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Public Statements

Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act of 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Madam President, yesterday President Obama held an event at the White House to talk about his health care law. The President said:

The debate over repealing this law is over--the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

That is what President Obama said yesterday. Of course, last October President Obama said his health care law was ``the law of the land.'' Then he went ahead and changed or delayed the law more than 20 times after that--on his own, without coming to Congress. If it is the law of the land, how does he get to change the law of the land 20 times?

Back on March 6, President Obama said the Democrats' health care law is ``working the way it should.'' Well, if the law is working the way it should, why do people in Wyoming keep telling me how bad the law is for them personally?

Just the other day I heard from a woman in Rawlins, WY. She wrote:

My husband has been self-employed at a small truck driving company servicing the oil and gas fields in [Wyoming] for over 13 years. We have always purchased individual healthcare coverage for our family of five. We currently pay $906.87 for that coverage.

She said:

The lowest priced ACA Bronze plan will increase our premium to $1359 per month, an increase of $452 per month--an amount we cannot currently absorb. This is not affordable. Why is [President] Obama doing this to us?

That is a good question. Why are Democrats here in Washington doing this to families such as this woman's family in Wyoming? Why does President Obama think his law is working the way it should?

Well, the Senate Democratic majority leader, Senator Reid, said here on the floor of the Senate back on February 26 that the law is going great. The majority leader said, ``Despite all the good news, there's plenty of horror stories being told.'' He went on to say: ``All are untrue, but they're being told all over America.''

``All are untrue,'' he said here on the floor.

The majority leader added that all of the stories were ``made up from whole cloth, lies distorted by the Republicans to grab headlines or make political advertisements.''

Why does Senator Reid think this woman in Rawlins, WY, is making up a story out of whole cloth?

Remember, the President also said that if you like your insurance, you can keep it. He said that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. He said people's health care costs were going to be $2,500 lower by now. So the President has said a lot of things that turned out not to be accurate. Now the President says his health care law is here to stay.

Given the President's history, I think it is fair to get a second opinion. As a doctor who has practiced medicine for 25 years, taking care of families in Wyoming, I come to the floor to tell you that I bring my medical experience, along with my colleague's experience, Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. He and I have put together a report that looks at some of the promises Democrats have made about the law and some of the things Republicans have said about it. The report is called ``Prognosis.'' It came out April 2014 and is available today on Senator Coburn's Web site at www.coburn.senate.gov or on my site at www.barrasso.senate.gov.

What we have done is come out with a report going through three different previous reports that, as doctors, we have put out watching the health care law as it has been developing. Each of the reports--one called ``Bad Medicine,'' one called ``Grim Diagnosis,'' and one called ``Warning: Side Effects''--was released between 2010 and 2012. We grade ourselves now on how the predictions we have made over the last 4 years have turned out.

In the first prediction we made--report No. 1, ``Bad Medicine''--we warned that millions of Americans could lose their health insurance plans.

The headlines all across the country show that over 5 million Americans did, in fact, get letters that they lost their health insurance plan--health insurance which they liked, which worked for them, something they chose and they lost because the President said it wasn't good enough. He said he knew more about what they needed for themselves and their families than they did. So we predicted 4 years ago that millions would lose their health insurance plans, and millions did.

We warned that the law's new mandates would increase health costs and obviously increase the cost of insurance. That original diagnosis is confirmed as well.

Like the letter I just read from the family in Rawlins, WY, families all across Wyoming and all across the country are seeing incredible increases in the cost of their insurance. They are paying more, and in their opinion they are getting worse insurance--the President said better; I say worse--because they are having to pay for a lot of things that they don't need, don't want, and will never use. Yet the President says he knows better than they do about what kind of insurance they need and what is best for them and their families. They are also being faced with higher copays, higher deductibles, and higher out-of-pocket costs.

We warned additionally that short-term fixes threaten seniors' long-term access to care.

That is actually exactly what happened. The health care law took $500 billion out of the Medicare Program--a program to take care of our seniors--not to strengthen Medicare, not to help our seniors, but to start a whole new government program for other people. For those 14 million Americans on Medicare Advantage, a program for which there are advantages--preventive care, coordinated care, things one would want--well, that has been dramatically hurt by the President's decision to take money away from the very popular Medicare Advantage plan.

We warned that patients with preexisting conditions would still face care restrictions.

