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Public Statements

The Budget

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BEGICH. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the ongoing budget negotiations.

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I have jumped into this debate head-on. But we are all here together. That is why I have asked the Alaskans in my State and my communities all across the State to share their ideas with me on how to cut the budget. I have put forward a series of cuts and spending management programs from ideas from my colleagues and my members throughout the State but also ideas I have picked up in my budget hearings. We know we are all going to feel the pinch if we are serious about getting our budget and spending under control, but I have made it crystal clear that I absolutely will not balance the budget on the backs of seniors.

For me, the budget is a moral document. It reflects our values as a nation, and it demonstrates our commitment to supporting our elders and protecting our children. It is the future pathway of our great country. But the Republican House budget that has passed the House and is proposed today for us to vote on does not reflect these values. That is why Congressman Ryan received an earful from seniors when he went back home to Wisconsin after rolling out his plan--his scheme, in my view--setting us back decades. That is why voters in New York yesterday rejected Republicans and their extreme plan to eliminate Medicare as we know it by electing a Democrat in a Republican district. I mention New York not because this was a win for Democrats or a loss for Republicans but because this was a win for our seniors and because the stakes are too high.

Americans all across the country are saying no to the current Republican plan that could fail to automatically enroll our seniors in Medicare and instead force them to buy health coverage from a private insurance company. And let me make it very clear on the private insurance company. Medicare today, to administer, costs about 1.5 percent. So all of the rest of the money for Medicare goes to services, to programs to ensure health care for our seniors. If insurance companies got hold of this, their costs to administer would be 20 to 30 percent--clearly fewer services for seniors.

In Alaska, over the next 10 years, under this Republican House plan that passed that is here in front of the Senate for us to vote on, it will move the cost for Medicare for my constituents in Alaska from $5,000--their cost--in 10 years to over $10,000. On top of that, it will force seniors to pay an average of $3,500 more for prescription drugs over the next 10 years--again, adding about $8,500 in additional health care costs to seniors. At the same time, this budget they want us to approve--which, of course, I am not willing to--will give millionaires another $1.2 trillion in additional reductions, at the same time sticking it to our seniors. It will truly end Medicare as we know it today.

In Alaska, our elders are revered. We respect their wisdom, and they guide our decisions. As a people, it is our duty to care for our elders as they grow older. The Republican plan, the Ryan budget, will cost, as I said, Alaska seniors dearly--thousands and thousands of dollars per year more than they are paying today, seniors who are on fixed incomes. In Alaska, we have one of the fastest growing senior populations in the Nation by percent.

So I continue to look forward to working with my colleagues on the other side and my colleagues on this side to figure out how we are going to move forward on this budget, but let's not do it on the backs of seniors by throwing them over the ship and never looking back. Seniors paid into it, seniors expect it, and we have an obligation to ensure they have the health care that ensures that they have a quality of life and live in dignity in their later years.

I yield the floor.


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