SERVICE MEMBERS HOME OWNERSHIP TAX ACT OF 2009 -- (Senate - December 23, 2009)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise to talk about this important health care issue but also to talk about another vitally important issue directly connected, which is spending and debt because we will also have an enormously important vote tomorrow morning on increasing the debt limit. It is already over $12 trillion, but the proposal is to increase it further.
In starting, let me refer back to a couple comments and parts of the debate yesterday because I think it will provide a good segue into this important debate. First, yesterday, as we were debating health care, my colleague from Louisiana, the distinguished senior Senator, Ms. Landrieu, was on C-SPAN's ``Washington Journal.'' In discussing the health care bill, my participation came up. She said: ``Senator Vitter has not lifted a finger to pass this bill.''
I wish to say that is a very kind and positive and generous comment of the Senator and I take it as a nice Christmas overture and I accept it in that vein. I wish her all the best this Christmas season as well. It is obviously very true, and I take it as a very positive comment.
I would go further. I fought hard against this bill. I fought hard for alternative reforms, focused reforms, reforms focused like a laser beam on real solutions in health care to real problems such as preexisting conditions. I would simply add, I don't think this fight is over by a long shot. I will continue fighting and I will continue offering those alternatives.
With regard to the bill and this enormously important issue of spending and debt, as I was leaving the floor to go to meetings in my office after speaking yesterday, Senator Baucus took issue, apparently, with some of my comments--specifically, my comments about Medicare. I had suggested that this bill cuts Medicare by $467 billion, almost $ 1/2 trillion. Although I needed to go to meetings, I think Senator Baucus took issue with that and characterized that as actually extending the life of Medicare.
The Congressional Budget Office answered that debate far better than I could have. They answered that debate in the last 24 hours with their report. They outline very clearly and we have been talking about it earlier today that, in fact, Medicare money and other pools of money are double counted in this analysis about the health care bill. ``The key point is that the savings to the HI trust fund under the health care bill would be received by the government only once so they cannot be set aside to pay for future Medicare spending and, at the same time, pay for current spending on other parts of the legislation or on other programs.''
The same Congressional Budget Office report says ``to describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings and both improving the Government's ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double count a large share of those savings.''
So this answers the Senator's comments directly. You can't have it both ways. You can't say we have a bill that is paid for and also a bill that strengthens Medicare and extends solvency for additional years. That is double counting. That is exactly what the CBO is saying. The American people, in a much more basic, commonsense way, know better. They know this bill isn't paid for. They know this bill is going to expand the deficit and put us on an even worse fiscal road. They know that in their gut. They know that with their common sense. Of course, that gets us to the other big vote tomorrow extending the debt limit, yet again, well beyond $12 trillion.
These issues are connected. They are connected in the technical way I just suggested, and these issues are certainly connected in the hearts and minds of the American people. The American people have responded to this debate because health care is so vitally important and the health care issue is so personal.
There is even an overarching, larger reason the American people have responded so much to this debate. It is because they are connecting the dots. They are putting this as part of a larger pattern, and they are connecting the dots between bailing out and taking over insurance companies and financial companies and car companies, hiring and firing the CEO from the Oval Office to potentially one-sixth of the U.S. economy in health care. They are connecting those dots in terms of spending and debt, as well, because that has been the dominant trend over the last 12 months at least.
We have a debt limit today. It is over $12 trillion. The motion tomorrow suggests that is not enough. We need to go higher. The American people are connecting the dots, particularly in the last year, and they are scared to death about where it leads. How did we get this way? How did we come to this $12 trillion-plus point? Well, in July, 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were given an unlimited line of credit from the Treasury that, so far, has been $400 billion, and that bill increased the debt limit from $9.8 trillion to $10.6 trillion. But that wasn't enough. Only 3 months later, in October, 2008, came the Wall Street bailouts, the $700 billion TARP that will raise the debt limit. That did raise the debt limit even further, to $11.3 trillion, but we weren't done yet. Only a few months after that, in February of this year, we passed the so-called stimulus bill. That will cost over $1 trillion before it is all over, and then the debt limit was raised to $12.1 trillion. Then we passed an omnibus spending bill earlier this year that increased spending about 8 percent over the previous fiscal year.
This month, we passed another omnibus spending bill that increased spending another 12 percent on top of that. That is what is leading to tomorrow's debt limit vote. That is what is leading to the statement that our debt limit is now above $12 trillion. But that is not enough. Apparently, we need to go further.
The American people are connecting the dots. They see this trend, which has accelerated dramatically over the last 12 months, and they are truly scared for our collective future--for their kids' and their grandkids' future. All these things I mentioned plus this health care bill are part of that.
The American people know in their gut--they may not understand all of the Congressional Budget Office technicalities, but they know in their gut that you cannot have it both ways. You cannot count $467 billion of Medicare cuts as both helping pay for the other spending in the bill and strengthening Medicare. It is one or the other. It cannot be both. It is the same thing in the health care bill with regard to Social Security--$52 billion double-counted. But you cannot have that both ways. It is the same thing in this health care bill with regard to the CLASS Act--$72 billion double-counted. You can't have that both ways. Those factors alone put this bill out of balance, adding to the deficit, adding to the debt.
What about the doc fix, the fix of reimbursement rates under Medicare to health care professionals such as doctors, which is clearly needed. That was taken out of the health care bill. Why? Because that would cost money. It was taken out. It was just pushed down the road, the can was kicked down the road. That has to be revisited by March 1 of next year. If a real 10-year-or-more doc fix is passed, that will be another $200 billion unpaid for--more deficit and more debt.
The American people get it. They know in their hearts, in their gut, that we are on an unsustainable course. They know all these bailouts and so-called stimulus acts, all these spending bills and now this enormous health care bill, are part of that unsustainable course, and they are crying out. They are saying we must reverse course, we must save our Nation. I hope we do that starting here, starting now.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT