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Public Statements

Repealing Health Care

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. YARMUTH. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and congratulations on your election.

It's a great pleasure to be here today. I could spend the next half hour responding to my colleague from Iowa. I think it's fascinating just that one comment, that he talks about reading the Constitution and then talks about how this is an unconstitutional bill. Well, obviously, he apparently stopped at article II and didn't get to article III, which stipulates that the judiciary and the Supreme Court ultimately decide what is constitutional in this country, not Members of Congress.

The Constitution was read today. I'm glad it was. It's always good to remind ourselves of this great foundational document that we all respect, that all of us--all 435 Members of the House--swore to protect and defend yesterday.

In the Constitution, in article I, section 5, it says each House may determine the rules of its proceedings. Yesterday, the Republican majority in the House put forth a group of rules changes that will determine how this Congress will operate over the next 2 years.

It was fascinating, in light of our discussion about health care, in light of our discussion about the costs of health care, that one of the things it did, these rules changes that Republicans passed, was basically to vest extraordinary power on one Member of the House of Representatives to determine essentially what the cost, what the deficit or the debt, the budget implications on a particular piece of legislation might be, and the relevance of this to the debate we are in now about the Republicans' proposal to take away all of the privileges of rights and benefits granted by the Affordable Care Act that we passed in the 111th Congress and that I was proud to support.

One of the things that it said was, if there is a vote to repeal the health care bill, the Affordable Care Act that we passed last year, that we basically decide that we don't have to abide by PAYGO rules--in other words, saying that, just because the Congressional Budget Office determined that the Affordable Care Act will save the taxpayers $230 billion over the next 6, 7 or 8 years and then another $1 trillion in the following 10 years, we don't have to make the same kind of adjustments that we do for other kinds of additional expenditures. The Republican philosophy is, if you reduce revenues in any way to the government, that's fine; and it doesn't affect the deficit.

Now, a lot of the debate we had in the last Congress over the health care act I heard time, after time, after time, and we heard this with tax cuts and many other things: oh, a business can't operate like this. A family can't operate like this. Well, in fact, I think, in this particular case, that analogy is really relevant because, if I have a family, a two-income family, and all of a sudden one of us loses our job and loses our income, it's really interesting that we could take the position that, oh, it didn't affect our budget, and it didn't affect the family deficit. Just that loss of revenue didn't matter. All we're concerned about is how much we spent. All we're concerned about is the expense side.

What the Republicans have basically done under this new regime, with this new set of rules that they passed yesterday, is to say that there are two separate ledgers--one dealing with expenditures, one dealing with revenue--and that they don't affect each other. It is an astounding philosophy of operation that we are about to embark on.

Under this new rule, when the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy expire in 2 years, we would not have to account for that loss in revenue to the Federal deficit even though, when we start writing checks and we start trying to borrow money to pay for the deficit, we are going to have to come up with that money. They say, no, it doesn't affect the deficit.

If we repeal the Affordable Care Act, which the CBO says will save $1.3 trillion over the next two decades, that's money that we aren't going to have to borrow from somebody else. They say, oh, that's not part of the budget. We don't have to compensate for that.

So it's fascinating that they basically set up these two sets of books, and now they give the power to the chairman of the Budget Committee, who in this case is Mr. Ryan of Wisconsin--a very thoughtful, honest man. You give him the power, however, to make a decision that whatever the CBO says doesn't matter. He can deem, or decide, exactly what the impact of any provision or any act of Congress is on the budget. One person.

Now, I come from Kentucky. We're a big basketball State. Last week, we had a game, a big-game rivalry. Kentucky and Louisville played. It didn't come out the way I would have liked it to. But I had to think, when we set up these rules, that would be like Louisville and Kentucky playing and saying to Coach Pitino of Louisville or Coach Calipari from Kentucky, You get to make all the calls in this game. Our players are going to play. They're going to compete hard, but Coach Pitino, we're taking the refs off the field. You're the one who's going to call fouls. You're going to make all the decisions.

That's basically what the Republicans have done.

What they also said and decided in this process is that the health care reform bill--changing it, repealing it--will have no impact on the deficit, no impact on the budget. That's fascinating because, for the last year and a half, when we debated the Affordable Care Act, they kept talking about how this was going to balloon the deficit, how it was going to explode the deficit. Trillions of dollars it was going to cost the American taxpayer. Well, now they say, No, it has no impact at all on the deficit because you have to understand, if it costs nothing to repeal it, then there was no cost to passing it.

