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Public Statements

Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I thank you for the recognition. I come to the floor to briefly talk about the Supreme Court decision on health care.

I was in Colorado last week. We had a wonderful time traveling across the Western Slope of our State. We spent time in Gunnison County and other places. We fished in Hartselle. One thing people were not talking about there was the Supreme Court decision on health care. What they were talking about was how we get our economy moving again; how we recouple our economic growth in this country to job growth and wage growth again; how we create a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to reducing our deficit and our debt; how we educate our kids for the 21st century; how we build this economy to make sure we leave our kids with something better than what we found. In short, they were talking about exactly what people inside the beltway are not talking about.

Today the House of Representatives--I don't know whether voting has started yet--in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, is voting to repeal the health care reform bill for the 31st time. They have been successful 30 times. They have voted to repeal the bill 30 times, but they feel the need now to do it a 31st time.

I saw on the TV in my office today the Twitter traffic that was rolling at the bottom of the screen. One person after another announced that they were voting to repeal the health care bill for the 31st time.

I thought about a Facebook post I saw last week from somebody I know in Denver named Mary Seawall. She is on the school board there, but she is not a politician. This is what she wrote the day after the Supreme Court reached its decision on health care:

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act came on a hard day for our family. Yesterday afternoon, we learned that our 6-year-old Annie has type 1 diabetes. She and I sat in a doctor's office crying through her first finger prick, her first insulin shot. Our life is now different.

She will have this disease for her entire life or until there is a cure. A few years ago, our entire family might have lost our insurance. She now has a preexisting condition that likely would have made her uninsurable as an adult.

Mary wrote:

What I am saying is not political; it's a mother's sigh of relief.

``A mother's sigh of relief.''

When I heard the Supreme Court ruling, I was waiting for the call--

``I was waiting for the call''--

to tell me why my baby looked too thin, why she had to take breaks walking up a flight of stairs, why she had started wetting her bed. The ruling means she lives in a country that won't leave her behind.

We are very lucky that we caught this early before she lost consciousness or went into a coma, something that would have likely happened in the next few days.

I know our luck came from health insurance that allowed her worried parents to take her to the doctor because we had a ``bad feeling.'' Many families, even insured ones, can't do what we did. I was raised on the idea of ``better to be safe than sorry.'' Our health care system has been ``better sorry than safe'' for too long.

Mary goes on to say that this Supreme Court decision ``couldn't have come at a better time, our family's worst day.''

I hope the folks who are twittering about their repeal for the 31st time of this bill rather than working to try to improve it, rather than working to try to fix it, incapable of actually telling us what they would replace this with, would take a moment to read what a mother in Denver posted on Facebook last week.

I do not think this health care bill was perfect, and I said that from the day we passed it. There are issues around cost, in particular, that I continue to be very concerned with because despite the rhetoric around this place, the reality is that we cannot solve our deficit and debt problem without dealing with a restructuring of how we deliver health care in the United States. Maybe the bill is not perfect, and maybe there are suggestions that could be made to improve it. I have my own. I tried, when we passed the bill, to put a fail-safe in place that would actually hold this Congress to the numbers that it said it would save, the dollars that we said we would save, and that if we did not, we had to figure out how to cut or make other changes to get there. So there is more work to be done. But the thing I find amazing--and this is why I wanted to come to the floor--is how far away this conversation is from the people I represent and what a masquerade so much of this conversation is.

I know there were a lot of people who were disappointed that the health care bill was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, and there were people who said they were going to declare it unconstitutional, and they did not.

So the next day--and really for the next week--what we heard was, well, the bill imposes a tax on the middle class of this country, that the President broke a promise because he said he would not raise taxes on the middle class.

I want everybody to know what is being talked about when people talk about this. They are talking about a piece of the legislation called the health care mandate. Some people call it a penalty, and some people call it a tax. That is something that has been debated around here for the last week. It has not been debated before this.

I do not care what label you put on it, frankly, because people at home are not talking to me about this. Do you know why they are not talking to me about this? Because it applies to 1 percent--1.2 percent, to be precise--of the American people. That is what the Congressional Budget Office told us when we were passing this legislation. And if you do not believe me, it is on page 33--I will not enter the whole opinion into the Record--of the Supreme Court's finding of fact, where Justice Roberts finds as a matter of fact that the CBO said this mandate would cost $4 billion and that roughly 4 million people would be affected. Those are the 4 million people after Medicare and Medicaid and private employers' insurance and personal insurance that people buy. That is a group of people, a sliver, 1 percent of the American people who can afford to buy insurance but do not and choose to pay the penalty or the tax or the mandate instead of buying their insurance--$4 billion; 4 million people.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the portion of the Supreme Court Opinion of the Court that I referred to on page 33 of the opinion be printed in the Record.

