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Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, let me thank the ranking member of the Budget Committee for all of his incredibly hard work on this issue. It is a hopeful sign that the Senate is finally debating a budget to set priorities for Federal spending and revenues in the coming year. While I am disappointed that we failed to perform this fundamental duty for the past 4 years, and that the budget reported by the Budget Committee is, unfortunately, a partisan one, I nevertheless welcome this budget debate.

I wish to describe the amendments I will be offering to the budget resolution later today. The first of these amendments is No. 144. It would create a deficit-neutral reserve fund for the purpose of correcting ObamaCare's definition of what is a full-time employee under the law. This amendment would allow employees to work more than 30 hours a week without triggering possible penalties on the businesses that hire them.

ObamaCare requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide qualified health insurance to their workers or face onerous penalties. These penalties begin at $40,000 for businesses with 50 employees, plus $2,000 for each additional ``full-time equivalent'' employee. These penalties are a huge disincentive for any small business that wishes to grow and add new jobs.

One Maine business I know has 47 employees, and it would like to hire more but won't because of these onerous penalties. Another employer told me she is better off financially if she were to cancel the health insurance she provides to her employees and instead pay the fines. The fines are cheaper than paying the health insurance premiums for her employees. What perverse incentives ObamaCare has.

Greatly adding to the problem, ObamaCare defines full-time employees as averaging just 30 hours of work a week. This definition is completely out of keeping with standard employment practices in the United States today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 8.8 hours per day, which equates to 44 hours per week. GAO, in looking at this issue, uses 40. We pay overtime after 40 hours per week. The number of hours set by ObamaCare as full time is nearly one-third lower than the actual practice.

By using this unreasonably low threshold of 30 hours per week to define a full-time employee, ObamaCare artificially drives up the number of full-time workers employed by a business, exposing the employer and business to the risks of substantial penalties.

The consequences are some businesses are restricting their employees to no more than 29 hours per week to ensure their workers are considered part-time under ObamaCare. If more businesses follow suit, millions of American workers could find their hours, and thus their earnings, are cut back at a time when many of them are already struggling.

My amendment would allow for legislation setting a sensible definition of a ``full-time'' employee for purposes of ObamaCare penalties. This will help protect workers who otherwise will find their hours curtailed and their earnings cut as a result of the requirements in the ObamaCare law.

I would note this affects a wide range of employees. This is why you have NAM, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the NEA, the National Education Association--strange bedfellows indeed--both supporting my amendment.

The second amendment I am offering is amendment No. 459. It calls for sensible regulatory reform. Its provisions are based on legislation I have introduced in the past, the Clearing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens Act or the CURB Act. This bill is designed to ease the regulatory burden on our Nation's job creators and is supported by the Nation's largest small business advocacy group, the National Federation of Independent Business. My amendment would require Federal agencies to take into account the impact on small businesses and job growth before imposing new rules and regulations. It does this in three ways: First, it requires Federal agencies to analyze the indirect cause of regulations, such as the impact on job creation, the cost of energy, and consumer prices.

Second, it prohibits Federal agencies from circumventing the public notice and comment requirements by issuing unofficial rules known as ``guidance documents'' to avoid the review required under Executive orders. Third, it helps small businesses avoid unnecessary penalties for first-time, nonharmful paperwork violations.

The third amendment which I will offer is amendment No. 143. It would simply require the President, Vice President, and Cabinet-level officials to purchase their health insurance through the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare.

ObamaCare requires individuals to purchase qualified health insurance or face a penalty. Those who cannot obtain coverage through their workplace or another source are required to purchase insurance through the exchanges which would be created under this law. ObamaCare specifically requires most Members of Congress and their staff to obtain health insurance through exchanges. If the exchanges are good enough for Members of Congress and their staffs, then surely that same requirement should apply with respect to the President, Vice President and Cabinet-level officials. My amendment would extend this requirement to them.

Finally, I am also pleased to be cosponsoring an amendment with my colleague Senator Casey of Pennsylvania to prevent government waste in the Job Corps Program by requiring the long-overdue implementation of financial management, internal controls, and updated program integrity protocols at the Employment and Training Administration.

What has happened with the Job Corps Program is an utter disgrace. This program has significant shortfalls, which are caused entirely by the inexcusably poor management of this program for 2 years in a row by the Department of Labor. Job Corps is expected to be in a shortfall again next year.

The impact has led the administration to suspend new student enrollment into the Job Corps Program. These programs are critical for at-risk youth. They provide education, training, and job skills. It is a disgrace the administration has had such terrible management in Washington that furloughs are happening and students are being denied services.

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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I urge my colleagues to adopt my amendments today.

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Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, my amendment would allow for legislation setting a more sensible definition of ``full-time employee'' under the Affordable Care Act. Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, the definition of a full-time employee averages just 30 hours a week. That definition is not found in other areas of the law. It is creating this perverse incentive where employers are actually reducing the number of hours their employees work in order to keep under that 30-hour threshold and thus avoid penalties.

All this amendment does, however, is call for a more sensible definition of what a full-time employee should entail. I ask unanimous consent that we voice vote the amendment.

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