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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1173, Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SESSIONS. House Resolution 522 provides a modified open rule for consideration of H.R. 1173. This rule allows for any amendment prefiled in the Congressional Record which complies with the rules of the House to be made in order. That's pretty simple.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule and the underlying bill, H.R. 1173, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011, which was introduced on March 17, 2011, by the gentleman, my dear friend from Louisiana, Congressman Charles Boustany, and was reported by the Committee on Energy and Commerce by a vote of 33-17 on November 29, 2011.

Additionally, the bill was reported by the Committee on Ways and Means on January 18, 2012, by a vote of 23-13.

This legislation has been through regular order. Members from both sides of the aisle on several committees have had opportunities to submit perfecting ideas, and those amendments have been considered. With the modified open process brought forward by the Rules Committee, every preprinted amendment will be given full and fair consideration by this body.

Mr. Speaker, the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, also known as the CLASS Act, was a budgetary gimmick introduced by congressional Democrats in the ObamaCare bill to fit a 10-year budget score, not to provide reliable insurance coverage. This is why we are here today. Built on an unstable foundation, this long-term health insurance system was broken from its inception, and yet was used to sell ObamaCare to those who did not fully comprehend its future implications.

Let's review the facts of this case. The CLASS Act establishes a long-term health coverage program that would be operated by the Federal Government. The program is a guaranteed issue, meaning no one can be turned away. The program provides subsidized premiums to those under the age of 22 and to those below the poverty line. Finally, it can use no government funding. If that isn't a recipe for failure, I'm not sure how else you would design the program. Giving reduced premiums to some and mandatory coverage to all necessarily drives up the monthly premium. The Department of Health and Human Services indicated that the plans, as designed, would cost $235 and $391 a month and could rise to as much as $3,000 a month for those in the program. Anyone who is healthy and above the poverty line would most certainly turn to the private sector, leaving the program woefully underfunded. These are the facts. The program is not viable and is not sustainable.

In reference to the program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Sebelius, finally agreed on October 14, saying, ``I do not see a viable path forward at this time.'' It makes you wonder what other sections of ObamaCare might not be fiscally sound, given a closer review as well. Oh, by the way, this Republican Congress is doing that right now, in committee, under regular order. Apparently, however, we had to pass the bill to find out about the CLASS Act and what was in it and how it might work.

Mr. Speaker, we are not solving the problem by creating programs that are unsustainable. We continue to double down, taxing Medicare and Medicaid relentlessly to where they cannot pay for themselves. President Obama and congressional Democrats actually cut $500 billion in Medicare in order to fund the CLASS Act and flawed programs like it in the ObamaCare package. The majority of Republicans in this House are committed to protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for future generations, not passing empty promises--those that cannot sustain themselves and those that would be headed for failure from their inceptions. I believe we are abandoning the core mission of entitlement programs, which was meant to bring necessary coverage to those who cannot provide for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I, like many Americans, can speak on a personal basis about what a disappointment this is, not just the ObamaCare bill, but the provisions laid out in it. You see, I'm not unlike many Americans. I have a disabled son at home. I have an 18-year-old Down syndrome young man. I, and Alex, perhaps at some point, will count on the government's being able to uphold its real responsibility. I believe government should have a mission statement, and that government should have a role in the lives of Americans, but it should be one which is very narrow and well understood.

I understand and believe that we should have a government that does help people who need help, and that we do have a government that can give assistance. However, I believe that able-bodied people should not be included in these programs. I believe that the people who should be a part of this government assistance should be those who have an intellectual or physical disability, those who are seniors--our parents. Because of their ages and their service to this great country, they have earned this and should be given that help. Lastly, those who are poor--those, in other words, who are at or below the poverty line--should be a part of this as well.

I believe that what this bill has done--and the philosophy of the Democratic Party, including that of this President--will diminish the real role that government should be playing, because, in fact, it has gone so far out of its intended purpose, or of its ability to sustain what it should be doing, that it will be a sham system and unable to help those it should have been intended to help in the first place. I have seen this many times. I have seen it in professional sports where, as an analogy, people will buy a season ticket and get a parking pass with it. There are sometimes 10,000 or 15,000 people who buy season tickets for 4,000 parking places. In other words, there may be 10,000 people who have the right to come to those parking places, but there is only room for a few.

Mr. Speaker, I believe our government and the leaders of this government, including Secretary Sebelius, recognize the limitations and the failures of this piece of legislation. This one piece alone is what we, as Republicans today, are trying to highlight, and Dr. Boustany is right in bringing it to us.

We should not be creating a system that would be outside the scope of what the government should actually be doing, which is to help those who cannot help themselves or who deserve that opportunity to have help. In other words, by creating a larger-than-life scenario which cannot be sustained, they've, in fact, put the underpinnings of something that could be good at risk--selling too many parking places for the ones that need to exist. The parking places that need to exist need to be on a one-on-one basis now for the people who need them the most. That is what the government should be doing and doing well, not going outside of its mandate and not promising something that is unsustainable and that they cannot deliver on.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit and suggest that some Democrats will rise today to defend this bill, the CLASS Act, but the facts of the case are now known and well understood so that even the President and his administration are walking away from this part of the bill. The program is fatally flawed, and a full repeal is the only realistic way we should approach this.

Now is the time to be serious with the American people. Now is the time when we need to say that this should not have been a part of what this health care bill is about. It will surely not deliver on what was sold or do what it was intended to do; and before we engage in that, we ought to be realistic and honest about what this is doing.

Now is the time to be serious with the American people about expectations from the Federal Government as related to this program. House Republicans are committed to providing affordable, patient-driven solutions to the problems facing our health care system; and we recognize, in going through the bill, that this stands out as a prime example of what is broken about the legislation that is law today.

So we are here forthrightly, through regular order, to talk in a polite and sensible way about how we should handle what we now know and what we should have known then but failed to do. Not reading the bill is just another example of the flawed process that we were going through.

I urge all of my colleagues to vote for this modified open rule, which allows for the consideration of all preprinted amendments that comply with the rules of the House, and to vote for the underlying bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.


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