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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 4089, Sportsmen's Heritage Act of 2012, and for Other Purposes

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, technically, this rule allows for consideration of H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen's Heritage Act, a patchwork quilt of four different bills that ease restrictions on guns and hunting. This bill, a sop to the gun lobby, deserves to be defeated by the House.

But that's not the most important part or most egregious part of this rule. That's because of the language slipped into this rule at the last minute by the Rules Committee--language that sets the budget numbers for the next fiscal year, and language that, Mr. Speaker, once again ends the Medicare guarantee for America's seniors.

That's right, Mr. Speaker. Last night, the Republicans on the Rules Committee pulled a switcheroo just before our vote on the rule. Now, these weren't just harmless, innocuous provisions. No, Mr. Speaker. These provisions would effectively enact the Ryan budget and require that Congress use it as a framework for the rest of the year.

The irony is that by adopting this language now, the Republican leadership is admitting that their awful budget resolution isn't going anywhere and that this so-called ``deeming resolution'' is the only way forward. It's ironic because they are using parliamentary tricks and sleight-of-hand to pretend that their budget has the force of law. Where are the Tea Party folks who used to be so outraged at this kind of abuse of regular order? Why aren't they yelling and screaming?

There hasn't been a single committee debate or markup on this language. These provisions undercut the bipartisan budget floor negotiated by President Obama and Speaker Boehner in the Budget Control Act. And worst of all, these provisions end the Medicare guarantee again.

The American people get it. They said ``no'' to the Ryan budget last year. They don't want Medicare to turn into a voucher program. They don't want to see their health care rationed or cut. They don't want Washington politicians trying to pull the rug out from underneath them after years of contributing to this important program.

We made a promise to America's seniors, Mr. Speaker. And once again, the Republican leadership is breaking their promise.

Mr. Speaker, it's bad enough that the Republican leadership doesn't want to focus on getting Americans back to work. It's bad enough that they're pushing cuts that will make hunger in America worse. That's evidenced by the fact that tomorrow in the Agriculture Committee we're going to be asked to vote on a package to cut $33 billion out of the SNAP program, increasing hunger in America if that would succeed. But their insistence on continuing to push for an end to Medicare is indescribable.

Now, I'm sure my Republican friends will deny that they want to end Medicare for America's seniors. They'll say their idea is bipartisan, even though it's not. They'll say that the detractors are exaggerating. But the truth hurts. This is not bipartisan. Yes, Senator Ron Wyden cosponsored health care legislation with Congressman Paul Ryan, but Senator Wyden has also said that he does not support the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget. Once again, he said he does not support the provisions in the Ryan budget with regard to Medicare. I'm sure someone will, once again, try to twist his words around, but they are very clear to me, Mr. Speaker.

This plan is not bipartisan. This is wholly owned by the Republicans and the Republican leadership, and I know my friends will say that this doesn't change Medicare. That, too, is a misrepresentation of their plan. But don't take my word for it. Let me read directly from the AARP's letter opposing the Ryan budget:

By creating a ``premium support'' system for future Medicare beneficiaries, the proposal is likely to simply increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare's promise of secure health coverage.

AARP goes on to say:

The premium support method described in the proposal--unlike private plan options that currently exist in Medicare--would likely ``price out'' traditional Medicare as a viable option, thus rendering the choice of traditional Medicare as a false promise. The proposal also leaves open the possibility for private plans to tailor their plans to healthy beneficiaries--again, putting traditional Medicare at risk.

Finally, AARP says:

Converting Medicare to a series of private options would undermine the market power of Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors.

That's a hard-hitting analysis from a nonpartisan group, and it shatters the myth that the Ryan Medicare plan wouldn't harm current or future seniors.

Mr. Speaker, Democrats oppose the Ryan budget because it's the wrong plan for America, and the deeming language included in this rule would force the Ryan budget on this House without a direct vote. That's right: there's no up-or-down vote on this plan. No, the rule simply ``deems'' that the Ryan budget takes effect, despite the lack of a budget resolution conference report.

Americans want us to focus on jobs and the economy, not on partisan games designed to throw red meat to the right wing of the right wing. Reject this rule and reject the Ryan Medicare plan.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I can see why my good friend from Utah is so desperate not to talk about the deem-and-pass language which is included in this rule. I would remind him, and I remind others on the other side, that back in March of 2010, Speaker John Boehner said that the deem-and-pass strategy was ``one of the most outrageous things I have seen since I have been in Congress.'' That's what the current Speaker of the House said back in March of 2010. And now, astonishingly, everybody on the other side of the aisle is quiet about that.

Let me just say this, Mr. Speaker. This place is becoming an institution where trivial matters get debated passionately and important ones not at all. My friend from Utah is saying this is all about the guns, the gun issue. Well, that's the least important part of what this rule does.

This rule deems the Ryan budget. It basically says that we're going to operate under those very difficult numbers that Congressman Ryan and the Republicans' Budget Committee have passed. And what it means is that we're going to end Medicare as we know it. That's more important to talk about than guns. What it means is that we're going to force more people into food insecurity and hunger because it's going to result in drastic cuts in food and nutrition programs. That's more important to talk about than guns.

The fact of the matter is this rule undercuts the social safety net in this country. This rule, if it is passed and these numbers become what the House operates under, I think will destroy the middle class and will force more people in the middle into poverty. It undercuts programs in education, and it undercuts programs in environmental protection and investments in our infrastructure and aid to cities and towns helping our police, helping our firefighters.

As I said--I cannot say this enough--this ends Medicare as we know it. If people want to end Medicare, then vote for this rule, because that's exactly what this rule will require. And I think that's outrageous. There are some things worth fighting for; and the protection of Medicare is one of those things, at least on our side of the aisle, we think is worth fighting for.

