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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, over the past several days, Americans have seen in vivid detail what some supporters of this plan plan to do for the Medicare Program for seniors. They plan to use it as a giant piggy bank to pay for an entirely new government program. Yesterday, we heard floated, for the very first time, that they want to radically expand Medicare. So what is becoming abundantly clear is that the majority will make any deal, agree to any terms, sign any dotted line that brings them closer to final passage of this terrible bill. They entertain adding new experiments without any assessment of the impact this backroom deal-making will have on the American people or our economy. They are, for lack of a better term, winging it on one of the most consequential pieces of legislation affecting our country in memory.
Let me suggest to the majority, Americans would much rather we get it right than scurry around, throwing together untested, last-minute experiments in order to get 60 votes before Christmas. Let me say that again. Americans would much rather we get it right than scurry around, throwing together untested, last-minute experiments in order to get 60 votes before Christmas.
Over the past several days, our friends on the other side repeatedly voted to preserve nearly $ 1/2 trillion in Medicare cuts to finance their vision of reform, a vision that includes cutting nearly $8 billion from hospice care, $40 billion in cuts to home health agencies, $120 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage, $135 billion in cuts to hospitals that serve Medicare patients, and nearly $15 billion in cuts to nursing homes. What these cuts really illustrate is a lack of vision because cutting one troubled government program in order to create another is a mistake. I will say that again: $ 1/2 trillion in cuts to Medicare for seniors is not reform.
But Medicare cuts are just one leg of the stool holding up this misguided vision of reform. Let's take a look at another. Let's look at how this bill punishes not only seniors but how it kills jobs at a time when 1 in 10 working Americans is looking for one. This bill doesn't just punish seniors, it punishes job creators too.
That is the message we got yesterday from small businesses across the country. They sent us a letter opposing this bill because it doesn't do the things proponents of this bill promised it would. It doesn't lower costs, it doesn't help create jobs, and it doesn't help the economy. Here are just some of the groups that signed that letter: the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Associated General Contractors, the International Food Service Distributors Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Wholesale Distributors, the National Retail Federation, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Here is what these groups had to say about this bill. I am reading from their letter dated December 7, 2009, a letter that was addressed to every Member of the Senate:
In order to finance part of its $2.5 trillion price tag, HR 3590 imposes new taxes, fees and penalties totaling nearly half a trillion dollars. This financial burden falls disproportionately on the backs of small business. Small firms are in desperate need of this precious capital for job creation, investment, business expansion, and survival.
The letter goes on to detail all the ways in which this bill punishes small businesses, thus making it harder for them to retain or hire workers. These groups point out that under this bill, small businesses in the United States would see major cost increases as a result of new taxes on health benefits and health insurance, costs that would be passed on to employees and which would make health insurance more expensive, not less.
Under this bill, self-employed business owners who buy coverage for themselves could see a double-digit jump in their insurance premiums. For other small businesses, the bill won't lead to a significant decrease in cost--something they were promised as a result of the bill.
Under this bill, jobs would be lost and wages depressed as a result of a new law that would require businesses either to buy insurance for their employees or to pay a fine.
Needless to say, this is not the kind of legislation the American worker needs or wants at a moment of double-digit unemployment. Perhaps that is the reason that poll after poll after public opinion poll shows that the American worker opposes this bill.
Some business groups may have supported this plan earlier in the year because they thought it was inevitable. They didn't want to be critical of a bill they thought they had no power to stop. But something happened between then and now: The American people realized what this bill meant for them. They realized what it would mean for seniors, for business owners, for the economy, for our future as a country. Americans stood up, they made their voices heard, and now the tide has turned. The American people oppose this bill. They want us to start over. They want us to make commonsense, step-by-step reforms that everyone can support, not some backroom deal to have the government take over the health care system that is then forced on the American people without discussion.
Our friends on the other side can read the writing on the wall. They know the American people oppose this bill. But they have apparently made a calculation to force it through Congress over the next several days before the American people even have a chance to absorb the details. The only thing that can stop them is the realization by Democrats themselves that this plan would be a tragic mistake for seniors, for the economy, and for our country and that a better path would be the kind of step-by-step reforms Americans have been asking of us, reforms Americans really want. Americans don't think reform should come at the expense of seniors, and they don't think it should come at the expense of jobs. They don't think it should make current problems worse.
Mr. President, we are now hearing talk that the administration is thinking of using the bank bailout TARP money that taxpayers reluctantly handed over during last year's credit crisis on another spending spree like the stimulus which they said would stop unemployment at 8 percent but hasn't. One trillion dollars later, unemployment is now at 10 percent. This is not only irresponsible, since the purpose of these emergency funds was to prop up the credit system in the midst of a crisis, it also violates both current law and the pledge we made that every dollar we got back would be returned to the taxpayer to reduce the national debt. That is the pledge we made when we passed the TARP proposal.
This proposal from the administration is completely wrongheaded, but it is perfectly illustrative of the way Democrats in Congress have been dealing with taxpayer money all year--by throwing it at one problem after another without much regard for the consequences.
Whether it is the stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, or the health care bill that is currently on the Senate floor, Americans are running out of patience with politicians who promise jobs but who deliver nothing but more debt, higher taxes, and longer unemployment lines.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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