March Madness--DC Style
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 6, 2009, the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. LaTourette) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I want to thank the minority leader for giving us the leadership hour on our side this evening. I will be joined by a number of Members. Already joining me on the floor, Mr. McCotter from Michigan and Mr. Tiberi from the great State of Ohio.
Before we begin with our subject matter, when this group gathered a little while ago we, in an attempt to bring some levity, which there is not very much of here to the situation, we used probably in my mind one of the greatest games ever invented, the game of Operation. You go home and they say, Wow, boy, that was a good one. I was particularly proud of the ``You got to be kidney'' in talking about some of the provisions in the health care bill under consideration at the time.
But I got a letter after we did that special order from the lawyers at Hasbro, saying basically I was violating their copyright, and so on forth and so on. Apparently some of those lawyers were absent the day they taught constitutional law, because not only the speech and debate clause in the Constitution, but also the fair use doctrine sort of made that not accurate.
Having said that, I don't want to further inflame the lawyers at this NewYork law firm, and so we are not going to talk about this, nor am I going to use this chart this evening.
Mr. Speaker, what we are going to talk about, however, is March Madness. It is now upon us. People all across the country saw the President of the United States, because he is a big basketball fan and he likes to play basketball, pick his brackets. I think that if I read the news reports right, he picked Kansas to win it all. And I think last year, if I remember right, President Obama nailed the winner. He picked it and off he went.
I think a lot of people who had brackets took a bath on Georgetown yesterday, but other than that, most other people's brackets are in shape.
But I thought we would use the theme of March Madness and what has gone on here on Capitol Hill, and sort of talk about some of the match-ups that have happened. We are a little further along than the NCAA tournament, so we start and we are down to the Sweet 16. I thought we would talk about the relationship of what is going on.
Let me turn first to the gentleman from Michigan. Pick a game and let's talk about it.
Mr. McCOTTER. I would like to start with a match-up of two wily veterans, Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Boehner. These two teams have known each other quite some time on the floor of this House. They have had wins and losses, and there is no love lost. Yet despite a spirited effort by the tanned and resilient minority leader, he eventually did succumb to the tenaciousness and, yet some argue, some questionable tactics of Speaker Pelosi, who advances to the next round.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. She is indeed a wily veteran.
Does my colleague from Ohio agree that the Speaker beat the minority leader?
Mr. TIBERI. I think there is no doubt at this point.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Okay. I would simply add not only did she beat the minority leader, she humiliated the minority leader in that there is not--well, there is one proposal by Republicans in this health care bill we are going to vote on on Sunday. But that is it. Out of 2,700 pages, the most they could do is squeeze in one Republican provision. And that was actually by Senator Grassley of Iowa, who indicated that primary care physicians should get paid a little bit more for taking care of people.
Mr. McCOTTER. If the gentleman will yield, I just want to add, and this is to watch in later rounds as Speaker Pelosi advances, is one thing that the opponent might want to watch for is she only dribbles on the left. So this could come in handy in later rounds for those of a more conservative bent.
Secondly, I think it is important that we point out to those people watching at home is that in many States wagering is illegal and is certainly frowned upon by most denominations.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank you so much.
So we declare the Speaker of the House the winner of round one. I just want to mention that these regionals are taking place in some interesting locations. They are interesting because of other things that are included in the bill that we will talk about.
Mr. Broun of Georgia, when he was here, talked about the Louisiana purchase and Gator aid. We'll get into that in a minute.
But, Tiberi, pick a game, and let's talk about it.
Mr. TIBERI. I was going to pick a game, and I'm going to pick the People versus the Cornhusker Kickback, but I think it is important at the very top there for you to point out on the chart that you have got at Florida Gators, and you just mentioned at LSU. We could add Montana because there is a special provision for Montana as well. Unfortunately, they lost in the tournament yesterday. We could add the University of Connecticut. Connecticut has got a nice little special provision that is staying in the bill. New Jersey is getting another special little deal. And apparently North Dakota in the reconciliation. I don't know how you have got it just to the two, Florida and LSU. But since we are talking about special deals in special places, I think I will do the People versus the special deal in the Cornhusker Kickback.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I appreciate that. I would just say to the gentleman, the reason we don't have all of those venues is we can't make a chart big enough.
Mr. TIBERI. For all the special deals. Mr. LaTOURETTE. For all the sweetheart deals that are included in it. You know, the great thing is each one of them now has sort of a nickname that is becoming a household word in America. So I bet most people, Mr. Speaker, have heard of the Cornhusker kickback, most have heard of the Louisiana purchase. But we're going to attempt to coin some new ones for the new ones because they really are coming up fast and furious.
So a billion dollars is going to the drug companies in New Jersey. So I think we should call that the New Jersey needle exchange. And today there was news--and I think that the senator involved has since asked that it be withdrawn--but all banks in the country are going to be removed from student lending except one in North Dakota. So I think we call that the Bismarck bank job. But we were already done with this by the time the news broke.
I will yield to the gentleman.
Mr. TIBERI. This chart was put together before we found out that not just health care was going to be in the health care bill. That actually now we're going to be debating a student loan bill which is how the Bismarck bombshell, Bismarck bank job--but now we have student loan, the takeover of the student loan business in the health care bill. I think America has to be aware of that as well.
Back to the issue at hand. The people versus the Cornhusker kickback. That special deal the people want. Is that correct?
Mr. LaTOURETTE. That is correct.
Mr. McCOTTER. Clearly the Cornhusker kickback had a tremendous inside game, and I think overwhelmingly just the sheer determination and tenacity of the American people did defeat the Cornhusker kickback. Although there was a case of a potentially flagrant foul involved, but that would have been the Cornhusker kickback itself.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Well, and we're going to give that game to the people.
