In a discussion with Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) on the Senate floor today about the unprecedented use of reconciliation to jam a $2.5 trillion health care bill through Congress, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also raised the fact that one-quarter of the American people making under $200,000 a year would see their taxes go up under this bill. The Senator delivered the following remarks today:
"I rise today, joined by my friend, the distinguished Senator from South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, to discuss the healthcare legislation being considered in Congress. The current debate is primarily about process, but before addressing that I want to remind everyone that, in the end, this is about the substance of the legislation that Washington liberals want to impose upon the country by any means necessary.
"This legislation is bad both for what it represents and for what it would do. It represents a massive federal government takeover of the healthcare system. The healthcare and health insurance systems could be significantly improved with policies that respect individual choice, that embrace our system of federalism in which the states can tailor solutions to their own needs and demographics. It could, but Washington liberals have rejected that path.
"What would this legislation do? As I have argued in the past, this legislation would bust the limits that the Constitution places on federal government power. Liberty itself depends on those limits, it always has and it always will. Those limits mean that Congress may exercise only the powers listed in the Constitution. None of those powers authorizes Congress to take such unprecedented steps as requiring that individuals spend their own money to purchase a particular good or service such as health insurance or face a financial penalty. This legislation would unnecessarily take this country into uncharted political and legal territory.
"We just heard from the Congressional Budget Office that President Obama's policies will add a staggering 8.5 trillion dollars -- that's trillion with a T -- to our already sky-high national debt. This is before passage of this healthcare tax-and-spend bill that would cost another 2.5 trillion dollars. Claims that this boondoggle will lower the deficit result from some pretty impressive accounting tricks. This legislation would start taking money from Americans immediately but not provide any benefits to them for years. How about that as a neat way to lower a bill's supposed cost?
"What do Americans get for all those trillions? They would be required to buy health insurance, but only seven percent of Americans would receive any government subsidy to do so. Washington liberals say this bill cuts taxes, but 93 percent of Americans would not be eligible for any tax benefit. Contrary to President Obama's explicit pledge, one-quarter of Americans making under $200,000 per year would see their taxes go up. Middle-class American families paying higher taxes will outnumber those receiving any government subsidy by more than three-to-one.
"And for all of these higher taxes, increased government control, greater regulation, and paltry help in buying health insurance, this legislation would not control healthcare costs, which is the main reason for the concern about health insurance in the first place. It does nothing to rein in the junk lawsuits that drive up costs and drive doctors out of medicine. Instead, this legislation would cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for a massive new government entitlement system that would include 159 new boards and other bureaucratic entities.
"Last month, the White House released an 11-page document titled The President's Proposal. Calling it that, I suppose, was meant to appear like a meaningful step in genuine negotiations. It was nothing of the kind. One of the most obvious changes suggested in this document was elimination of the Medicaid subsidy that the Senate bill gave to only one state. That was for political rather than policy reasons.
"I cannot forget to mention that the document's suggested changes would add at least $75 billion to the cost of the Senate bill. That's around seven billion dollars a page. But it offered nothing to change the real defects in this legislation.
"The healthcare legislation before us is not the kind of budget or tax legislation that has been the primary focus of the reconciliation process in the past. It is much more like welfare reform or the child health insurance bill except for one very important thing. The healthcare legislation is a completely, 100 percent, partisan bill. The reconciliation process, which from the start is a rare exception to our regular process, has never been used for major social legislation that did not have wide bipartisan support. Never.
"Washington liberals obviously know this, because their latest talking point is that reconciliation will not be used to pass the big healthcare bill, but only to change the big healthcare bill. My friends, that is a distinction without a difference. The bill that Washington liberals want is the combination of the big Senate bill and the smaller fixer bill. In fact, they cannot stomach the one without the other. The bill they want, whether in one piece or two, cannot pass Congress through the regular legislative process. The healthcare bill that Washington liberals want, if it can be passed at all, can only be passed through an illegitimate use of this extraordinary process called reconciliation.
"And by the way, I would like to remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that the reconciliation process has been used only twice to pass a purely partisan bill on any subject. In both cases, 1993 when Democrats were in charge and 2005 when Republicans were in charge, the American people in the next election threw the majority party out and gave the other party a chance to run the Senate."