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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of the McConnell amendment No. 13 that would completely repeal President Obama's, in my view, unconstitutional health care bill. Of course, I was an active participant in the debate last Congress about ObamaCare and fought that tooth and nail. The day after it passed into law, I introduced a freestanding measure to repeal it completely. The first day of this new Congress that I could file bills, I reintroduced that measure. Of course, for all those reasons, I certainly support this amendment that accomplishes that important goal.
Let me begin by responding to the suggestions of my distinguished colleague from Vermont. Everybody who wants to repeal this law, including me--we do not want to do away with the idea that you should not be shoved off insurance because of preexisting conditions, that you should not have portability, you should not be able to meet those obligations. We do not think that at all. We are, however, for complete repeal for a very simple reason.
What is wrong with this bill, what is wrong with ObamaCare is not one detail here and one comma there, it is not at the periphery of the plan; it is at the heart of the plan, it is the essentials, it is the core of the plan. We can and should and must pass significant reforms such as protection for individuals with preexisting conditions. That is why we have introduced those measures. We have advocated those measures in a targeted way. That does not mean we can or should or must preserve the whole of ObamaCare, which has significant problems at the core of that gargantuan bill.
Let me mention four of those core problems from my point of view.
The first is--maybe most fundamental, most basic--there are important elements at the core of ObamaCare that are flatout unconstitutional. Even if they were not unconstitutional, they would be unwise because they are a dramatic expansion of the power and role and authority of the Federal Government.
The most obvious is an absolute mandate in the bill, a mandate from your Federal Government that every man, woman, and child in the United States must buy health insurance.
This is unprecedented. There has never been a mandate like that from the Federal Government or any level of government. There has never been this forced purchasing of a product in the private marketplace.
Some people bring up the comparison with car insurance, but that is not a close comparison at all because at the State level that is not a forced mandate; that is simply saying: If you want the right, the privilege of driving a car, which is not some constitutionally guaranteed right, then part of the deal is you have to cover the damages from any accident. So that is not a good comparison.
So this absolute mandate that every man, woman, and child in the United States go out and purchase health insurance, purchase a product in the private marketplace, is unprecedented, and for that reason it is unconstitutional. It is an unprecedented expansion of the power and role and authority of the Federal Government.
In the last few days, there have been hearings--quite late to the hour, but there have been hearings in the Senate
in the committees about the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of ObamaCare. Of course, this central question came up. I found the response of some of the witnesses at the hearings who favored ObamaCare or advocate for ObamaCare pretty startling on this point. One Senator in the committee asked them: Well, if we can mandate constitutionally that every American man, woman, and child buy health insurance, why can't we pass a law that says obesity is a real problem in this country--which it is--and therefore we are going to mandate that every man, woman, and child in America eat certain vegetables and certain healthy foods every day? Do you know what the response was from this advocate of ObamaCare? Well, I don't think you can mandate that they eat the food; you can only mandate that they buy the food. Great. Very reassuring. To me, that is not an argument for the constitutionality of ObamaCare; that is a clear argument for the unconstitutionality and danger of the ObamaCare Federal power overreach.
There are many other aspects of ObamaCare which also pose serious constitutional problems. My point is, these are big problems, and they are not minor details which we can tweak with amendments. They go to the heart of this gargantuan bill.
Similarly is the dramatic expansion of government and the cost of that expansion. Instead of controlling and lowering health care costs, ObamaCare is expanding government and expanding health care costs. In fact, the Senate Budget Committee estimates that the bill will cost $2.6 trillion for the first 10 years of full implementation. All of that new spending does not lower health care costs, and there are multiple sources affirming that. Yet President Obama continues to claim that the act will ``slow these rising costs.'' Maybe he did not see that CMS's Chief Actuary, Richard Foster, said that overall national health expenditures will increase by a total of $311 billion over the next 10 years under the law. Now, when the CMS Actuary was asked directly if President Obama's health care bill would hold down unsustainable medical costs just last week, that Actuary replied: ``I would say false.''
Last year, CBO also confirmed our concerns about the bill's inability to contain costs, stating, ``In CBO's judgment, the health legislation enacted earlier this year does not substantially diminish that pressure.''
In addition to increased costs for the government and present and future taxpayers, health insurance premiums will increase for Americans and the families. In fact, the CBO estimated that premiums will increase by $2,100 even though at least candidate Obama promised to lower premiums by $2,500 per family.
So that big expansion of government and cost and health care costs, including taxes and health care premiums, is another big problem. Again, this is not a minor detail which we can fix with a perfecting amendment, with a few tweaks to the bill. This goes to the core of the entire plan.