And you know, Mr. Speaker, you may not remember what the Cornhusker kickback was. Well, basically, people who don't have insurance are going to have the ability throughout the many States to apply for insurance through the State Medicaid program. And sort of one of the dirty little secrets of this bill is, how do you reduce costs by including 30 million more people into a program? Of course you don't. It's going to cost more money.
In our State of Ohio, Mr. Tiberi's and mine, the estimate is $656 million to take this uninsured population and cover them. And I would just say that the President indicates that we agree on 80 percent of it. I agree that the uninsured should have access to health coverage, but it comes with a price. And I think what doesn't get acknowledged is the price.
So the Cornhusker kickback involved a senator from Nebraska basically saying that it's going to cost his people in Nebraska more money to take the uninsured and put them in the Medicaid program--like every other State in the Union--but he didn't want his people to pay it. Well, and so at the end of the day, the reason that the people rose up and the reason that the people, I think, prevailed in it, it's not fair. How is that fair that people in Michigan and Ohio and every other State of the Union are going to participate in this plan. I mean, if you like the plan to cover more people but Nebraska isn't going to have to pay a dime? And that is why I think the people prevailed.
And today or Sunday when we vote on whatever we're going to vote on, the Cornhusker kickback has been defeated by the people.
Mr. TIBERI. The people won on the Cornhusker kickback, but I think it's important to note, as this chart partially does, that there is still Florida gator aid that is in this bill that the majority is going to have to defend, there is still the Louisiana purchase.
Now, there is a water deal for a couple of Members in California that Members are going to have to defend. There is a deal in Arizona. We mentioned Montana. We mentioned Bismarck. We also mentioned Connecticut and New Jersey, just to name a few. Special sweetheart deals.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. And apparently they're still being made. There was a newspaper article the other day where the Speaker is quoted as saying, The store is now closed. And that meant no more special deals, I think. But that came as a surprise to some of us. One, I didn't know that the store was open, and two, I didn't think I knew there was a store. But apparently there was a store, and it was open, but now the Speaker has closed it. I suppose unless they don't have the votes necessary to pass the bill on Sunday then perhaps they'll reopen for Sunday hours and violate the blue laws of the State and let people shop.
Mr. TIBERI. I do have a suggestion that may be a sequel to March madness, D.C. style. We could play the game of The Price is Right and talk about some of these sweetheart deals in our next hour that we have next week.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I'm going to take one over here from the Florida venue. I will start at the top.
You have MoveOn.org against the Blue Dogs. MoveOn.org is, of course, the liberal organization funded by George Soros and others that has really become sort of the main grassroots motivator for the liberal left. The Blue Dogs are conservative Democrats--if there is such a thing--primarily from border States with the southern States, and they have been giving the Speaker and her team fits all year long on cap-and-trade--cap-and-tax as we called it--and a variety of other things. So they're tough to bring along.
In this particular matchup, I think the MoveOn.org had like a 7-footer and came in and basically began threatening primary elections against any Blue Dog who wouldn't come to heel and support this bill even though it may not be what the people from their districts want them to do.
So unless either of you have an objection, I'm going to give this game to MoveOn.org.
Mr. TIBERI. I think in a rout.
Mr. McCOTTER. I would have to agree that in this contest, the Blue Dogs came up lame.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. All right. Mr. McCotter, it's up to you. Pick a game.
Mr. McCOTTER. I say we go to the contest of Mr. Rahm Emanuel versus former Member Massa.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Mr. Speaker, you can't see this chart, but I just have ``Rahm'' here, I couldn't fit ``Emanuel'' in the box.
But this refers to the distinguished chief of staff for the President of the United States, Rahm Emanuel, who, of course, was an honorable Member of this House serving a district near Chicago, Illinois, until he was tapped by the President to serve as the chief of staff. And Eric Massa was a Representative--and I say ``was'' because he has resigned--from the State of New York. And there was a pretty well-publicized dust-up between the two.
And why don't you tell us who won.
Mr. McCOTTER. Well, I would have to say that in a pointed confrontation, Mr. Emanuel had a finger roll at the end of the game and sent Mr. Massa to the showers. I think this one has to go to Rahm.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Do you agree with that?
Mr. TIBERI. Hard to argue with that.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Give that to Mr. Emanuel. Mr.
Tiberi, you're up. Pick a game.
Mr. TIBERI. Let's go with Waxman versus taxes.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. All right.
Over in the Louisiana area because of the Louisiana purchase.
And again, just in case, Mr. Speaker, you've forgotten what the Louisiana purchase was, like Nebraska--even though it didn't get the same attention as Nebraska--like Nebraska, the Senator from Louisiana didn't want her people to have to pay increased costs that are going to be occasioned by this bill. So I think a number like $300 million is slated to go to Louisiana.
But go ahead. Let us talk about Mr. Waxman, who is, of course, the distinguished chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. And ``taxes'' is pretty self-explanatory.
Mr. TIBERI. Obviously the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee wrote most of the bill coming out of the House with the leadership on the Democratic side. And taxes are what more Americans are going to pay a heck of a lot more of.
In fact, I know the Speaker is aware that most of the benefits of this bill don't actually kick in until 2014, when my daughters are going--when my youngest daughters are going to kindergarten, in 2014.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. How old are they now?
Mr. TIBERI. They're 1. So in 2014 they'll be entering kindergarten, and that is when the benefits will begin.