I listened to the President's speech. I read editorials written by colleagues on the other side of the aisle as recently as last week that said people with preexisting conditions are all being protected. That is not true. We know of patients who because of their condition have had to leave the State in which they live to get specialty care in other States. And when they lost their insurance and bought insurance through the plans of their State, their children with cystic fibrosis seeking specialty care in Boston are excluded from doing that under the plan because the insurance was bought in the State in which they live and the insurance they got did not cover any out-of-State physicians. So children have been hurt by the President's health care law, and we can identify those young victims of the President's health care law.

We warned that the individual mandate would fail with the IRS as an enforcer.

The IRS even admits they don't have a whole mechanism put together to make sure the mandate to fine Americans for not buying a government-approved product would be collected by the IRS.

We warned that new IRS taxes would harm small businesses.

That initial diagnosis is now confirmed. Small businesses are impacted all across the country by additional expenses and costs, making it much harder for them to provide insurance to their workers. Many looking at this are saying that it might be cheaper to pay the fine than to do what we would like to do and have done in the past, which is provide insurance that worked for those employers and their employees but perhaps doesn't meet the President's recommendations of what many people say is much more insurance than they will ever need, want, use, or can afford.

The second report we came out with a number of years ago is called ``Grim Diagnosis.'' In that, we went through a number of concerns we had about the health care law after the initial report ``Bad Medicine.''

``Grim Diagnosis'' provided warnings that the employer mandate would lower incomes and result in hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost.

We are still watching that one very carefully because we do know that with the employer mandate, there have been stories of businesses with 50 employees saying: We are going to have to get below 50. We are not going to hire more people. We have to get below that number.

The President is working to maybe make that a higher number, but no matter where that number line is drawn, people are finding that from a business standpoint, there are advantages to being below a certain number of employees and then not having to comply with the expensive mandates of the law.

We warned that the law included a risky insurance scheme that would cost taxpayers dearly.

That original diagnosis is confirmed as well with something called the CLASS Act. Folks who looked at it carefully on both sides of the aisle called it a Ponzi scheme--a Ponzi scheme--that would never work, could not be afforded. They said it was something Bernie Madoff would even be proud of. Yet the Democrats forced it into the health care law in spite of warnings against it.

Our final report was called ``Warning: Side Effects,'' released in 2012. We started talking about the side effects of the health care law. We warned that the law includes hundreds of billions of dollars of tax hikes.

Well, that has been confirmed. All one has to do is look at the list of new taxes brought on by the health care law. It goes on and on with one new tax after another. These are taxes on real people that get passed on to others if they are applied to a business, totaling $1 trillion in gross tax increases over the next 10 years, from 2013 to 2022.

We warned that the new insurance cooperatives would waste taxpayer dollars.

That is exactly what this report confirms. It goes State by State, where we see significant wasting of money, as reported in the Washington Post and in USA TODAY.

We warned that the medical device tax would stifle innovation.

That original diagnosis has been confirmed as well. We see the medical device tax, which, when we talked about it as part of a budget amendment, there was bipartisan support for repealing it. Why aren't we voting to repeal it when it matters, when we could actually get this repealed?

The Senate majority leader continues to block a vote on that.

So I come to the floor, the day after the President held his ``mission accomplished'' speech at the White House, to say that the prognosis for this health care law continues to be grim, the points we have made throughout continue to be true, and the people all across the country are experiencing it day-to-day.

They are experiencing it in their lives. They are experiencing it when they try to continue health insurance that works for their family. They are paying more out of pocket. Their premiums are higher. They may not be able to keep the doctor they had and liked. They may not be able to go to the hospital they had gone to previously.

It is interesting that in the State of New Hampshire where there are 28 hospitals, 10 of them are excluded--10 of the 28 hospitals in the State of New Hampshire are excluded--from the insurance being offered on that State's exchange to be sold in that State. Even the doctor who is the chief of staff of one of those hospitals--well, her insurance does not permit her to go to the very hospital where she is the chief of staff. Is this what the Democrats had in mind when they passed this health care law, people paying more in premiums, people losing their doctors, not having access to the hospitals in their community, higher copays, higher deductibles? That is what the American people are facing.

It is time for the President of the United States to acknowledge the pain that his health care law has caused people across the country. I know he watches the polls, and the polls continue to show that for every one person who says they may have been helped by the health care law there are more than two people who say they have been harmed.

