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Making Continuing Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SCOTT. Mr. President, let me start by getting something out of the way: I am opposed to funding Obamacare, plain and simple, and my votes this week reflect that. The allegedly Affordable Care Act is raising premiums, forcing millions of Americans into part-time work, and raising taxes on hard-working American families.

However, I want to bring up another problem we are facing this week, which has so far been mostly drowned out in this latest budget crisis. Short-term, month-to-month budgeting is no way to run a government. Even if we manage to avoid a government shutdown this time, we will be debating this same question in just 6 weeks. We should not continue to place bandaids on Washington's failure to pass a responsible, long-term budget.

When I ran a small business, I had a plan to meet payroll and keep the lights on and doors open with the revenue I brought in. Even small businesses need long range planning, fiscal discipline, and foresight. When families sit down to plan their budgets, they are forced to make tough choices--like how to save for college, or simply how to get food on the dinner table that week. But the Federal Government has repeatedly failed to play by these same rules, and as a result, we move from crisis to crisis with no solution on the horizon for our growing fiscal mess. Congress has not completed all 12 regular spending bills on time since 1997. This year, Congress has not yet passed any of these bills. As a result, our debt continues to rise, our government grows ever bigger, and our economic future remains uncertain. This hurts our economy and hurts our families.

A big part of the solution here is not rocket science: Pass a budget. Pass all 12 appropriations bills. Show some fiscal foresight. While Obamacare is certainly more than enough reason to oppose the current continuing resolution, I will not support this stopgap spending measure and further grind our budgeting process to a halt.

[Begin Insert]
Mr. President, I want to take a moment to reflect on the current Senate debate over the funding of our government and the future of the so-called Affordable Care Act.

At the outset, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I oppose Obamacare and have from the beginning.

I was among the most outspoken critics of Obamacare when it was being debated in the Senate. In fact, I was the first Member of Congress to suggest that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, an argument that eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Since the law's passage, I have been one of the foremost voices in Congress in favor of repeal.

I have introduced legislation to repeal some of Obamacare's most egregious provisions, including the individual mandate, the employer mandate, the health insurance tax, and the medical device tax.

I have come to the floor countless times over the years to call for either a full repeal or permanent delay of the implementation of Obamacare.

In short, Mr. President, no one can accuse me of acquiescing when it comes to opposing Obamacare. I have and will continue to do all I can to protect the American people from this monstrosity of a law.

That said, I wish to express my admiration for my colleagues who are currently fighting to defund Obamacare as part of the continuing resolution to fund the government. I admire their commitment to their principles and share their desire to see Obamacare disappear once and for all.

While I may not agree with their chosen strategy, our overall goals are the same.

It is that strategy that I want to comment on today.

Once again, no one is more committed to repealing Obamacare than I am. However, if we are going to be successful in this endeavor, we need to look at the bigger picture.

Quite simply, the strategy of forcing a government shutdown in order to defund Obamacare has no chance of success. And, in the long run, I believe it will do more harm than good.

Unlike a number of my colleagues, I was around for the government shutdown of 1995. And, while purists may have patted themselves on the back for their resolve, the shutdown did nothing to advance conservative principles and, in the end, harmed the Republican Party.

I can't help but think that the same would happen now if we end up shutting down the government over a fight about Obamacare.

In fact, given the number of setbacks he has faced recently, I have little doubt that President Obama is hoping for a government shutdown so that he can blame it on Republicans.

That is what the Wall Street Journal editorial page argued recently, saying:

With his own popularity fading, Mr. Obama may want a shutdown so he can change the subject to his caricature of GOP zealots who want no government. He'll blame any turmoil or economic fallout on House Republicans, figuring that he can split the tea party from the GOP and that this is the one event that could reinstall Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Mr. Obama could spend his final two years going out in a blaze of liberal glory.

Does anyone seriously believe that the mainstream media would portray a government shutdown over Obamacare in a light that was favorable to congressional Republicans?

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record, at the conclusion of my remarks, a copy of the Wall Street Journal editorial.

I also ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record a copy of a recent op-ed piece authored by Karl Rove.

In that opinion piece, Mr. Rove rightly argues that:

``The desire to strike at Obamacare is praiseworthy. But, any strategy to repeal, delay, or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn't. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.''

Karl Rove isn't the only conservative making these arguments.

Writing in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer said of the shutdown strategy: ``[T]here's no principle at stake here. This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don't fancy suicide.''

Mr. Krauthammer continued, saying: ``Nothing could better revive the fortunes of a failing, flailing, fading Democratic administration than a government shutdown where the president is portrayed as standing up to the GOP on honoring our debts and paying our soldiers in the field.''

Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review wrote that this strategy is ``a grass roots-pleasing slogan in search of a path to legislative fruition,'' and that it ``seems tantamount to believing that if Republican politicians clicked their wing tips together and wished it so, President Barack Obama would collapse in a heap and surrender on his party's most cherished accomplishment.''

Mr. President, these aren't critiques aimed at the Senators pursuing this strategy. Instead, these are stalwart conservative commentators recognizing the reality of our situation.

If the strategy that some of my colleagues are apparently pursuing had even a minor chance at success, I would be the first in line to support their efforts. Once again, no one wants to see Obamacare defeated more than I do.

But, facts are facts.

For this strategy to be successful, it would require at least 15 Senate Democrats to change their minds and support defunding Obamacare. That is unlikely.

It would also require President Obama to sign into law a resolution defunding what he believes is his signature domestic achievement. That is even more unlikely.

That being the case, I cannot support this strategy. I cannot support a filibuster of the continuing resolution now before the Senate.

The CR does what Republicans want it to do--it defunds Obamacare. I urge all my colleagues to vote for cloture on the continuing resolution.

At the same time, I oppose any effort to strip the language defunding Obamacare from the resolution and to raise the overall spending levels above those established under the Budget Control Act.

Indeed, if, after the Senate invokes cloture on the CR, the Majority Leader's amendment is agreed to, I urge my colleagues to vote no on final passage.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

[From the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 2013]
The Power of 218

IF HOUSE REPUBLICANS CAN'T HOLD TOGETHER, THEY HAVE NO LEVERAGE AT ALL

Perhaps the only war strategizing more inept than President Obama's on Syria are GOP plans for the budget hostilities this autumn. Republicans are fracturing over tactics, and even over the nature of political reality, which may let Mr. Obama outwit them like a domestic Vladimir Putin.

In our view the GOP would be less confused if more House Members appreciated the power of 218. That's the number of votes that makes a majority and it is the only true ``leverage'' Republicans have while Democrats hold the Senate and a Presidential veto.

The latest GOP internal dispute is over a continuing resolution to fund the government at sequester-spending levels. The current CR runs out at the end of the month, and about 40 to 50 House Republicans (out of 233) want to attach a rider that either delays or defunds the Affordable Care Act for a year and leaves everything else running.

Speaker John Boehner floated a CR with an arcane procedure that would force the Senate to take an up-or-down vote on the anti-ObamaCare component. But pressure groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth rebelled and the vote had to be postponed, like so many other unforced retreats this Congress. Here we go again.

These critics portrayed the Boehner plan as a sellout because of a campaign that captured the imagination of some conservatives this summer: Republicans must threaten to crash their Zeros into the aircraft carrier of ObamaCare. Their demand is that the House pair the ``must pass'' CR or the debt limit with defunding the health-care bill. Kamikaze missions rarely turn out well, least of all for the pilots.

The problem is that Mr. Obama is never, ever going to unwind his signature legacy project of national health care. Ideology aside, it would end his Presidency politically. And if Republicans insist that any spending bill must defund ObamaCare, then a showdown is inevitable that shuts down much of the government. Republicans will claim that Democrats are the ones shutting it down to preserve ObamaCare. Voters may see it differently given the media's liberal sympathies and because the repeal-or-bust crowd provoked the confrontation.

With his own popularity fading, Mr. Obama may want a shutdown so he can change the subject to his caricature of GOP zealots who want no government. He'll blame any turmoil or economic fallout on House Republicans, figuring that he can split the tea party from the GOP and that this is the one event that could reinstall Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Mr. Obama could spend his final two years going out in a blaze of liberal glory.

The defunders sketch out an alternative scenario in which Mr. Obama is blamed, and they say we can't know unless Republicans try. But even they admit privately that they really won't succeed in defunding ObamaCare. The best case seems to be that if all Republicans show resolve they'll win over the public in a shutdown, and Democrats will eventually surrender, well, something.

If this works it would be the first time. The evidence going back to the Newt Gingrich Congress is that no party can govern from the House, and the Republican Party can't abide the outcry when flights are delayed, national parks close and direct deposits for military spouses stop. Sooner or later the GOP breaks.

This all-or-nothing posture also usually results in worse policy. The most recent example was the failure of Mr. Boehner's fiscal cliff ``Plan B'' in December 2012, which was the best the GOP could do because Mr. Obama had the whip hand of automatic tax increases. The fallback deal that was sealed in the Senate raised taxes by more and is now complicating the prospects for tax reform.