However, the tax increases will begin right away. And in fact, the Senate bill not only increases payroll taxes, but now we have a reconciliation bill that increases or begins taxing on the payrolls of American workers for the very first time unearned income. So when we are trying to convince Americans to save more, now suddenly their annuities and their interest income from a bank and their retirement accounts and all of these other things, rents, are going to now be taxed for the first time on payroll taxes.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. What about what's built up in a pension? We all have thrift savings accounts as Federal employees. We take a portion of our pretax dollars, put them in there. And until the last couple of years they were doing okay, but they would build up X amount of interest during the course of the years.
Mr. TIBERI. We're cracking the door open for the first time on life insurance. And it's a concern to many agents in the industry.
It's not only on that side of the aisle that we have a view of tax increases. We're taxing the medical devices, we're taxing wheelchairs, we're taxing insurance plans. We are having for the very first time something that you as a lawyer, I'm sure, would question the constitutionality of. We're going to tax for the very first time health insurance in terms of, if you don't pay it, if you don't have health insurance--which you're mandated to--you're going to have an IRS agent come knocking on your door.
The very first time we're going to get the IRS involved in your health care, and we're going to have to have the IRS--one estimate is $1 billion dollars a year to hire agents over the next 10 years to monitor yours and mine and the people's health care. So the IRS is going to be involved in everybody's health care. Not to mention all of the other Federal Government employees who we're empowering.
But we are increasing taxes, we are cutting Medicare, and we are increasing the IRS by about 16,500 people to deal with our health care.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. So I hear you're saying we're going to give the game to Waxman?
Mr. McCOTTER. I would have to concur in this.
Clearly, around the office cooler, between Mr. Waxman and taxes there was no clear-cut crowd favorite, although most of the early money was on taxes because, as we all know, there is nothing more certain than death and taxes. Well, as so happens in the early rounds of the tournament, the underdog does prevail. And with this expert knowledge of the X's and O's of the insider Washington game and with the help of a deep bench of 16,500 new IRS agents, I think it's pretty clear that Mr. Waxman came out smoking in the field and buried taxes.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I think you're right.
I would just add the gentleman from Ohio, Mr. Tiberi, has talked about increased cost. And a lot of people are saying it's not going to cost anything; it's going to reduce the deficit. Just today a company that is pretty well known around the world--and certainly known in the President's home State of Illinois--Caterpillar Incorporated, said that the health care legislation being considered by the U.S. House and voted on Sunday will increase the company's health care costs by more than $100 million in the first year alone.
In a letter Thursday to the Speaker and the Republican leader, Caterpillar urged lawmakers to vote against the plan because of the substantial cost burdens it would place on its shareholders, employees, and retirees. If they're right, and you're a retiree from Caterpillar, based upon what you were just saying, Mr. Tiberi, it's sort of a double whammy. One is that their health care benefits are going to be taxed potentially; two, their health care benefits may cost them more in terms of premiums or copays that they receive as a retiree. And three, if they have retired and put their money in the bank and are drawing interest, that interest is now subject to taxation.
And I forgot to ask you. What's the rate of taxation on interest in a bank account that a senior citizen is earning under this proposal?
Mr. TIBERI. For the very first time, it taxes payroll for that unearned income at 3.8 percent. So 3.8 percent for the very first time on unearned income. And it actually raises by .9 percent, almost 1 percent, earned income on the payroll tax.
I'm going to add just one other mention to this. In Washington, D.C., we're spending $1 trillion dollars. The Democratic bill spends $1 trillion dollars to save money. Kind of an oxymoron. Only in Washington, D.C., can we spend a trillion dollars to save money.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. It's kind of like being in a hole and trying to get out and digging the hole deeper. That is the analogy I would use.
I'm going to pick off an easy one where I don't think we're going to have any disagreements.
Just like over in the House we had the distinguished Speaker and the distinguished minority leader. Same situation over in the Senate. You've got Senate Majority Leader Reid of Nevada and Mitch McConnell, who is the Senate Republican leader from Kentucky. And there was this big health care powwow down at Blair House a few weeks ago.
It was on TV 6 hours. I watched most of it, and I thought it was great. I thought the President did a wonderful job. And the President said, This thing should be bipartisan. There are things we agree on. We should work it out.
Well, the AP, the Associated Press, moved a story, I apologize, I don't have it right here at my fingertips but--here it is. The Associated Press moved a story and basically the story talked about what the President said at that pow-wow and what the Congress, the Democrats in Congress, have given him. It's kind of illuminating. The President said he would give Federal authorities the power to block unreasonable rate increases. I don't know about you guys, but when I go back to my district, I hear from human resources people in every company that no longer are their health care costs going up 5, 6, 7 percent; it's double-digits. And if they're lucky, it's only in the tens and the teens. But in some instances it's more. So I think that some people were sort of excited about the idea that, in fact, there would be some oversight over these increases, but that's missing in the bill.
There were several Republican ideas, and this goes to Senator McConnell, that the President said he wanted to include in the bill. There was also a--one of them was a plan, I remember watching this from Senator Coburn of Oklahoma--to say one of the ways that you root out waste, fraud and abuse is to send patients, people pretending to be patients, and so people that are scamming either the system that is set up in the bill or the Medicaid or the Medicare system, they go to jail. And I think that is entirely appropriate. But none of those were adopted.
And the special deals, we have talked a little bit about Louisiana, Florida and the Cornhuskers, the President said he would eliminate all of the special deals that we have talked about and we are going to continue to talk about.
