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Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, sitting here listening to the distinguished senior Senator from Utah Mr. Hatch, who in many ways I consider my mentor in the Senate, I couldn't help but reflect on what we were all doing on Christmas Eve at 7 o'clock in the morning of 2009.
We were on the floor of the Senate casting a historic vote on the President's Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. Sadly, that piece of legislation became a partisan exercise in power. All the Democrats voted for it and all the Republicans voted against it. It was an inauspicious way to start such an important part of reform of our health care system.
The President pretty well got what he wanted. The 2,700-page piece of legislation was made into law with $1 trillion-plus tax increases, with promises that if you like what you have, you can keep it, and he promised that even families of four could see a reduction in their health care costs of roughly $2,500 a year.
Whether you were against ObamaCare from the beginning, as I was, because you never believed it would actually work, or you were for it and you actually believed that it would perform as advertised and as promised, I think everyone has to now acknowledge it has not turned out the way that even some of its most ardent supporters had hoped it would.
The first indication, perhaps, was when the Secretary of Health and Human Services began to issue waivers, in excess of 1,000 waivers, from having to comply with the law itself. There were many questions about the basis upon which these waivers were issued. Were they given to friends of the administration and denied to adversaries of the administration?
This is what happens when you pass a sweeping piece of legislation such as this and then cherry-pick who it applies to and who it does not apply to. This started with the granting of waivers.
We found that most recently even the President of the United States has determined the employer mandate--the mandate on employers with more than 50 employees, that they provide this government-designed insurance policy or else they get fined--that even the President has acknowledged by his action that delaying the implementation of the employer mandate for a year is having a devastating effect on unemployment in America. The reason we know this is because many employers are simply shedding jobs so they can get beneath the 50-person threshold for the employer mandate or they are taking full-time jobs and making them into part-time jobs. This is causing a lot of people who wish to work and want to provide for their families--it is creating an inability for them to do so according to their needs.
We know the individual mandate--the House of Representatives has passed a piece of legislation that says: If you are going to delay the employer mandate for businesses, shouldn't you show the same consideration for individual Americans who, unless they buy this government-approved insurance, will have to pay a penalty? The President hasn't accepted that delay in the implementation of the law.
There is another important piece of legislation that I filed in the Senate that the House is also considering this week; that is, given the scandals associated with the Internal Revenue Service, the fact that clearly the IRS has more on its plate than it is capable of adequately performing, we ought to get the Internal Revenue Service out of the implementation of ObamaCare.
With everything else it has to do, especially given the scandals that are currently under investigation in both Houses of Congress, we ought to be delaying the implementation of that individual mandate. We ought to be delaying the implementation of the employer mandate. We ought to be cutting the IRS out of the implementation process for ObamaCare.
I confess, I voted against ObamaCare from the very beginning. I voted to repeal it every chance we could possibly have, and I voted to cosponsor legislation that would defund it.
I wish to echo some of the words of the distinguished senior Senator from Utah. At some point those of us who were against it from the very beginning, who would like to repeal it and defund it, have to work together with our colleagues--who perhaps hoped that it would actually work as advertised--realizing now that even organized labor is writing letters to us saying: Please protect us from the provisions of this law because it is hurting our jobs. It is making it impossible for to us keep the insurance we have.
We need to work together to try to come up with a solution at some point. As the distinguished ranking member and the distinguished Finance Committee chairman said: The implementation of ObamaCare is clearly becoming a train wreck. We don't want to visit the pain of that train wreck and that failure on the American people but provide them a reasonable alternative which will provide people access to high-quality care at a lower cost. There are plenty of great ideas out there.
I wish to turn to the appropriations bill that is pending before us. Last week, in one of the President's much publicized pivots, the President turned his attention back to the economy. Of course, most Americans don't have the luxury of pivoting to or from this sluggish economy, which is growing at the most sluggish rate in the history of the American economy since the last depression, the Great Depression. The American people don't have a luxury of pivots. They have to live with this sluggish economy and high unemployment day after day.
We should welcome the President back to this conversation. He has talked a lot about middle-class families, who, as we all would agree, are the backbone of our country and a source of immeasurable strength. That said, the President hasn't been a member of the middle class for some time, and I think he, along with some of our colleagues, could use a refresher.
American families set their budgets, and they have to stick with them. In lean times they trim their budgets, and in times of plenty they set money aside for the future should they need it. Astonishingly, this basic principle seems to have been lost on both the President and the author of this legislation.
This bill, this underlying appropriations bill, takes the first step toward violating the Budget Control Act, which President Obama himself signed into law in 2011. That law sets very clear limits on spending levels, which the Democratic majority, by bringing this bill to the floor, has chosen to ignore.
They ignored it when they wrote their budget earlier this year, and they are ignoring it today with this proposed appropriations bill, which is 11 percent above the Budget Control Act numbers and 4 percent above the President's own proposed budget itself. That is $54 billion. That is how much this bill would appropriate in discretionary spending and is more than $5 billion above the current level of spending for this particular appropriations bill.
As I said, it is more than the President himself has requested. It is more than $10 billion above the House bill which, unlike this bill, was written in accordance with the existing law.
I understand, as a negotiating tactic, why our Democratic friends might think highballing the House bill is a good negotiating tactic, but it is a total charade. It violates the Budget Control Act, and the American people simply will not go along with it.
The American people can't understand why Congress and the Federal Government are having such a difficult time doing with 2.4 percent less than we spent before the Budget Control Act went into place--2.4 percent. Yet here inside the beltway you will hear people talk about the so-called sequester and the Budget Control Act as if it were the end of the world.
It is not. It is called living within your means, and that is what we tried to do when the law was passed and when President Obama signed it. I think it is also telling that the majority leader, who basically controls the agenda on the Senate floor, chose to bring this particular bill to the floor before the August recess. We could have passed any one of a number of other appropriations bills to fund our veterans hospitals or to pay our Border Patrol agents.
The House and Senate aren't very far apart on the appropriations bills that would do that. Conceivably, we could have had them on the President's desk by the end of this week. Instead, the majority leader would rather leave them in limbo while attempting to pass this bloated bill which has zero chance of becoming law.
My hope is that as we proceed through this next round of fiscal debate, our friends on the other side of the aisle would demonstrate a willingness to operate within the law and the Budget Control Act. Unfortunately, they are not off to a very good start with this particular appropriations bill.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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