The backbenchers are heading into another box canyon now. Mr. Boehner is undermined because the other side knows he lacks 218 GOP votes, which empowers House and Senate Democrats. They want to reverse the modest spending discipline of the sequester, and if the House GOP can't hold together on the CR they will succeed. The only chance of any entitlement reform worth the name is if Mr. Boehner can hold his majority and negotiate from strength.

We've often supported backbenchers who want to push GOP leaders in a better policy direction, most recently on the farm bill. But it's something else entirely to sabotage any plan with a chance of succeeding and pretend to have ``leverage'' that exists only in the world of townhall applause lines and fundraising letters.

The best option now is for the GOP to unite behind a budget strategy that can hold 218 votes, keeping the sequester pressure of discretionary spending cuts on Democrats to come to the table on entitlements. The sequester is a rare policy victory the GOP has extracted from Mr. Obama, and it is squeezing liberal constituencies that depend on federal cash.

The backbenchers might even look at the polls showing that the public is now tilting toward Republicans on issues including the economy, ensuring a strong national defense and even health care. Some Republicans think they are sure to hold the House in 2014 no matter what happens because of gerrymandering, but even those levees won't hold if there's a wave of revulsion against the GOP. Marginal seats still matter for controlling Congress. The kamikazes could end up ensuring the return of all-Democratic rule.

--
[From the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18, 2013]
Karl Rove: GOP's Self-Defeating `Defunding' Strategy

(By Karl Rove)
In 2010, Republicans took the House of Representatives by gaining 63 seats. They also picked up six U.S. senators and 675 state legislators, giving them control of more legislative chambers than any time since 1928. The GOP also won 25 of 40 gubernatorial races in 2009 and 2010.

These epic gains happened primarily because independents voted Republican. In 2010, 56% of independents voted for GOP congressional candidates, up from 43% in 2008 and 39% in 2006.

Today, independents look more like Republicans than Democrats, especially when it comes to health care. In a new Crossroads GPS health-care policy survey conducted in 10 states likely to have competitive Senate races and in House districts that lean Republican or are swing seats, 60% of independents oppose President Obama's Affordable Care Act. If this holds through 2014, then Republicans should receive another big boost in the midterms.

There is, however, one issue on which independents disagree with Republicans: using the threat of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare. By 58% to 30% in the GPS poll, they oppose defunding ObamaCare if that risks even a temporary shutdown.

This may be because it is (understandably) hard to see the endgame of the defund strategy. House Republicans could pass a bill that funds the government while killing all ObamaCare spending. But the Democratic Senate could just amend the measure to restore funding and send it back to the House. What then? Even the defund strategy's authors say they don't want a government shutdown. But their approach means we'll get one.

After all, avoiding a shutdown would require, first, at least five Senate Democrats voting to defund ObamaCare. But not a single Senate Democrat says he'll do that, and there is no prospect of winning one over.

Second, assuming enough Senate Democrats materialize to defund ObamaCare, the measure faces a presidential veto. Republicans would need 54 House Democrats and 21 Senate Democrats to vote to override the president's veto. No sentient being believes that will happen.

So what would the public reaction be to a shutdown? Some observers point to the 1995 shutdown, saying the GOP didn't suffer much in the 1996 election. They are partially correct: Republicans did pick up two Senate seats in 1996. But the GOP also lost three House seats, seven of the 11 gubernatorial races that year, a net of 53 state legislative seats and the White House.

A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995. Back then, seven of the government's 13 appropriations bills had been signed into law, including the two that funded the military. So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown. Many of the unfunded agencies kept operating at a reduced level for the shutdown's three weeks by using funds from past fiscal years.

But this time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government. Washington won't be able to pay military families or any other federal employee. While conscientious FBI and Border Patrol agents, prison guards, air-traffic controllers and other federal employees may keep showing up for work, they won't get paychecks, just IOUs.

The only agencies allowed to operate with unsalaried employees will be those that meet one or more of the following legal tests: They must be responding to ``imminent'' emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, be funded by mandatory spending (such as Social Security), have funds from prior fiscal years that have already been obligated, or rely on the constitutional power of the president. Figuring out which agencies meet these tests will be tough, but much of the federal government will lack legal authority to function.

But won't voters be swayed by the arguments for defunding? The GPS poll tested the key arguments put forward by advocates of defunding and Mr. Obama's response. Independents went with Mr. Obama's counterpunch 57% to 35%. Voters in Senate battleground states sided with him 59% to 33%. In lean-Republican congressional districts and in swing congressional districts, Mr. Obama won by 56% to 39% and 58% to 33%, respectively. On the other hand, independents support by 51% to 42% delaying ObamaCare's mandate that individuals buy coverage or pay a fine.

The desire to strike at ObamaCare is praiseworthy. But any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively.

The defunding strategy doesn't. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it.

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