As we stand here tonight, the only deals that have been eliminated are the Cornhusker kickback, which actually, you know, it hasn't been eliminated in that it is still in the Senate bill. And so maybe the gentleman can talk to us about this strange procedure we are going through, because my understanding is there is going to be two votes, but never a vote on the Senate bill which contains the Cornhusker kickback and some of the other things.
So, Mr. McCotter, you're sort of the parliamentarian around here in waiting. Why don't you talk to us a little bit about the process?
Mr. McCOTTER. When we come to Congress, as the gentleman knows, we are empowered by our constituents' trust to engage in voting, to make decisions on their behalf and to engage in the great debates. And with that comes a constitutionally prescribed duty to the institution to respect its traditions, its customs and its rules because we are not allowed to leave this institution of the House or of the Senate or of the Congress as a whole in a worse condition than when we entered it.
And what we are seeing today with the process that is being used and abused to try to jam this bill on the American people is undermining the American people's faith not only in their Representatives, but in their representative institutions. So this is clearly a case where the process not only has institutional ramifications but, I would argue as well, has potentially constitutional ramifications. As we have heard described in the press, the ``deem as passed'' rule, which some refer to as the Slaughter House rule, could constitute a clear violation of article 1 section 7. And this is where I commence going back to the beginning.
Article 1 section 7 says we have to pass legislation. We are empowered to vote. We are supposed to be accountable. It is fundamental to our representative democracy that we come here and we vote upon the substantive issues that are before us before they are foisted upon the American people as law. To say something is ``deem and passed,'' to use a procedural device to avoid your responsibility to discharge the duties entrusted to you, I believe, is a violation of the Constitution. It will do damage to the institution just as these Cornhusker kickbacks, just as these Louisiana purchases, just as the Florida Gator deal, just as everything else we are seeing to get this bill passed, despite the American people, is doing damage to this institution.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank the gentleman. And basically, again, Mr. Speaker, I know you know, but we are being told there is going to be two votes, one on Sunday and then maybe one on Monday. The Sunday vote will be on a rule. It's not even going to be on a bill; it's going to be on a House resolution, which is a rule, that's going to authorize the vote that takes place, we think, on Monday; but included in there is something called the self-executing clause, and so it will self-execute passage of the Senate health care bill, which does, to my point, does include still the Cornhusker kickback and also the issue in Florida.
And we talked about Gator aid, but we never talked about what Gator aid was. And so the Medicare program which, of course, provides health care for millions and millions of seniors, has a program in it called Medicare Advantage. And it's optional. You don't have to sign up for it, but you can if you want to. I have about 14,000 people that live in my district that are in Medicare Advantage, and it has high satisfaction numbers. There are some people who don't like it, and there are some people who criticize it.
So the Senate bill, which was going to be deemed without a vote--and that really caught me by surprise. I got up, I think it was Wednesday, Tuesday or Wednesday morning, and one of the headlines above the fold in the Washington Post, Mrs. Pelosi, of course who is the distinguished Speaker of the House, may seek to pass health care bill without a vote. I said, holy mackerel, I thought I had missed something while I had been asleep, sort of the Rip Van Winkle thing. But, no, that is exactly where they are headed.
But the Florida deal was--again, Mr. Speaker, you know that there are a lot of retired people in Florida because the weather is warm and so forth and so on, and in order to ameliorate a problem that a Senator from Florida had, every State in the Union, all 49 States, plus the District of Columbia, that have people on Medicare Advantage can no longer be on Medicare Advantage. It's wiped out--except the 800,000 Floridians who happen to be on and enjoy Medicare Advantage.
Now, again, just like the Cornhusker kickback where Nebraska and Louisiana don't have to pay, why is it fair that--again even if you love this bill, the underlying policy--why is it fair that in one State if you like Medicare Advantage you get to stay on it and in 49 other States you don't? So currently the way they have designed this is that the House, the Senate bill will be deemed on Sunday under this self-executing rule, and then they have promised a bill with a series of fixes.
Now the big problem with the series of fixes is, when the Senate bill is deemed on Sunday, the President can sign it right away. It becomes the law of the land if he signs it with the Cornhusker kickback, with the Louisiana purchase and with the Gator aid. Now we have
heard, and I think to be fair to our friends in the majority, the draft of their fixes bill would remove those two, two out of 12 of the deals that the President said would be gone. But it still has to go over to the other body. It still has to pass. And then through a process known as reconciliation, they have indicated that they don't think that their rules will permit them to pass it as it leaves here, that it's going to be modified again, which means it has to come back here.
At the time, the Democratic Party had a 60-vote majority over in the United States Senate. They couldn't get 60 people on their own team to row in the same direction without giving away these sweetheart deals. I would be nervous if I was voting on Sunday on the promise, like Wimpy from Pop-eye, I will glady pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. I would be nervous. And I don't think it is a done deal. We are going to give that game to Harry Reid.
Mr. TIBERI. I think that's pretty clear; but just to further demonstrate, I had a group of students ask me, with respect to the process in Washington, D.C. because they had learned in their government book that a bill passes the House, a bill passes the Senate, it goes to conference committee, and then they work out the differences, kind of come to an agreement, and it goes back to the House and back to the Senate, when did that change? I think we all have maybe a future business in publishing to change the process because we haven't had conference committees in the past year in this Congress. We have had backroom deals.
And here is another one. And after this Senate bill is deemed and passed through procedural trickery, maybe on Sunday, as the gentleman from Ohio said, that will go to the President's desk. That will have the Cornhusker kickback in it, and then the underlying bill of reconciliation will then come to the floor with all these changes in it, including something that will strike the Cornhusker kickback out, but not the other sweetheart deals, which will also include the student loan bill, among other health care items as well. That will pass with a majority vote here in the House.