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Mr. BENNET. What the health care bill was intended to do--and again, it may not have done it perfectly, and there may be other ideas we ought to be legislating around--what it was intended to do is solve a problem that confronted not 1 percent of the American people, not 4 million people, but a problem that conservatively--extremely conservatively--affects 50 percent of the American people and is a $58.5 billion problem, not a $4 billion problem, because it is 50 percent of the people who are covered today by their employers who have to pay $1,100 a year in additional premiums to subsidize the uninsured in the United States of America. That was one of the big objectives of dealing with this health care issue. And I say it is conservative because this number does not even include the people who are buying insurance on their own. So maybe if you add those numbers together, you get to about 70 percent of the American people.

So we spent a week on cable television, on the floor of the Senate, occupied completely with this 1 percent number over here, with no theory at all about what we are doing for 50 percent of Americans. That is how comical this conversation has become. I should not say comical. That is how detached this conversation has become from what is actually going on in the real lives of the people whom I represent and others in this Chamber represent.

What is so amazing to me, having watched this as somebody who has not been around here for very long and may not understand all the ways of Washington, is that when you look at the history of this so-called mandate or so-called tax, it is really puzzling to understand the politics around this.

This is a chart, I show you in the Chamber, that is part of an article that ran in the New Yorker a couple weeks ago called the ``Unpopular Mandate'' by Ezra Klein. I ask unanimous consent that the article be printed in the Record.

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Mr. BENNET. I urge people to read this because what Mr. Klein does in this article is chart the political course of this mandate from about 1989 to the present. The red shown on the chart is the years in which this was a Republican idea, advanced by Republican Members of Congress and by think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that actually came up with the idea to begin with to deal with the fact that there were people in this country who were not buying health insurance and whom we were all subsidizing, and then when it became a Democratic idea in more recent times.

It strikes me as one person watching all of this that this might have more to do with the party that is in the White House or not in the White House than it does with respect to the merits of the idea. But it is, of course, the merits of these ideas that we should be debating and talking about. But we should not be telling the American people that something that affects 1 percent of the American people is a broad-based assault on the middle class, and we should be bringing to this floor the ideas we have for improving what 50 percent of the American people or 70 percent of the American people are already facing. That is what people in our States believe.

Here is part of an editorial from the Greeley Tribune, which I think was published yesterday, where they wrote:

In 2010, the North Colorado Medical Center provided more than $71 million in services to indigent patients who didn't have health insurance. It wrote off another $29 million in bad debt.

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Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, I believe that folks in Colorado have moved on here, that they want us to improve this legislation, that they want us to get focused on the real matters at hand, which are getting this economy going again, getting us into an environment where we have more jobs and rising wages again, and they are a lot less interested in these talking points.

I do not understand why people who are in politics can simultaneously make such a big deal about this that affects 1 percent of the people in this country and at the same time support legislation, for example, that forces women, that mandates women to have procedures before they can make a choice about their own reproductive health. It does not make any sense because it is completely inconsistent.

I have a daughter Anne who is 7, not 6 like Mary's daughter. But it is her health care and the certainty in her life and in her sisters' lives and the thousands of children across my State whose health care we should be interested in.

I can see that other colleagues of mine have come to the floor, so I am going to move along here. But before I do that and before I yield to the Senator from Maryland, I want to say that if this repeal happened in the House and then this repeal happened in the Senate and it were signed into law, 932,000 Coloradans who have preexisting conditions would lose their insurance, 50,000 young adults in Colorado who can now stay on their parents' insurance until they are 26 would no longer be able to, and women could once again be discriminated against simply because they are women. It is welcome to 696,000 women in Colorado who need maternity care or other women's health services who are not going to be charged higher premiums since this law is in effect. And when these exchanges are set up, 521,000 Colorado children will, for the first time, have better vision and dental coverage.

I want to work in a bipartisan way going forward to try to make sure we are doing everything we can to follow the examples of places such as St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction or the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver or Denver Health in Denver to drive higher quality and to drive lower costs. It is essential. It is essential for our economy, and it is essential for our competitive position in the world. And it is essential that we put these talking points down and start actually dealing with the facts as they are.

With that, Mr. President, I thank you for your patience, and I yield the floor.

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