People knew we needed health care reform in this country, and they knew the reason. People knew what they wanted. They wanted the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower costs.

This health care law has failed to deliver to the American people what they wanted, what they asked for, and instead is trying to deal day-to-day with something the Democrats in this Senate and in the House shoved down the throats of the American people.

Thank you. I yield the floor.

I note the absence of a quorum.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. President, before I start, I noted that the Senator from Connecticut came to the floor in an attempt to debunk a letter from one of my constituents to me, a family from Rawlins, WY, whom I talked about earlier on the floor.

It seems the Senator is making the same argument the majority leader Senator Reid has made time and time again that these letters are made up. That is what seems to be the case. Is that what the Senator from Connecticut is saying? These are letters, these are emails, these are news articles that are out there coming from our constituents and coming from our home States.

This was all supposed to be about affordable care. Care and affordability were the keystones of this entire piece of legislation.

So I heard the Senator from California talking about people being denied care. It is happening now because of the health care law--because of the health care law people are being denied care.

Let me reference where my colleague from Connecticut comes from. The State of Connecticut, the Hartford Courant, a major newspaper in the State of Connecticut, has a report that came out March 17 of this year, just a couple of weeks ago: ``Connecticut Is Less Competitive After Federal Health Care Reform.''

I heard the Senator from California saying there are people who have been helped, and I believe that, but for every one person who has been helped, I believe many have been harmed as a result of the law.

Let me tell you what our friends from the Hartford Courant wrote:

The individual health insurance market is less competitive in Connecticut since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a report released Monday.

Of the seven States to release enrollment data by insurer, Connecticut and Washington had fewer options--

Fewer options, not more options, as the President of the United States has claimed--fewer options. The article continues--

for people buying health plans on the individual market, according to Kaiser foundation, a non-profit health policy research organization.

California and New York, the largest States in the study, each has a more competitive insurance market today compared to 2012, Kaiser found.

But Connecticut, the State where my colleague had questioned where the woman from Wyoming comes from, is less competitive. The article continues:

In 2012, Connecticut's individual health-insurance market was more evenly distributed among a number of insurers.

They list Aetna, WellPoint/Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, UnitedHealth Group, EmblemHealth/ConnectiCare. It says:

Connecticut has fewer insurer options available on Access Health CT, its public health exchange, which was created by the Affordable Care Act.

As of February 18, two insurers dominated 97 percent of health plans sold through Access Health CT.

There is a ``less competitive exchange market and'' let me point out ``higher than average premiums.''

If that is what my colleague from Connecticut wants to say is a success, let him have it, but he has no right, in my opinion, to come and say that a woman who wrote to me is either not smart enough to know how to figure out how much of her premiums she is being asked to pay and what her premiums were prior to her losing insurance because of the health care law.

Then the Senator from California came to the floor to say: Well, people aren't losing the care they had.

NBC Connecticut, again where our colleague is from, says: ``Some Connecticut doctors said they will not accept certain health insurance plans offered on the state health exchange.'' The story goes on to say: ``It broke my heart,'' losing the doctor she had been to before whom she trusts and has faith in but because of the health care law is losing that care.

I come to the floor to just point out that Republicans have better ideas. Republicans have ideas about ways to help work to lower the cost of care so patients can get the care they need from a doctor they want at lower cost, not the situation we see across the country, where many individuals believe and truly feel harmed as a result of the President's health care law.

With that, in response to what my colleagues from Connecticut and California have just said, we are here today to talk about jobs, the economy, getting people back to work. As a doctor, I will tell you long-term unemployment, how it affects someone's life, how it affects, I believe, their identity, their self-worth, their dignity, and the way they think about themselves, and so it is much more important that we get Americans back to work.

I am on the floor with a number of my colleagues. The Senator from South Dakota is on the floor, and he knows as well as anyone the impact unemployment has in rural America, in the Western United States and how when jobs go away it makes it much harder for other jobs to come. I would ask that he share some of those thoughts with us right now.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

I thank my colleague, and I appreciate the comments of my colleague Senator Blunt, who has been a leader and champion on the issue of getting people back to work.

We heard the Senator from Rhode Island saying there are people out there desperately looking for work. What we are doing is bringing to the floor amendments to this piece of legislation that will actually get people back to work nearly immediately.

