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Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The reconciliation package we bring to the floor today sensibly reduces spending so that we can continue to adequately defend our Nation.

The first responsibility of the Federal Government is to keep our Nation safe from foreign threats. By cutting wasteful spending and reforming programs, we can continue to maintain a military that keeps us secure at home and makes the world a more peaceful place.

I am proud to report that the Energy and Commerce Committee exceeded the budget instructions by $17 billion to save a total of $114 billion over 10 years. In three titles, we cut wasteful programs created by ObamaCare, reform the Medicaid program, and reform our broken medical liability system.

With the Nation struggling with trillion-dollar deficits, the President chose to increase government spending by more than another $1 trillion with his health care law. This wasn't reform; it was a government takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy that will increase dependency and bankrupt the Nation. We continue to push for full repeal, but also do everything we can to stop wasteful and unwise spending immediately.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund is a classic example of how government bureaucrats fail to spend public funds wisely. The health care law provided an advance appropriation of $16 billion and called for a permanent annual allotment of $2 billion per year for this fund. That's $2 billion a year in perpetuity. So, in 2036, 2037, and 2057, the Secretary of HHS has complete authority over this $2 billion to spend on whatever he or she wishes without coming back for appropriations authorization from Congress. Let's call this what it is: It's a slush fund for the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Almost any program can make a claim that it is preventative. The Secretary has the sole role of control of the fund and, so far, has found some quite interesting ways to spend it. For example:

In Pitt County, North Carolina, a recipient used the money to fund signage for parks and bike lanes;

In Boston, they spent $1 million on urban gardening;

One of the vaunted successes of the program was getting the city of Baldwin Park, California, to put a 9-month moratorium on construction of fast food restaurants. Government should be encouraging job creation, not finding ways to stop it for a few months;

New York spent $3 million to lobby for a soda tax issue;

Philadelphia spent money to push for higher State cigarette excise taxes. Why on Earth is the Federal Government paying for campaigns to lobby State governments?

These are all examples from just the last 2 years. Who knows what projects will get money in the future.

We have numerous public health and prevention funds that can be managed through the yearly appropriations process. A permanent slush fund with limited oversight guarantees that money will be wasted every year.

We also repealed the unlimited authority to fund the implementation of State health insurance exchanges. ObamaCare gave the Secretary a credit card with no limit, a bottomless direct appropriation. This is unprecedented and unwise. Again, we need oversight in order to make sure that the public's money is being wisely spent. Congress never should have abdicated its authority in this area, and now we need to reclaim it.

We defund the CO-OP program before billions of public dollars can be lost. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that a significant portion of the funds given to unproven CO-OPs would never be returned to the Treasury. We would stop this funding before HHS creates its own Solyndra.

The President's health care law places a dramatically increased burden on State Medicaid programs. The maintenance of effort provisions restrict States from making commonsense reforms to stop fraud and abuse. We know that Medicaid is rife with fraudulent claims. In 2011, there were $15 billion in improper payments. We need to give States the flexibility to run these programs efficiently and to help the truly needy.

We also repeal an unwise bonus program that encourages States to undermine the integrity of the program. We should not place unnecessary barriers to qualifying for Medicaid, but neither should we encourage States to oversimplify reviews of eligibility. We do not have unlimited funds. Again, Medicaid coverage needs to be open only to the truly needy.

Finally, we include real medical liability reform in this reconciliation package. The President's health care law gave a pitiful $50 million for liability reform demonstration projects.

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Mr. PITTS. This is paying lip service to a $200 billion problem.

I recently heard from a doctor who has been practicing in my district for decades. He bemoaned defensive medicine but was even more concerned that doctors being trained in today's climate don't even realize that they are prescribing unnecessary tests.

Defensive medicine is simply becoming the norm. Medical liability reform means saving for consumers, for doctors, and for the government.

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Mr. PITTS. Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the gentleman's concerns and want to assure him that these issues deserve the attention of my Health Subcommittee. And as we continue the legislative process, I will gladly work with the gentleman and Governor Fortuño to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens in the territories.

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