So please do not be fooled that this is some innocuous rule that would merely bring up a bill dealing with guns. This bill deems the Ryan budget as basically passed, as if it has gone through the House and the Senate, and the numbers that we're going to operate under in all of our committees.

I think that as the American people pay closer attention to what is happening here, they get more and more outraged by the activities of the Republican

leadership. This is not what the American people want. They rejected this attempt to undercut Medicare last year, and they're going to reject it again.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this rule. Vote ``no'' on this rule, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, let me just say that if this were nothing, my friends on the other side of the aisle would not be hiding this deeming language in a rule dealing with guns. We'd have a straight up-or-down-vote on the floor on the deeming provision.

The fact of the matter is that this rule magically puts the Ryan budget into effect, and what that means is an end to Medicare as we know it. And we're going to fight my friends on the other side of the aisle who want to destroy one of the most important social programs that we have in this country.

At this point, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi), the Democratic leader.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, let me just repeat, this rule has very little to do with sportsmen, but it has an awful lot to do with ending the Medicare guarantee as we know it.

At this point, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).

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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, before I yield to the ranking member of the Budget Committee, again, I want to make it clear to everybody who's watching this that this rule is about a lot more than a gun bill. This rule is about how we're going to proceed with the appropriations for the various committees. So, again, if this wasn't so controversial, my Republican friends would have brought up this deeming language on its own; but instead, they're hiding it in this gun bill, and they're trying not to talk about what this means. What this means is an end to the Medicare guarantee, among other things. It means an end to the social safety net in this country.

I think this is a horrible, horrible way to proceed. I think the budget that was passed by the House is horrible. But to move forward in this manner I think is very, very disruptive.

People need to understand that this is not just a rule that allows a gun bill to come to the floor and, oh, by the way, there's a few little minor procedural things that are contained in this rule. This is a big deal, this is a huge deal, and my colleagues need to know that.

At this point, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Van Hollen), the distinguished ranking member of the Committee on the Budget.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Let me just remind my colleagues that, by deeming these numbers, what my colleagues will be doing if they vote for this rule will be to give the Republican leadership the green light to go ahead and dismantle Medicare, to end the Medicare guarantee for our senior citizens.

It will be a green light to go after anti-hunger and nutrition programs. It's the green light to go after education programs. As the ranking member on the Budget Committee said very clearly, we all want to balance the budget, we all understand we need to deal with our debt. But the way my friends on the other side of the aisle have outlined their plan, it is so one-sided. The burden is all on middle-income families, all on those who are poor.

Their way of balancing the budget is to lower the quality of life for the middle class in this country. And there are other choices to be made. For example, making sure that Donald Trump pays his fair share or that we close some of these corporate tax loopholes or go after some of these subsidies for the big oil companies. Instead, all of the plans that have been put forward by my Republican friends are all aimed at those in the middle and those struggling to get into the middle. That is why we are so outraged here today. We believe in Medicare. We don't want to end the Medicare guarantee for our senior citizens.

At this point, Madam Speaker, I would like to yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California (Mr. Garamendi).

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Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, I just want to respond to something that my distinguished chairman of the Rules Committee said. You know, he implied that when my colleague from Massachusetts said that the Republican budget plans would literally take the food out of the mouths of children, that somehow we were engaged in hyperbole or some kind of empty rhetoric.

I don't know whether my chairman knows that tomorrow in the House Agriculture Committee, under the direction of the Republican leadership, that they are going to cut $33 billion out of the SNAP program.

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Mr. McGOVERN. But $33 billion in cuts will reduce benefits to people. It will take, literally, food off the table for many families and a lot of working families, too.

Under the Republican leadership's direction, the Agriculture Committee is not going after excessive subsidies and big agri-businesses. It's going after SNAP, food stamps. I am going to have an amendment in the Rules Committee today, when we bring up the transportation bill I think for, like, the 15th time I have offered it, to go after the billions of dollars that we give to oil companies in subsidies. Taxpayers subsidize these programs. We never get an opportunity to vote on the House floor.

But the Republican leadership is not only not allowing me to do that, they are not saying we should go after and trim this corporate welfare. What they are saying is $33 billion in cuts to SNAP. That is outrageous.

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Mr. McGOVERN. I will yield to the gentleman in 1 second.

I know these are difficult budgetary times. I mean, you know, to not ask the Donald Trumps of the world to pay a little bit more and rather, instead, to cut $33 billion in SNAP, or to not insist that we pay for these wars that seem to go on forever, and let that add to our debt, but go after poor people who are on SNAP, that's where the outrage is. I can't believe that that's the first place we are turning.

I yield to the gentleman.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, if we defeat the previous question, I will offer an amendment to the rule to ensure that Republicans can't use so-called reconciliation procedures to force through the elimination of Medicare as we know it or force through cuts to Medicare benefits for seniors or people with disabilities.

Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to insert the text of the amendment into the Record, along with extraneous material, immediately prior to the vote on the previous question.

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Mr. McGOVERN. Madam Speaker, we have a choice here. We can either balance our budget and deal with our deficit and our debt in a fair and balanced manner, or we can do it in the way that the Republican leadership has proposed, which is to basically put the burden on middle-income families and those struggling to get into the middle, and to put an added burden on our senior citizens.

Make no mistake about it: if you vote for this rule, you are voting to end the Medicare guarantee. That is their plan, and that is what they have said. There is no question about it.

I think it is outrageous. I think when Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary there is something wrong with our tax system. When corporations get all these special loopholes so they don't have to pay taxes but middle-income families have to, there is something wrong with this system. We need some balance.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' and defeat the previous question.

I urge a ``no'' vote on the rule, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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