But as the gentleman said, it has to pass unchanged in the Senate in order for it to become law and go to the President's desk. That is a huge promise, a huge promise that many Members of this House on the Democratic side are crossing their fingers in hope for because many of them who are voting for this bill now, voting for this deemed bill, this rule that has the deemed language in it, have been fairly critical of the Senate bill which they are technically not voting on, they are deeming it passed.
And I think the American people have had it up to their eyeballs with this trickery and chicanery.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I agree wholeheartedly with the gentleman. It makes it a tricky business.
Because I had mentioned the President of the United States a couple of times, you will note that I don't have President Obama in the Sweet 16, because I will tell you as I went through this Associated Press story and I have watched his negotiations on this bill, when he says we agree on 80 percent of it and we should work this out in a bipartisan way, I believe him. I really believe that he would not have written this bill the way that it is currently being written. And I don't think he would say that the process has been okay.
As a matter of fact, the aforementioned AP story comes down to--it reports that it came down to President Obama making promises that Congress didn't keep. That I think is the appropriate distinction here. I don't think that when the President made the promises to include these four or five Republican ideas he was not telling the truth. I think he was serious. I think he wanted them in the bill. But when the bill got written, they are not in here.
Mr. McCOTTER. I think like the health care system we all know, our time may be shorter than we think. I like to point out that if we were to change the ``Schoolhouse Rock!'' and ``Schoolhouse Rock!'' educational movie to update it to the shady backroom dealings and such as we have seen here, it would no longer be suitable content for children.
With that, let us move into the bracket our colleague Representative and my fellow Michigander, the great State of Michigan, Mr. Bart Stupak versus the National Abortion Rights Action League. It is my view that despite attacking offensively, NARAL could not withstand the tenacious zoned defense of innocent human life that was put forward by my colleague, Mr. Stupak, and given his height advantage, morally he prevailed.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I would say it's a pretty well known axiom in sports, at least in football, the home team relies on the 12th man. And in this particular instance, the issue was whether or not taxpayer funds would be utilized in the purchasing of these sort of cooperative health care things that people could sign up for and that those plans could provide abortion services. And so Mr. Stupak is a very devout, pro-life Representative, and obviously NARAL is not. They are on the side of pro-choice we call it. And so when it came--when the House bill--and the reason we are not doing the House bill is when the House bill came up a little while ago, Mr. Stupak and 12, which would be the 12th man, Members of the Democratic Party said they are not going to vote for this unless you fix it.
And they gave an amendment vote, and we had a vote over here in the House, and that satisfied Mr. Stupak for the moment, defeating NARAL. In my opinion, I agree with you, we will go to Mr. Tiberi in a minute, but now they find themselves in the same position, why there is so much angst here on Capitol Hill over the last few days is because they have to get to this magic number of 216, and at least at the moment some of these people who thought that there were not going to be taxpayer funds used to purchase insurance to provide abortion believe that it does.
And so, Tiberi, we are going to give this game to Stupak if that's all right with you.
Mr. TIBERI. I would certainly give it to Mr. Stupak and the brave Members who stood by him on the Democrat side.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. We're almost down to the Great Eight.
Mr. McCOTTER. As we recall, at the time of the Stupak amendment on the House bill, there were some voices from within the Republican Party that said to engage in mischief and to potentially defeat the bill, the pro-life Republicans should vote against the Stupak amendment. And my argument and the argument of so many of us at the time was no. Our commitment to the sanctity and dignity of the unborn will not be changed; it will not be utilized in a way that is diminished simply to engage in a parliamentary attempt to defeat a bill. We will stand for principle.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I appreciate the gentleman's observation.
Mr. McCOTTER. What we are seeing now is a converse, but because the Senate bill has come back without the language to defend innocent human life that Representative Stupak has not only put into the House bill but has defended in principle here against the Senate bill, you're going to see a lot of Democrats on the other side of the aisle who are going to have to face a crisis of conscience: Will you continue despite what may be your perceived political self-interest to continue to defend the unborn in this process and from the taxpayer funding of abortion? And sadly we have seen so many not.
I appreciate the gentleman's observation. We only have one game left, and that is Medicare, which, of course, Mr. Speaker, you know that both the House and the Senate bill call for a reduction of about one-half trillion dollars from the Medicare program.
Now, the people who have drafted the legislation indicate that that is going to be achieved by rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse. I have been here long enough to remember MediScare from 1996, when in our budget we proposed to slow the rate of growth of Medicare spending to twice the rate of inflation. I think it was projected to save about half of this one-half trillion dollars
that is now proposed to be cut out in this legislation.
When I ran for reelection in 1996, there were ads on television that said, I hated your grandmother and your grandmother and my own grandmother, and I didn't want them to have medical care. But now, without a whimper, all of a sudden taking twice that amount--and, again, just like I don't understand how you lower cost by putting 30 more million people into the program, how you make Medicare better by taking one-half trillion dollars out.
And then the matchup is the mighty team from PhRMA. And again, Mr. Speaker, you know that PhRMA basically is the trade association for the pharmaceutical industry here on Capitol Hill. There was a pretty well-documented deal made down at the White House that I will ask one of my colleagues to talk about.
But if I had to say that there were two groups that have been demonized during the discussion of this, it is health care insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. They are continually talked about on this floor as being anti-American, villains, gougers, greedy. But we are going to talk about this matchup, and I would just say that when we are talking about one of the sweetheart deals that remains in the bill and will not be removed by fixers, as of this writing, is what I will call the New Jersey needle exchange.
