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FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, first, I want to congratulate Senator Rockefeller and Senator Hutchison for their leadership in putting together what is such an important bill for 280,000 jobs that are saved or created as a result of this bill, and focusing on our ability to out-innovate and out-build in a global economy. We can't do that without a 21st century FAA system--airports, air traffic control, and so on. So I join with Senator Hutchison in hoping that--and I am sure it will be true--at the end of the day we will have a strong bipartisan vote, because they are moving forward in the spirit in which we have all come together in saying we want to move forward; that is, working hard and focusing on jobs. That is what the American people want us to do, focus on jobs, and find common ground, working across the aisle. That is evident from this bill.

I am very appreciative of the fact they are focusing, and I want to thank our leader for making sure that the first bill we are bringing up is about jobs. We understand that too many families--certainly in my State--are still looking for work. They have worked hard all their lives, and they never thought in a million years they would find themselves in the situation they are now facing.

They want us to be laser-focused on jobs and the economy and outcompeting in the global economy, as the President said. This bill is exactly the kind of policy on which we should be focused. What is concerning to me is that while we are doing that, we are now going to have a debate that is very divisive, really looking backward rather than looking forward.

One of the things the President talked about--again, which I agree with strongly--is that in the area of health care, what we passed last year, we know there are measures we can fix to make our system more competitive, to make it better for families, to put families back in control rather than insurance companies. We know we can make it better. Certainly no one has been more of a champion than our leader on this legislation, now the chairman of the Commerce Committee but one of the leaders, the No. 2 on the Finance Committee, who brought his passion to the issue of health care as well. We know this can be fixed, and we want to work together to make it better but not fight old fights, create old political fights and division, and certainly not roll back the clock where we put all the control in the insurance companies and we see our families losing the freedom and security to make sure their children, their families have the health care they need.

Let me first talk about my amendment and then why I believe we should be focused on this kind of amendment to fix the bill that passed last year, the new law, to make it better rather than rolling the clock back. Certainly we have heard now, if you follow the polls, that four out of five Americans are saying: Don't go back and just repeal what was done; fix it. So the majority of people are not supporting going back to old political fights or going back, frankly, to a system that is an uncontrolled system where insurances companies can raise rates 20, 30, 40 percent
every year without some plan, some focus to be able to lower costs, to be able to get people out of emergency rooms and into the doctors' offices, and, frankly, for people who have insurance not to be placed into a situation where they continually see their rates go up to pay for people who do not, which is what we have put in place.

There is a provision that has been a concern of mine and many others. We have debated it on the floor. We have attempted to get it fixed several different times. I hope today, I hope tomorrow--whenever we vote--that we will actually be able to get this fixed. This has been supported on both sides of the aisle, and it deals with eliminating redtape and burdensome IRS reporting requirements for our businesses, particularly small businesses.

We are particularly concerned about what this means for small businesses. The provision that was placed into the bill that now, as we look at how the IRS would implement it, is clearly too burdensome--my amendment would repeal that. It would allow business owners to spend their time growing their companies and creating jobs instead of filling out paperwork from the IRS. We want them creating jobs. It is a commonsense solution to an issue that has come up. Basically, it would make sure that the provision that would require a 1099 form for every vendor when a company has a purchase of $600 or more for goods would no longer be in place. This is a provision that actually does not take effect until next year, but we want to send a very clear message to businesses that have expressed great concern about this, about what is coming for them at the end of the year. We want to let them know that we will not continue the new provision. We would allow small businesses that already create 64 percent of the jobs to be able to keep creating those jobs, and we would make sure we are not putting in place additional paperwork for them.

It is important to note that, according to the IRS, the provision we want to repeal if left unchecked would impact about 40 million American businesses and 26 million of them are sole proprietorships--our smallest businesses. They would be overwhelmed with the paperwork that is involved. It does not make any sense.

We passed a great small business jobs bill last fall that created eight different tax cuts and focused on making capital loans more available for small businesses. We don't want to now go in the other direction and see a mountain of paperwork added to the small businesses we have been very committed to fighting for and supporting. Unfortunately, if this provision were allowed to stand, it would require a 2000-percent increase in 1099 filings. Frankly, that does not make sense.

This particular provision would repeal what was placed into the new health care law. We pay for the repeal by cutting $44 billion in unobligated spending. We do make it clear that certainly this does not affect Medicare or Social Security benefits in any way. I would not support that. I know colleagues on the floor would not as well. It makes it clear that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration are not included. But it would give the Office of Management and Budget the ability to look at the possibility in areas for cuts, and they would then report back to us in 60 days after enactment--to the Secretary of Treasury and the Congress--concerning the amounts and the accounts they would be using in order to cut back, in order to save this particular provision.

This is an area where we can come together, where Democrats and Republicans--both sides of the aisle--who care passionately about small businesses can come together and eliminate redtape and burdensome IRS reporting provisions. We would get that off the table and make it clear to small businesses that there is no intent or actuality that this is going to happen. We can do that together.

But what we should not be doing is what the next amendment, the Republican leader's amendment, would do because his amendment would take us back to the time of uncontrolled insurance company increases, of no accountability, and it would put the control of health care coverage and costs back in the hands of insurance companies. What I support and what the new law allows is the freedom and security for families to make sure they can get the medical care they need when they need it.

