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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I will address two issues. I commend, in particular, the senior Senator from Oklahoma for the extraordinary work he has done to produce a transportation bill that has significant reforms in it. He has been tenacious and effective. He has tugged on our sleeves and pointed out to us repeatedly the importance of getting this job done. I congratulate him for an extraordinary accomplishment.
With regard to the bill, the highway conference report contains significant reforms to the surface transportation program. Projects will now be completed in a more timely manner because, for the first time, there are hard deadlines on agencies to complete environmental reviews.
Also, States are given maximum flexibility to use their transportation dollars the way they choose, rather than how Washington dictates. This bill is fully paid for with a package of offsets mostly included in the Senate-passed highway bill.
The conference report also contains important legislation to reform the National Flood Insurance Program and prevent the interest on college student loans from doubling.
The flood insurance bill is a model of reform: It moves this long-failing program closer to where it should be--the private sector. These reforms actually cut subsidies, save the taxpayers money, and greatly improve the program's financial position. It was negotiated and reported out of committee on a bipartisan basis.
On the student loan issue, Republicans and Democrats worked hard to find common ground. The agreement we have reached will ensure that college students who are already facing enormous challenges in the Obama economy will not be paying higher interest rates next month.
Students can't wait for the President to get off the campaign trail and actually work with Congress to prevent student loan interest rates from rising this year. So while the President continues to ignore the bipartisan proposals sent more than 3 weeks ago, Senate Democrats dropped their demand for job-killing tax hikes and worked with Republicans to find solutions.
It is nice to finally see the Senate actually work as the Senate used to. It proves that if this body ignores the campaign attacks from the President and if our Democratic friends stop pushing job-killing tax hikes, we can actually get a lot done around here. I, once again, thank my colleagues for all their hard work on these important measures.
HEALTH CARE DECISION
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the most important issue brought to the front page in the last 2 days is the state of the new ObamaCare law.
Two and a half years ago, President Obama teamed up with Democrats right here in Congress to pass a health care bill they knew most Americans didn't want. Americans have been very clear about what they thought of this bill. So Democrats settled on a deeply dishonest sales pitch aimed at convincing them otherwise.
Nearly every day since then, the promises that formed the very heart of that sales pitch have been exposed for the false promises they were.
Americans were promised lower health care costs. But, of course, they are going up. Americans were promised lower premiums, and they are going up. Seniors were promised Medicare would be protected; it was raided to pay for a new entitlement instead. We were promised it would create jobs; CBO predicts it will lead to 800,000 fewer jobs because of ObamaCare. People were promised they could keep the plans they liked; millions have now learned they cannot.
For 2 years, the list of broken promises has grown longer and longer and longer.
But yesterday morning, we got powerful confirmation of what may have been the biggest deception of all. For years, the President and his Democratic allies in Congress have sworn up and down--sworn up and down--that failing to comply with the individual mandate did not result in a tax on individuals or families. ``It is not a tax,'' they said.
The reason was obvious. If Americans knew that failure to comply resulted in a tax hike, of course, the bill would never have passed. If our friends on the other side had conceded the obvious--that it was, in fact, a tax hike--we all know it never would have passed. The President would not be able to claim his health care bill didn't raise taxes on the middle class, as he did again and again and again.
Yesterday, the Court blew the President's cover. In a narrowly upheld case on one basis only--that the penalty associated with the individual mandate is a tax--the Court spoke. It said Congress doesn't have the constitutional authority to mandate insurance coverage under the commerce clause. Congress doesn't have the authority to mandate individual insurance coverage under the commerce clause, but it obviously does have the power to tax. So they upheld the central provision of the bill on the fact that the penalty for failing to comply with it was a tax.
In the eyes of the Court, that is all the penalty tied to the individual mandate ever was: a tax imposed by a Democratic Congress--without a single Republican vote--primarily, interestingly enough, on the middle class. It is a tax on the middle class. Let's be very clear about that. The tax connected to the individual mandate is not primarily a tax on the rich but on the middle-class Americans who will bear the brunt of it.
Listen to this, colleagues. According to the CBO, at least 77 percent of the people paying this tax will meet the President's own definition of the middle class; 77 percent of the people paying this tax will meet the President's own definition of the middle class.
Those who have to pay the tax will pay an average tax of $1,200. Even if they pay it every year, they still will not have insurance.
Yesterday's decision turns the President's campaign rhetoric on its head. Those who will end up paying the heaviest burden for not buying government-mandated insurance are not going to be the wealthiest Americans--oh, no--but the very middle-class families the President claims to defend.
That is the truth the Court unmasked yesterday.
Most Americans thought the process Democrats used to pass the health care bill was unseemly, secretive, partisan, even antidemocratic.
They also thought it was unconstitutional for the government to create commerce in order to regulate it--for the government to create commerce in order to regulate it.
All of that is still true. But what many Americans may not have appreciated when this bill passed was how empty all of the promises were--how completely empty all the promises were. And at the center of them all was the claim that failing to buy health insurance did not result in a tax. That was the central claim: Failing to buy health insurance did not result in a tax.
But the Court has now spoken: It is a tax--largely on the middle class. This is just one more reason this law needs to be repealed in its entirety. With every passing day we learn something new about this terrible law. Not only does it make the problems in our health care system worse, it leads to a tax on middle-class families who are either unable or unwilling to purchase health insurance. What a terrible idea.
So it is time for Democrats to stop trying to defend the indefensible and join Republicans in wiping this colossal legislative mistake clear off the books. Yesterday's decision gives us the clearest proof yet this bill has to go. It needs to be repealed to clear the way for commonsense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans' access to the care they need from the doctor they choose at a lower cost. That is precisely what Republicans intend to do.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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