Apparently, there was some difficulty in getting the vote of one of the Senators from New Jersey, and so under this bill there is $1 billion that is going to go to the drug companies, the PhRMA representatives, who apparently are doing everything they can to mess around with people's health care and so forth and so on.
But maybe, Mr. Tiberi, let me turn to you and maybe you could talk a little bit about the discussion that took place between one of our former colleagues, the soon-to-be former head of PhRMA, and the administration relative to their participation in this program.
Mr. TIBERI. I certainly wasn't there, but I will rely on press reports of what happened.
But just today, one of our Democratic colleagues who voted for the House bill and announced that he was not voting for the special rule that will deem the Senate bill law, said--and I am paraphrasing--that he is voting against this bill because it actually benefits health insurance companies and benefits the pharmaceutical industry.
Now, the pharmaceutical industry actually has run ads all over the country urging a ``yes'' vote on this bill even though many in the White House have publicly attacked them and publicly attacked the health insurance reform industry. It is ironic, but there, apparently at the beginning of this process, was a special deal between the President and what was then the head of this trade association to protect them from having any sort of provisions in the bill that might allow for reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.
But in addition to that, on the Medicare side, I think my colleague from Ohio has already mentioned it, we are now seeing in this bill and more in the reconciliation bill that comes maybe Sunday, maybe Monday, a huge cut in Medicare. Not just Medicare Advantage, which a third of my seniors have the Medicare Advantage plan in my district, but actual cuts to Medicare, which Medicare's own actuary, his words not our words, said that he believes that the cut is so significant that it will leave providers, doctors, to stop treating Medicare beneficiaries because they won't be reimbursed enough for their services.
Now, in my district, and I am sure in the gentleman from Michigan's district and the gentleman from northeastern Ohio's district, I am already seeing doctors begin the process of not treating Medicare patients because they don't get reimbursed for every dollar that they treat a patient. They are getting reimbursed 80 cents or 85 cents.
Nothing in that bill changes this. In fact, the actuary states that this $500 billion cut will make it much worse. And that doesn't even begin to talk about the impact it has on hospitals and other providers as well.
So this is a huge policy issue that we are going to see, once the benefits side and the cuts occur, that Americans have no idea what is coming with respect to this huge change in policy.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Mr. McCotter, before I go to you for your comments, we agreed that PhRMA takes out Medicare in this particular round one?
Mr. McCOTTER. We would have to. Actually, PhRMA has run up the score in this game. You see one-half trillion dollars cut from senior citizens' Medicare. You see a backroom sweetheart deal for PhRMA. PhRMA, unfortunately, wins out with this administration and Democratic Congress over senior citizens who need their Medicare.
I would also like to point out here the malleable morality of the Democrat Party and the administration when, in 2007, we knew and were told repeatedly by their candidates, even one for the highest office in the land, of how intrinsically evil pharmaceutical companies were. And yet, come 2009, when they are putting together their health care bill, their government takeover of your wellness, all of a sudden PhRMA wasn't so bad when they got on board and took a sweetheart deal to support this.
Now, this, to me, and I am loathe to say it, tragically, how quickly the President's campaign mantra of ``Hope and Change'' has degenerated into hate and tax. When we now see it is the health insurance companies that are evil, well, PhRMA has been redeemed. The only difference is the health insurance companies have not taken a sweetheart backroom deal; PhRMA did. I find that morality objectionable. At least be consistent.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Well, I want to just elaborate for a minute on the gentleman's point about the insurance companies, because in all of the remarks--and the President was recently in Strongsville, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland, giving what was described as his closing argument to get it done. Again, the health care insurance companies are singled out for being particularly greedy and so forth and so on. So, like the pharmaceutical companies, you wouldn't think that there would be any special provisions for medical insurance companies in the bill. But if you said that, you would be wrong, because, again, Nebraska rears its ugly head, but also the State of Michigan.
In Michigan and Nebraska--and, Mr. Speaker, to those who may follow along at home or on the Internet, if you go to section 10905 of the Senate bill, which we will deem on Sunday, it levees an annual new health fee, the taxes we are talking about, on all health care insurers. And, again, that additional tax on everybody's health care coverage--which, again, something that mystifies
some of us on this side is: If you recognize we have a problem with preexisting conditions, if you recognize we have a problem with people that we need to get coverage so that they get adequate care, why do we have to horse around with the other 85 percent of the people in the country who are satisfied with what they have?
But, in order to raise money for this program, a new tax is put on health insurance companies; however, the bill provides an exemption to a narrow group of companies. This section will specifically exempt Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Nebraska and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.
Now, I know that the gentleman from Michigan, probably his constituents may see some benefits from that, but I doubt you are jumping for joy over that. Again, like all of these special deals, that is not fair. I mean, how can it be fair in a competitive marketplace if you are buying insurance from a health care insurance company and one company has to pay a tax and two companies--well, all companies have to pay a new tax except for two?
Mr. McCOTTER. If the gentleman would yield, I would like to say that the residents of Michigan understand that in our constitutional free Republic the equality of treatment under the law cannot be vitiated. And while this provision may have some benefit to us in the short run, there is nothing more damaging to the people of Michigan or America than a Federal Government that treats people disparately and does so to put together a deal that, in the long run, will take over their health care.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank the gentleman.
And I want to go back to Mr. Tiberi's observation, because the published reports that I saw about PhRMA were not only reimportation of drugs from Canada, that they would be protected from that--and that actually gets into our next matchup, Waxman versus PhRMA, because the reported deal in the newspapers was that the pharmaceutical companies would pony up $8 billion over the next 10 years, and in return for that--because, again, money needs to be raised. People are arguing about the numbers and what it does to the budget, but I think almost every American understands it is counterintuitive that you can insure more people and it is going to cost less.
Mr. TIBERI. And, actually, one of the Democratic leaders in the Senate took to the floor last week and in a speech actually came clean with respect to a statement that he said that actually insurance costs and health costs would continue to go up, and that is what we have said all along.
This doesn't deal with costs of health. This doesn't deal with costs of insurance. This deals with putting a whole lot more people on Medicaid, not fixing Medicaid. This deals with a whole lot of new taxes. This deals with restricting certain things like Medicare Advantage to give people less choices. This gives people less choices for health savings accounts. It reduces people who might have a flexible savings account, reduces that from $5,000 to $2,500 in taxable benefits.
The American people, once they find out what is in this bill, are going to be shocked at what is actually in this bill, aside from things like student loans that have nothing to do with health care, but actually on the health care side.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. And I want to move to this Waxman-PhRMA matchup because, as we have indicated, the distinguished chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee is a crafty veteran, not tall in terms of height, but he has been around the game a long time and he knows the way the game is played.
PhRMA, with a lot of muscle, came into this thing, and they thought that the deal that they made was, if they ponied up $8 billion, they would be held harmless, not only from reimporting drugs from Canada--which I really don't understand. Everything that I have read says that if you could reimport drugs from Canada, you could cut the cost about 28 percent. Even if it is only 20 percent, who cares. But the argument that has been made by both Republican and Democratic administrations is that it is not safe. We can't trust it if it is coming back from Canada.
Now, I would argue that if that were true--my district has one of the longest areas on Lake Erie up in Ohio. If that was true, I would go home to my district and find a lot of dead Canadians floating up on the beaches, and that is just not happening.
The second piece of that is that the deal as reported was that not only would they not get any reimportation in the legislation, but they would not have to be subject--because the government is now under this program, or the proposed program, and become a big customer for drugs, that there would be no provision in the bill that the government could compete for best price.
And I can remember when we did Medicare part D--I think both gentlemen were here for that--and speech after speech from our friends over here, and I happen to agree with them, that it is nuts. Everybody can go in and negotiate for best price except us? But the deal was, between PhRMA and the White House, was: No. No negotiation for the price.
But a funny thing happened, I think, to PhRMA on the way to the deal. They ran into the wily veteran from California and he said, Oh, no, you don't. So I have to give this to Waxman, unless anybody has a problem with it.
All right. We are actually past it, now almost into the quarter finals. We have got Pelosi versus Stupak, MoveOn.org versus Rahm, and the People versus Senator Reid.
Mr. TIBERI. We have one more to go to the final four here, don't we?
Mr. LaTOURETTE. We have a few more, but we need to pick up this one, this one, and that one.
Mr. McCOTTER. I would like to pick between the People and Senator Reid. And I think, clearly, with the talk of reconciliation, we are going to have to go with Senator Reid defeating the people; although, I understand that the people are demanding a rematch in November, where the score is expected to be settled.
Mr. TIBERI. Point of parliamentary inquiry.
Looking at the chart--maybe I am looking at it wrong. Before we do People/Reid, I think you have to do MoveOn.org/Rahm.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I think the gentleman is right, but I think the cat is out of the bag on this. And I would say that perhaps--well, sadly, they are both on the eastern time zone. But I think that, for the purposes of this discussion, we can say that this bracket is on the East Coast and these games will start later.
Mr. McCOTTER. If the gentleman will yield, you might want to be careful. Someone may be taping the game.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. It is like ``The Sting'' with Paul Newman and Robert Redford where they pretaped the race. We don't intend to do that.
Again, Mr. Speaker, we'd encourage people watching at home to not wager on the brackets or any sporting event.
So we're going to give this one to Senator Reid. Mr. Tiberi, do you want to talk about MoveOn.org?
Mr. TIBERI. Can I inquire how much time we might have left?
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I think we have about 15 minutes.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Ohio has about 10 minutes left.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Go ahead.
Mr. TIBERI. So I'm going to go with Rahm versus MoveOn.org.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. We're going to have to come back to that in just a second. There was a label around here someplace, and I can't find it.
Mr. TIBERI. Where would you like us to go?
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Well, I was going to say about this matchup, there's really not a big difference between the two. You could declare this matchup a tie. But I think that, again, that perhaps it goes to the President's Chief of Staff. He's a pretty powerful guy. Are we all right with that?
Mr. McCOTTER. If the gentleman will yield, they both know each other's games very well, in many ways. They are former teammates. Very well acquainted. But I think just for sheer athletic grace and the ability to pirouette, I would have to give it to the Chief of Staff for the President.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I think that's right. I thank the gentleman. So while I look for my Rahm sticker to put up here, why don't you fellows go back to the East Coast. We have two games up. The People versus Senator Reid.
Mr. TIBERI. I think we probably should go People versus Senator Reid.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Why don't we do that?
Mr. McCOTTER. I believe that was settled in the instance of Senator Reid.
Mr. TIBERI. I think the People lost.
Mr. McCOTTER. Not yet.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Not yet.
Mr. TIBERI. But to Senator Reid in the Senate, they lost. Actually, on Christmas Eve.
Mr. McCOTTER. Merry Christmas.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. That really is one of my favorite things. We've had a lot of artificial deadlines. We had to have the stimulus bill by President's Day. I don't know whether George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were calling for it. We had to have cap-and-trade by the Fourth of July. I couldn't tell you why. And we were told we had to have the Senate bill by Christmas. So you had sort of this strange sight of these octogenarians sleeping on cots over on the other side of the Capitol. More show than play. But we're going to give this to Senator Reid.