So one has to question who has been honest in this debate. Who has been honest in this debate?

I understand that finding referees as to who is right and who is wrong and what facts are salient and which facts are accurate has been a difficult process. My colleague Mr. King said that, you know, all of a sudden, we keep talking about this, and expect a liberal light to go on in people's heads. Well, we need some light on this subject because there have been billions and billions of dollars spent to create darkness about the impact of this bill, and that process proceeds today.

So I think, as we debate this proposal of the Republicans to do away with many of the benefits which we are so proud of and which millions of Americans are beginning to feel now, we should have the kind of discussion that is honest, that is open, and that sheds light on the subject. No one can do that better than my colleague from the great State of Maryland, DONNA EDWARDS.

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Mr. YARMUTH. I thank the gentleman.

And reclaiming my time, the analogy I used earlier was with families, and we all know we're in a difficult budgetary situation. We know we're running huge deficits right now, and we know that the money that we are spending, a large portion of it we are borrowing because tax revenues can't support it. This Republican majority now has basically taken the position that they're going to strangle this government and put a cap on expenditures. And certainly I understand that's part of their honestly held philosophy, but if you're a family and you've got two kids high school age and two income earners, one of them loses their job, are you going to then say under no circumstances am I going to borrow money to help pay for the college education of my two teenagers so they can have a better life and they can be prepared to meet the demands of the future; I'm just going to keep cutting expenses?

And that analogy seems to be working here, particularly with regard to transportation as well and the investment that we have to make.

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Mr. YARMUTH. I thank the gentleman. Again, I go back to these rules that have been adopted now in the House, and they basically give extraordinary unprecedented power to one person to set these budget limits to decide the budgetary impact of an investment in infrastructure or a health care law, the repeal of a health care law or, for instance, the repeal of many of the advances we made in terms of education funding during the 111th Congress.

And it seems to me that, as I read through the Constitution, the Founding Fathers probably didn't anticipate that we would basically disenfranchise 434 Members of Congress in making these incredibly important decisions about how we raise revenue, which is specifically a power that has been given for initiation to the House of Representatives, or to spend tax revenue, that that kind of power would vest in one person and that you would set up a set of rules that sets up two sets of books and say, If you drop revenue, if you cut taxes, if you have a loss in revenue, that has no budget implications; but everything you spend has to be offset somewhere along the line.

And I think in terms of not just investment in infrastructure but also investment in research, medical research which probably is the real answer to our long-term health care financing costs. If we can control or cure diabetes and cancer and make an impact on heart disease, these are the things that are really going to help us in the future. But to set up these kind of rules which basically, again, disenfranchise not just 434 Members of Congress but, in the process, virtually every American citizen from the process of deciding what money should be spent and invested in some very, very important aspects of the general welfare.

And I would like to yield to the gentlewoman from Maryland, DONNA EDWARDS.

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Mr. YARMUTH. I thank you for that.

As we wind down, pursuing the analogy with families and also with small businesses, I mean, people legitimately borrow money, and businesses legitimately borrow money for two reasons. One is for survival, to eat, to pay salaries if you are a small business. And they borrow money for investments. We have plenty of investments that we can make in this country that are desperately needed. Infrastructure being one, education being another, medical research being a third category.

And we basically have been told by the Republicans that there is no basis, no justification for spending any more money. And because we're in a deficit situation, borrowing more money--except when it comes to giving tax breaks for very, very wealthy Americans, millionaires, billionaires hedge fund managers, and the like, that's okay. We can do that, and we can balloon the national debt to do that, but we can't do it to help people, to provide people's health care, to invest in needed infrastructure, to invest in the things that will make this American economy the kind of economy that we will all be proud of, that will work for everyone, that will truly live up to the ambitions of the Founding Fathers when they wrote the Constitution that we read today, to create a more perfect union. That's what we are all about. And we'll continue, as Democrats and now as Members of the loyal opposition in this body, anyway, to fight for the kind of balanced and intelligent investment and restraint of spending that will get us to the world that we all envision.

So I thank my colleagues for joining me today.

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