Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: Dec. 20, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. Everything the 2008 campaign was about has basically been discredited and discarded in this whole health care debate. I thought it was change we could believe in. I thought there was going to be a new way of doing business in Washington, and God knows there needs to be. I thought we were going to negotiate the health care bill on C-SPAN and everybody would have a seat at the table, including the drug companies. I thought we were going to allow reimportation of prescription drugs to allow American consumers to purchase drugs dramatically cheaper.

Not only have we not had any negotiations on C-SPAN, you couldn't find the room where the negotiations were going on. The old way of doing business looks good compared to this process. There was a negotiation going on on the biggest proposal we will probably ever vote on, one-sixth of the economy, between two people: the Senate majority leader and the Senator from Nebraska.

The second in command on the Democratic side told Senator McCain: I am just as in the dark as you are. We have gone to a promise of being on C-SPAN to everybody was in the dark. I don't know how that plays. I hope it plays poorly because at the end of the day, what we are doing here is absolutely unconscionable. When you thought it couldn't get any worse in Washington, when you thought your government had reached a low point, well, it has gotten worse. I will be talking about the 60th vote here soon, how they got that 60th vote. And if that is OK with the American people, which I do not believe it will be, if that is OK with our body, then our best days are behind us as a country.

Mr. CORNYN. May I ask the Senator from South Carolina about this other promise? Does he recall the President saying in July of 2009, if you like what you have, you can keep it? Is the Senator aware of the fact that according to the Congressional Budget Office, between 8 and 9 million people who would have been covered by employment-based plans under the current law would not have an offer of such coverage under this bill if passed, and seniors, because of the cuts to Medicare, particularly Medicare Advantage, will actually have their benefits cut? How do you reconcile those promises with what we see in this monstrosity of a bill?

Mr. GRAHAM. They cannot be reconciled. I hope American seniors are paying attention. We are going to take $470 billion out of Medicare in the next decade and use that money to create new government programs. If you are senior citizens out there, the doctors and hospitals you go to--and it is hard to find Medicare doctors right now; a lot of doctors are reluctant to take Medicare patients because the reimbursement rates are so low. Rural hospitals are on their knees because the Medicare rates are so low. Take $470 billion out of the system and see what happens to the provider community.

What does it mean to seniors? It means your chance of finding the doctor or hospital to take care of you as a Medicare patient is going down, not up. What does it mean to Medicare? It is due to go bankrupt by 2017. By taking money out of the system, not reforming Medicare, but using it as another purpose has accelerated the problems of Medicare. Not only has that promise been broken, we have done something no other Congress has ever done to Medicare--take money out of it and give it to somebody else. That is not right. We were within inches of expanding Medicare to people from 55 to 64 which would put the system at risk.

My point is simply this. We started this debate as a way to reform health care, and a lot of us agree on many things. It wound up being what does the Democratic Party need to do to pass a bill. Nobody cares what is in this bill anymore. All the objections about the CLASS Act and about fiscal responsibility and about the public options being in or out have given way to get this thing done before Christmas.

This is not about health care reform. It is about one political party feeling as though they have to pass a bill no matter what is in it. And that is sad.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Well, this started out as a noble effort to reform health care because it needs reforming. The inflationary cost of the government is unsustainable. Medicare and Medicaid, as the Senators from Georgia indicated, are becoming huge problems that are unsustainable. Medicare is $36 trillion underfunded.

Now, what does that mean? It means that over the next 75 years, there is a $36 trillion shortfall of money to pay the benefits that have been promised, and that has to be dealt with.

What we are doing to Medicare makes the problem worse, not better. Medicaid is the largest expense in my State. It is a matching program. So listen to this--if you are out there on a Sunday with nothing else to do but listen to me. If you don't live in Nebraska, here is what is coming your way. Your State will be required to cover more people under Medicaid because the eligibility goes up to 133 percent above poverty, which is an increase over the current system. So throughout the Nation, there are going to be thousands more people enrolled in Medicaid, and every State, except one, is going to have to come up with matching money.

I have 12 percent unemployment in South Carolina. My State is on its knees. I have a 31-percent African American population in South Carolina. Yet how did the majority get the 60th vote on this bill? It was the weekend before Christmas, and they were one vote short--here is what they did to get that one vote. They had a deal cooked up that no one knew about but the two people talking. There was no input from anybody other than the majority leader and the Senator from Nebraska. After that meeting was over, they came up with a 380-page amendment to a 2,000-page bill. They filed it yesterday, and we made them read it. We heard it for the first time yesterday. Then the majority leader filled up the tree so that there is no ability by any Republican or Democrat to amend their work product.

This is a transparent new way of doing business: you cook up a deal in a back room--that is essentially sleazy, in my view--to allow one State, in order to get that vote, be held harmless for Medicare enrollees, and the rest of us have to go home and hear our constituents say: Why can't you in South Carolina and Georgia get that deal? What kind of Senator are you?

Well, I will tell you; this is the kind of Senators we are. We are not going to do that. We are not going to put the whole Nation at risk and take a broken system and make it worse just to get a vote. No way in hell.

On abortion, you are either for it or against it or you are indifferent. You can be whatever you are on abortion and be just as good an American as I am. I am pro-life and proud of it. Most of us in America, whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, don't want our Federal taxpayer dollars to be used to pay for abortions. For 32 years, the Hyde amendment has been the law of the land, preventing taxpayer dollars to be used for abortion. In this health care reform, guess what. That is exactly what is going to happen. There is a brave Democrat in the Congress--Bart Stupak, from a blue State--who stood up to his Democratic leadership and said: I will not vote for a bill that allows Federal taxpayer dollars in the form of subsidies to be used to fund abortion because I find that morally offensive, and I think most Americans agree with me. He brought the House to its knees, saying: You will not pass this bill to use federally funded Federal dollars to fund abortion.

