, where we are right now all seems so odd to me. We are in the final days of Advent season. We are here when we should be home with our families. I am missing a lot of the celebration of the Christmas season. This is the final days of Advent. Advent is the season of anticipating the birth of a child. It is a season of joy, a season of happiness. You are looking forward to the day of the birth of Christ, December 25. That is the season we are in right now. It is a season of joy. How sad we might see the end of lives of children in this bill, in this season of joy. It does not have to be that way. It should not be that way.
But now this is, I believe, the central issue in this health care debate. If this body passes this bill--and I do not think it should--it goes back to the House of Representatives, where Congressman Stupak and a group of others
have said they will not support the language if it has the abortion language.
The issue of funding abortion has now become a central issue in the health care debate. It should not be there. It is wrong. It is opposed by the American public. I ask my colleagues on the other side, please, please, please take this out. It does not belong here. It is not the thing to do. It is harmful. It is hurtful to the country, and it does not belong anywhere near the health care bill.
I yield the floor.
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