Mr. RIVERA. Mr. Speaker, tomorrow I am going to vote in favor of the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 (SRRA) because I firmly believe the government's budget deficit is far too big, bad for the economy, and compromises our Nation's future. Additionally, the automatic across-the-board sequestration enacted last year is not targeted and does not reflect good policy.
Most proposals to reduce the deficit are painful measures, requiring tough choices and trade-offs. On the whole, this legislation is a step in the right direction. It sends an important message about our seriousness in righting the Federal fiscal ship, and includes supportable measures.
But one provision of the bill in particular is inadvisable. The provision that would cut the Federal share of Medicaid in the territories approximately two-thirds through Fiscal Year 2019 should not be included in any budget legislation.
The Federal government already underfunds Medicaid in Puerto Rico and other territories, as the Republican Governors Association has recognized. The territories' Medicaid programs have not provided all services provided in the States and do not cover people who would otherwise be eligible in the States. If Puerto Rico were treated as a State, the Federal share of its Medicaid program would be about 80 percent. The unwise proposal in SSRA would cut the federal share of Puerto Rico's program by 65 percent, with the territory left to cover the bulk of the program with local funds. This inequitable treatment would not stand in any of the 50 states, and it should not be imposed on Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico and other territories do not have votes in the Federal system. This imposes on us a responsibility to ensure that their needs are met.
While I will be casting a yes vote for the SRRA today, I urge removal of this provision unfairly treating Puerto Rico's Federal Medicaid Funding. 4 million American Citizens in Puerto Rico deserve equal treatment as those living in the States.