I have two beautiful grandchildren, a granddaughter age 3 and a grandson age 1, and they are the most beautiful children in the world, just for the record. I want my son and daughter-in-law picking up the phone and calling the doctor when they get sick, not fighting with the insurance company. If this is repealed, they go back to fighting with the insurance company. I want to ensure that my children, as well as my grandchildren, my mom, everyone else in my family, as well as everyone in Michigan and the country, is getting the medical care they need, not fighting with the insurance companies, not worrying that because their child has juvenile diabetes or leukemia or some other disease or condition, the insurance company is going to say: Tough luck, we are not going to cover your child even though your child needs care or you suddenly get sick and they say: You know, there is some fine print over here, and we know you are sick, but we are going to cancel your coverage or we have 10 treatments we will provide even though the doctor says you need 20.

Right now, because of what we have done in the Patients' Bill of Rights that was put into place, we put those decisions in the hands of families and doctors instead of insurance companies. I certainly am not going to vote to taking it back to putting it in the hands of insurance companies.

Frankly, I have had many families approach me to say ``thank you'' who now have the ability, the freedom, the security to put their child--this 22-, Ð23-, 25-year-old--on their insurance. They get that first job, and it doesn't have health insurance, but they can go out, get started, and know they have the peace of mind that they have health insurance. That would be taken away under what the Republican leader is proposing. We would see young people going back to no insurance as a result of that.

Right now, we have seniors who know they are going to have their freedom and security to be able to get the cancer screening they need, the wellness visits, even if they do not have the out-of-pocket--the copay and deductible they were used to being charged in the past because there is no co-pay and deductible now. They will be able to get what they need in preventive care.

They will have the peace of mind, the security to know that if they use a lot of medicine and they fall in a gap in coverage, the cost in that gap is going to be cut in half for any brand-named drugs--cut in half. What does that do? It means my mom, who is 84, has the security to know that her great-grandchildren are going to have her around longer--a lot longer, I hope--because she is going to be able to play with those kids. Every older person is going to know they have a better chance to be around for their grandkids because they are going to be able to afford the medicine that will help them get healthy. That is taken away with the Republican leader's amendment, the freedom and security for seniors to know they can stay healthy, they can stay in their homes, they can have the medicine they need or the doctors' visits they need to be able to stay healthy and live a long, healthier life. That is taken away.

There will be the freedom and security for women to know that we are not going to pay twice as much as men for insurance--which, by the way, in the majority of policies prior to passing this legislation, if women went out to buy an insurance policy, in over half the policies, women paid as much as twice as much. We changed that.

We have also said that things such as maternity care ought to be a basic part of a health insurance policy. Maybe we will not be 39th in the world in the number of babies who live through the first year in their lives if moms are able to get the prenatal care they need and babies are able to get it through the first year of their lives. This gives women the freedom and security of knowing they are going to get what they need to have healthy babies. Isn't that what we all want? That is taken away with the amendment of the Republican leader.

Among many other things, I will just mention two others. For the first time, we are putting accountability on the insurance industry--again, our chairman of the Commerce Committee led this effort and the Finance Committee--to say that you know that if you pay a hard-earned dollar out of your pocket for health insurance, and it is tough and the rates are high--and unfortunately, until we get this implemented, they keep going up, they keep having it go up until they have to stop--the majority of that is going to go for medical care. So, depending upon the size of your policy, either 80 or 85 percent that you pay out has to go into medical care, not executive compensation or bureaucracy but medical care. What does that mean? It means it will limit the rate increases over time and put more accountability on the company. The amendment of the Republican leader rolls that back. We have companies now that spend 60 percent of every dollar you give on medical care or 70 percent. This would say that 80 or 85 percent, the majority of your hard-earned dollars--they are hard to come by in this economy--if it is for health care, then it should be used on health care. That is what is repealed in this--accountability on insurance companies.

Finally, what is also repealed is a major focus in this bill on supporting small businesses to be able to get a better deal on health insurance, and this takes away the freedom and security for a small business to get the leverage they need, like a big business, to get a better deal on rates. This was something that took effect. If we were going to change something, I wish we could speed that up. That needs to be faster, in my judgment, and not having to wait for the next 3 years because we have all kinds of small businesses that are going to be able to band together and be able to get a better rate like a big business through competition in the marketplace--not government control, private sector competition.

I had an opportunity to talk to a gentleman who runs a program for our automakers and other manufacturers for retirees. It is a health exchange, exactly like we passed in the new law. He said to me: I don't think, Senator, even you guys realize how good it is, in terms of what we have done in creating a marketplace and bringing rates down.

He said: We bring rates down about 30 percent for the auto companies, for retirees, about 30 percent, because of competition in this bill, leveraged for small businesses, and tax cuts to help small businesses pay for it in the new law, taken away by the McConnell amendment.

I hope in the spirit of the underlying bill, which is a great jobs bill, a great bill for innovation--it is about rebuilding our infrastructure; it is about competing in a global economy; it is about being the best we can be--I would hope in the spirit of the FAA bill, we would not succumb to this backward, divisive, political debate on repeal. If we want to join on something on health care, I strongly urge a 100-percent vote on eliminating the burdensome provision for small businesses, eliminate the redtape, eliminate this IRS provision on 1099. Let's do something together that both sides agree should be done. Let's fix the things that need to be fixed, but let's not roll back the clock and put insurance companies in charge of everything, every medical decision, every rate increase as they were in the past.

I urge adoption of the Stabenow amendment.

We will have a number of colleagues in the process of joining. I don't have a whole list. We have a number of colleagues who will be cosponsors. I thank Senator Baucus for his leadership, his ongoing leadership on this amendment as well. I urge adoption of this amendment to fix what we know needs to be fixed, and then let us go on to jobs.


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