So I rise today to discuss how Congress can actually help the people who are unemployed get back to work. We have been debating all week whether the Senate should extend unemployment insurance to the long-term unemployed. And whether or not one supports extending unemployment insurance, we can all agree and should all agree that job creation should really be the top priority. This, to me, is where the unemployment insurance bill, as currently written, falls short. That is why I, along with a number of my colleagues, have filed amendments that would help create nearly 100,000 jobs.

Our amendment would do two things, and President Obama has failed to do them. The amendment I am here with Senator Hoeven to discuss would permit--approve the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as liquefied natural gas exports to our allies and strategic partners.

The Keystone XL Pipeline has been pending for over 5 1/2 years--over 5 1/2 years. During that time the Obama administration has conducted five separate environmental reviews of this project--five environmental reviews in the last 5 1/2 years.

Despite this scrutiny, President Obama continues to delay approving the Keystone XL Pipeline even though its construction would support over 42,000 jobs. That 42,000 jobs number is not my number. This is the jobs estimate from President Obama's own State Department.

The Keystone XL Pipeline has broad bipartisan support throughout the country. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 65 percent of Americans support the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Labor unions such as the plumbers and pipefitters, building and construction trades, international labor, and the union of operating engineers, among others, have all called on the President of the United States to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. Just over 1 year ago, 62 Members of the Senate voted in favor of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

If the Senate is going to extend unemployment insurance, it should also help Americans get back to work. We should adopt this amendment which approves the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The other part of the amendment deals with approving LNG exports--liquefied natural gas--to our allies and strategic partners. Before getting into the specifics of that, I ask my colleague and friend from North Dakota, Senator Hoeven--who has worked closely with supporters of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a man who was Governor of the State of North Dakota during the early discussions--to express his thoughts on why we think this is important to the economy, to help those people who are unemployed, and help getting Americans back to work.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. President, I appreciate the comments of my friend and colleague from North Dakota, a State in which he served as a Governor, a business leader in the community, and knows the State very well and knows the importance of energy--not just to his State's economy but to the economy of the country and the importance for people who want work, who want jobs.

I think bringing together the issues of the Keystone XL Pipeline as well as the exportation of liquefied natural gas is what will help get Americans back to work.

Since September of 2010, the Obama administration approved only seven applications to export liquefied natural gas. The administration is sitting on 24 pending applications. Thirteen of those applications have been pending for more than 1 year. Some of these applications have been pending for more than 2 years. To put this in context: The United States has approved less than half of the LNG export capacity that Canada has approved. To me, this administration's delay is unacceptable and the excuses have run out.

I take a look at this from the standpoint of what is happening globally as well. Ukraine imports about 60 percent to 70 percent of its natural gas from Russia. Nine of our NATO allies import 40 percent or more of their natural gas from Russia. Four of our NATO allies import 100 percent of their natural gas from Russia.

LNG exports would help our strategic partners and allies free themselves from Russian energy. This is why our NATO allies are calling on Congress to expedite--expedite--LNG exports.

LNG exports will give our allies an alternative supply of natural gas and enable them to resist Russia's intimidation. LNG exports will also help create jobs right here at home.

In February, The Economist explained that LNG exports ``would generate tanker loads of cash'' for the United States.

More recently, Nera Economic Consulting suggested that LNG exports could help reduce the unemployment rolls by as many as 45,000 over the next few years. This is extraordinary. LNG exports would not only create new jobs but would employ Americans who cannot find work today.

LNG exports would help as many as 45,000 Americans find work.

President Obama through his actions has made it very clear that jobs are not his priority. He seems to be more interested in inventing new delays and new excuses than in actually creating new jobs. That is why the Senate must act today and here in this place. That is why the Senate should approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and LNG exports and that is why we should adopt the amendment that Senator Hoeven has offered.

So, Mr. President, I come to the floor today to say Republicans have now tried to offer 9 amendments we believe would get this economy growing again, amendments we believe would actually create jobs and put people back to work.

Now, to inform my colleagues of what I am about to do, I am going to move to table the pending Reid amendment No. 2878, which for everyone's information is an amendment which merely changes the date of enactment. So Senators voting not to table this amendment would rather change the date than vote on amendments that would help put people back to work.

In order for my colleagues to be able to offer amendments, I move to table the pending Reid amendment No. 2878, and I ask for the yeas and nays.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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