What did he get out of it? Nothing. Not one thing for Wisconsin. He got out of that deal the pride of knowing that he stood up for the unborn.

So the bill comes to the Senate, and Senator Nelson from Nebraska tries to introduce the Stupak language that would be an absolute bar from using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. He lost that amendment. He said he could not vote for a bill that would allow taxpayer dollars to be used to fund abortion. But then he gets in a room with Senator Reid, and he comes up with a compromise and he claims it solves the problem. The problem is, his claim is not accepted by all those who follow this. The compromise he has achieved on abortion is a miserable failure.

Congressman Stupak says it is unacceptable. The National Right to Life Committee says it is unacceptable. The Nebraska Right to Life Committee says it is unacceptable. The Council of Catholic Bishops says it is unacceptable. There is not one pro-life group in this country that believes Senator Nelson has protected the rights of the unborn. So how, in good conscience, do you vote for a bill when that was the big issue?

At the end of the day--one last thought--this bill would make an Enron accountant blush. They are talking about how it lowers the deficit by $132 billion. But they do not tell you that the $247 billion doctor fix is not in the bill. What am I saying? Over the next 10 years, doctors, under the 1997 balanced budget agreement, will have $247 billion taken out of their practices unless Congress acts.

Since 1997, Congress, every year, has stepped to the plate and forgiven that cut, which is double digits. Everybody knows we are going to do that. But when it came to health care reform, they left out the doctor fix because if you include it, it no longer is revenue neutral. It no longer does what they say.

They say this bill cuts the deficit by $132 billion, but if you include the $247 billion, it runs up the deficit in the first 10 years, and in the second 10 years it adds $2 trillion to the deficit.

Long story short, this is what Enron did. People went to jail for doing this in the private sector. They took the liabilities of the company and they hid them, making their balance sheet look better than it actually was. So when you hear this reduces the deficit by $132 billion, they took out a liability that they know we are going to fund, just to cook the books.

If this is going to be OK for the country, then we have no hope as a Nation of ever solving any hard problem. And I would like to say to my colleagues: I know you want to be home. I know everybody on the other side wants to be home. I know you want to find ways to solve hard problems. Troops in Afghanistan want to be home, too. At least they are away from home for a noble purpose. We are here trying to stop a legislative process that, if it becomes legitimate--if this becomes the OK way of doing business, giving one Senator a deal you will not give anybody else and putting the whole country at risk just to get one vote--then I hope the American people will rise up in righteous indignation and throw us all out because nobody should be representing the country this way.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Will the Senator yield for another question?

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Sure.

Mr. GRAHAM. Let's talk about the CLASS Act a little bit more. It is a new program that doesn't exist today where the Federal Government, as I understand it, will be offering long-term health care insurance to the American people. It is a voluntary program at first, just like everything else around here. Guess who is going to sign up. It is called adverse selection. The sickest people in the country are going to sign up.

Under the bill as it is written, it is just like what Senator Isakson said about the underlying bill. You collect taxes for 10 years; you pay out benefits for 6. That is the way you get the money to make the numbers come out right.

Guess what happens in this CLASS Act, the new program no one has heard much about. You start collecting premiums in 2011, but you don't pay any benefits until 2016. Guess what happens. That generates $73 billion of money to be used to say to the American people that this bill is paid for. But when you ask the CBO about what happens after 2016, they say that by 2029, I think it is, the whole thing falls apart because the only people in the program are the sickest folks because it is a voluntary program, and at the end of the day, you have created a new entitlement, and everybody in this body is going to be rushing to subsidize premiums and get more people into this system. It will be another entitlement that grows, and CBO says it will be a death blow to our fiscal soundness.

I ask the Senator from Georgia, when Senator Conrad, whom we all respect, said this is a giant Ponzi scheme that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of, do you think that is what he meant? You collect premiums and you make it look as if you have money you really do not have and you put off paying out benefits. And at the end of the day, would the Senator agree with me--I have a letter from October 23, 2009, from Senators Conrad, Landrieu, Lincoln, Warner, Lieberman, Bayh, and Nelson to the majority leader saying: Please take the CLASS Act out of the bill.

Would the Senator agree that the CLASS Act is still in the bill and that anybody who votes to send this off to the President to become law has become a coconspirator to the giant Ponzi scheme?

Mr. CHAMBLISS. I don't think there is any question about that. The Senator is exactly right. It is what we in Washington call fuzzy math--utilization of money from one pocket to pay for something on the other side. At the end of the day, it just does not add up. The Senator from North Dakota was exactly right, it is a huge Ponzi scheme.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the letter dated October 23, 2009, just referenced by the Senator from South Carolina.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD

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Mr. GRAHAM. One last thought, if I may. The Senator mentioned the people in Nebraska. I know there are good, hard-working people all over the country, particularly in Nebraska. A lot has been said about Nebraska. I hope the people in Nebraska will be heard. This is not over. They may get 60 votes in the next couple days, but this is not over. We are going into the fourth quarter, and the most valuable player on our team is the American people. Speak up, speak out. If you don't like what is going on, if you don't like the phony baloney accounting, if you are upset about your taxpayer dollars being used to fund abortions, speak up. If you think there is a better way of doing business, let us know about it. There is a long way to go. It has to go back to the House. The House has a say. One Senator indicated the House better take it or leave it. That is not good government. That is not the way it works. Three of us have been in the House. I want you to know this is far from over. Public opinion matters to us all. To the American people who are concerned about this being a done deal, it is not. You can change the outcome. I hope you will get involved. At the end of the day, it is your country we are talking about.

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