Mr. McCOTTER. If the gentleman will yield, let's go to the bracket between Speaker Pelosi and our colleague, Representative Bart Stupak. While Bart Stupak does has a distinct reach advantage--
Mr. LaTOURETTE. And a height advantage.
Mr. McCOTTER. Let me rephrase, if I may. While Bart may have a height advantage, the Speaker has the reach advantage on this one.
Mr. TIBERI. I think that's more appropriate.
Mr. McCOTTER. I think that her offense of fast-breaking arms and legs, combined with our colleague Bart Stupak's shortage of Blue Dog manpower on the bench--I think we're going to have to give this to the Speaker.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I think I agree with that. There are a couple of rumors out of the trainers' room that Mr. Stupak will in fact need medical attention for some twisted arms and legs as a result of this. But while we were talking, I found the Rahm Emanuel sticker, so we're going to slap that up there.
Mr. Tiberi, any disagreement here about the Speaker versus Mr. Stupak?
Mr. TIBERI. Hard to top the gentleman from Michigan's description.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. We're down to two games to come to the semifinals. Let's go over to Senator Reid and Chairman Waxman. What do you think?
Mr. TIBERI: Well, while the cagey veteran from California put up a pretty good game, I think it's hard to top the Christmas Eve dealings of Senator Reid and the Senate bill, which ultimately, if it's deemed in the House, will be the one that actually becomes law over everything else. So I think you've got to give it to Senator Reid over Waxman.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Sure.
Mr. McCOTTER. I would agree. I would say that while Mr. Waxman played a better game, he spent too much time on the left side of the court. Whereas, Senator Reid was capable of smothering people with everything under the sun. You cannot argue with the final score. It is the Senate bill here.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. That's a good point. I think that that's a clear victory for the Senator from Nevada. So that brings us over to this side. I'm still trying to peel the back off of the Pelosi sticker. But we do have the last quarter-final games between the President's Chief of Staff, Mr. Emanuel, and, again, the cagey veteran from California, the Speaker of the House, Mrs. Pelosi.
Mr. TIBERI. I think it's hard to argue with the Speaker in a close one, but I'd have to give it to the Speaker.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. McCotter.
Mr. McCOTTER. I would have to agree with that, but I would just like to point out that the Speaker and Mr. Emanuel, former teammates, know each other's games very well. This was a very, very close contest, but in the end, I believe that Mr. Emanuel was given a technical foul for profane language and the Speaker hit the free throw.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I have heard he does in fact have a salty tongue. I think that's right. We'll give that to the Speaker. So we're down to the last quarter-final. It's Waxman versus Reid. Did we solve that?
Mr. TIBERI. We solved that already. You're a sticker behind.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. So here we are as we come down to championship day. And the championship will be determined on Sunday here in the House of Representatives. It appears that the contest is going to be not with any Republican leader, not with the People, not with the conservative Democrats, not with Mr. Stupak and the people that believe in the pro-life movement. It's going to be between the two Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi.
Mr. Speaker, how much time have we got?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman has about 4 minutes.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. All right. Here we go. Then in this last 4 minutes I want to yield to each of my friends. And we can't yield specific blocks of time, but if you could each take about 2 minutes to give us your final thoughts and perhaps give us a prediction on the championship.
McCotter, you're first.
Mr. McCOTTER. I will yield to the gentleman.
Mr. TIBERI. What we know is if the House takes up this rule on reconciliation on Sunday or Monday, the Senate bill will be deemed passed and on to the President's desk. That means Senator Reid will have won. The question is: Will they get the votes for the reconciliation the bill in the House and then in the Senate without changing it? If they do change it, does it come back to the House, and can they get the votes to uphold the changes, and what will happen then?
So this is going to play out. What's clear is, as you've pointed out, the American people end up losing. Health care reform is something that the three of us and the majority of Republicans support, but this isn't going to reform people's health care. This adds people to Medicaid. This adds people to insurance. This adds a slew of taxes, Medicare cuts, cuts to Medicare Advantage, and doesn't allow people to necessarily keep what they have. This is not reform that Americans bought into.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank the gentleman. I think I agree with it. This is going to be a barn-burner. This is one where you want to be on the edge of your seats because this thing, I expect, is going to go back and forth; first half, second half.
Mr. McCOTTER. Looking at the chart, I'd like to first note that on the road to the championship game between Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, I see no Republicans to obstruct their path. And I think that that points out the way this process has gone. What we are witnessing now is not an argument between Republicans and Democrats; we're watching an argument amongst Democrats. Because we will have a bipartisan vote on this health care bill--and it will be in opposition. This is heartening to know that as this process goes forward, the bipartisan support for true health care reform in this country between Republicans and Democratic centrists will continue because we are supported by the American people.
Fundamentally, in this debate I think the American people have reached a conclusion: that their government is not working for them. It is not listening to them. It is defying their expressed wishes. This is transcendent of the simple monetary considerations, which are great and which are dire for us. But this is really about your liberty and your relationship to your government. We do not work for government. Government works for the people. And under this health care bill, I would urge everyone to think of something. No matter how imperfect the health care system is right now, it cannot be fixed by the most broken entity in the world today, which is the United States Government. Mr. Speaker, no one in my district believes that the people who run Washington the way they do are going to do anything to improve your health care.
So, in conclusion, I would just like to point out one thing. Do not give this government this type of control over your life.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. I thank both gentlemen for joining me this evening.
Mr. Speaker, where are we?
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman's time has expired.
Mr. LaTOURETTE. Two sentences. Tune in Sunday. Thanks.