Another fundamental issue which goes to the core of the entire plan is the fact--and I think it is a well-established fact--that the ObamaCare plan will cost us not just money, not just increased taxes, not just increased health insurance premiums, it will cost us jobs. That should always be worrisome, but it should be particularly worrisome as we stand here today and debate this in a horrible economy, as we are trying to come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Again, this is not just any period of time; this is a time of prolonged historic unemployment.
This bill costs us jobs, and this bill absolutely decimates job creation. The bill taxes jobs and places more burdens on job creators. For instance, the National Federation of Independent Business, representing thousands of American small businesses, including many in Louisiana, my home State, said:
If new taxes, new mandates and new government programs in PPACA--
That is the ObamaCare bill--
remain intact the law will stifle the ability to hire, grow and invest. .....
In addition to the often-discussed 1099 paperwork nightmare for small businesses, the bill also includes a pay-or-play mandate on job creators. This complicated new tax penalty imposes a tax on businesses with more than 50 workers if they do not offer coverage or do offer coverage but workers elect to decline that benefit. Yet again, this is a fundamental problem with the bill that goes to the heart of the bill, not the periphery. This aspect of the bill will have many dire consequences. First, because the $2,000 penalty for not offering insurance is less than the $6,100 average employer benefit contribution, businesses are actually given an incentive to drop coverage. So there is a concrete money incentive, a major money incentive for businesses to drop coverage and actually push workers off good coverage many have right now.
Second, businesses that are able to grow and hire more workers may choose not to create jobs and to stay under the 50-employee threshold to avoid all of these disincentives and difficulties.
Because of all this, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the bill ``will encourage some people to work fewer hours or to withdraw from the labor market.'' It also said: On net, it will reduce the amount of labor used in the economy. Is that what we want to encourage in any economy but particularly in a horribly down economy? We are trying to come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Do we want to reduce labor opportunity in our economy?
These are stunning conclusions that so many of us warned against during the debate--conclusions the majority of Americans feared. Taxing American job creators and sticking businesses with more government compliance requirements and costs is absolutely the wrong approach, particularly in a down economy.
Finally, there is another core concern which I share with so many others in this body that again goes to the heart of the bill. It is not a minor debate. It is not something we can solve with a perfecting amendment. It is not at the periphery. It is not changing a comma, changing a sentence. It is at the heart of the bill; that is, the bill contains at its heart over $500 billion in Medicare cuts--yes, over $ 1/2 trillion in cuts to Medicare. These cuts aren't invested back into Medicare. They don't help Medicare stay solvent. They don't help Medicare survive or stay solvent longer. They don't help fix the looming Medicare challenge. They are stolen from Medicare to pay for brandnew stuff for other people in ObamaCare.
These Medicare cuts directly impact seniors, and one study shows that the massive cuts to Medicare Advantage will hit Louisiana seniors particularly hard. A study by the Heritage Foundation shows that Louisiana seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans lose more than any other State in the Nation because of the Obama health bill. The report says that projected enrollment in Medicare Advantage will drop by over 125,000 Louisianians--62 percent--and benefits will be cut by $5,000 per beneficiary.
So this bill takes away benefits and choices for seniors not to fix Medicare, not to preserve Medicare, not to preserve its solvency for longer, but steals it from Medicare, steals it from seniors for brandnew purposes for other folks. This directly contradicts the President's promise that ``if you like what you have, you can keep it.'' No, you can't, Mr. President. Thousands of Louisiana seniors can't. In fact, CMS's Chief Actuary also verified that the promise will be broken, confirming that Americans may lose their current health care coverage regardless of whether or not they want to keep it.
So I respond directly to my friend and colleague from Vermont by saying that we want full repeal of ObamaCare for a very simple reason: The big problems with the bill, the big problems with the plan aren't at the margin, they are at the core, and the big problems can't be fixed with a perfecting amendment, with changing a comma, changing punctuation, revising 1 or 2 or 5 or 10 sentences. The big problems are at the core of the plan, starting with a mandate from the Federal Government--unprecedented--that every man, woman, and child in America needs to go into the market and buy a particular product.
That is why we demand repeal, that is why we will continue to pursue repeal until it happens, and that is why we will replace this huge burdensome bill with targeted reforms such as protecting folks with preexisting conditions, such as reimportation, such as generics reform and other measures to reduce prescription drug prices, such as allowing American citizens to shop for health insurance across State lines and to pool together through their small businesses, through other means, through association health plans.
Thank you, Madam President. With that, I urge all of my colleagues to come together. Let's repeal this very problematic plan, and let's start anew with focused, targeted reforms that the American people have been asking for.
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