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Garrett Statement In Opposition To Unconstitutional Health Care Bill


Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) released the following floor statement in opposition to the unconstitutional health care bill:

"Today the majority seeks to enact its health care reform legislation. While, I appreciate the efforts of the majority to reform our health care system, it is hard to underestimate what a grave mistake it would be to enact this bill. It would fundamentally alter our citizens' relationship with their government. It would seriously jeopardize our nation's long-term prosperity. It would dampen the vitality of our nation's health care innovators. It would restrict choice and access to medical care for millions of our nation's elderly and poor. It would tax hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy in the midst of one of the most serious economic downturns in our nation's history. And for all this--for all of these thousands of pages and hundreds of new bureaus, boards, and bureaucracies--it won't make America any healthier. And perhaps more fundamentally this legislation does not solve the most pressing problem facing our health care sector; namely its upwardly spiraling cost growth. If the majority is successful in passing this bill, they will, at best, celebrate a narrow political victory at the expense of the American public, and at worst, send our nation further down the path towards financial catastrophe.

"For the most part, Republicans and Democrats agree on the problems our health care system faces. Even though Americans spend more on health care than any other country in the world, current projections assume that this level of spending will rise indefinitely. As this spending increases, it is consuming a greater and greater share of workers paychecks. Health insurance is too expensive, and some people with chronic illness struggle to access health care services. We agree on the problems.

"But it is rare that a single piece of legislation can so crystallize the differences in governing philosophy between our two political parties. As a solution to these problems in our health care system, the Democrats would propose a massive increase in government involvement--expanding current government run health programs, and creating new ones. Provisions in this legislation would restrict choice, and place greater control of health care in the hands of the federal government. For example, under the bill's terms, no longer would we exercise a number of freedoms that we now take for granted, such as whether to purchase health insurance or what medical benefits we feel are necessary. Under this bill, this is now a matter for the government to decide.

"This is far, far removed from what our nation's founders envisioned. And indeed, I submit that, fundamentally, this legislation violates the Constitution and will be found unconstitutional when it is inevitably litigated through our judicial system. This legislation would require individuals to purchase private health insurance--health insurance that has been approved by the federal government--or pay a fine. While Congress is granted the authority to "regulate commerce…among the several states," and the Supreme Court has long allowed Congress to regulate and prohibit all sorts of "economic" activities that are not, strictly speaking, commerce, this is the first time in our nation's history that Congress would seek to regulate inactivity. And for the first time, Congress would mandate that individuals purchase a private good, approved by the government, as the price of citizenship. This requirement is plainly unconstitutional, and would violate the commerce clause. I have been speaking out on the unconstitutionality of this individual mandate on the House floor, in Budget Committee and through the Constitutional Caucus, of which I am the chair. If we allow that Congress has this authority under the Constitution, then there is virtually no limit on its authority to compel our nation's citizens to comply with the whims of a Congressional majority. If future Congresses feel that we don't eat enough vegetables, they could simply mandate that we purchase government approved salads. Or if future Congresses feel that our domestic auto industry needs a boost, they could mandate that we purchase a car from General Motors.

"However, even if we allow that this bill is constitutional, it should still be rejected because it further deteriorates our nation's financial standing. In Congress, I have the pleasure of serving on the Budget Committee. Ever since I first arrived in Congress, witness after witness--Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative--who have appeared before the Committee have all noted the serious long-term funding issues that our country faces. Quite simply, we are running out of money to pay for an ever growing government. According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, America's three biggest entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, are projected to consume over 80% of the federal budget within a generation. And the single biggest driver of this increased cost is health care inflation. Medicare alone has a $36.3 trillion unfunded liability. This past week, three members of my staff were blessed with the birth of a child. As soon as those children took their first breath, they each assumed a health care debt of $121,000.

"The majority claims that this bill would actually reduce the deficit, but this rests on a number of assumptions that are wildly unrealistic. The budget gimmicks in the bill have been well documented, but among the highlights are that it would: pay for 6 years of benefits with 10 years of taxes; raid the Social Security trust fund of $53 Billion; double count the savings in Medicare to pay for a new entitlement; disregard the increased administrative costs of running these new programs; double count $70 billion in premiums for a new long-term care entitlement which would later have to be used to pay for benefits; and rely on unrealistic Medicare cuts.

"This last point is perhaps the most important one. The chief actuary of the Department of Health and Human Services wrote, in a letter to Congress, that the Medicare cuts proposed in this bill are "unrealistic" and could "jeopardize access to care" for seniors. Independent analysis says that many hospitals and health care providers would simply leave Medicare altogether if these cuts are implemented. So, under the terms of this legislation, future Congresses would have to do something it has thus far shown no appetite for: limiting access to vital medical care for our nation's seniors.

"Another major assumption made by the majority is that this legislation would enact a tough "Cadillac tax" on generous employer provided insurance plans. But this tax's implementation date has been pushed back to 2018; well after President Obama leaves office. For years, Congress has assumed in its revenue projections that millions of middle class tax filers should pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) each year. But every year, Congress has stepped in and passed legislation to prevent this from happening. Similarly, we should assume that a tax that is so unpopular that it must be pushed out 8 years before being implemented is a tax that may never realistically happen.

"So this gargantuan health care entitlement, once fully implemented, would end up costing us approximately $200 Billion per year, and then increasing at a rate of 8 percent per year. But we can not afford our current entitlements! How will we be able to afford this when the bill comes due? I worry that this bill is a fiscal disaster of the first order.

"It should not have been this way. We had an opportunity to enact real health care reform--reform that would have set our nation on a prudent fiscal path, and one that would not have violated our Constitution. I and my Republican colleagues have proposed a series of reforms, such as enacting real medical liability reform; allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines; allowing individuals to purchase insurance through groups and trade associations the same way unions can; allowing small businesses to band together to purchase insurance; and eliminating the discrimination in the tax code against purchasing insurance through the individual market by allowing individuals to deduct insurance premiums the same way their employers can. While these proposals are not the final word on health care reform, they certainly would have served as a good starting point for bipartisan reform.

"Instead we are left with this bill which, I am afraid, will do much harm but provide little benefit. I strongly urge that this bill be defeated, so that we can go back to the drawing board and find true bipartisan solutions to the problems facing our health care system. Thank you and I yield back."

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