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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THUNE. We are going to have a vote here in the next few days, depending on how the schedule and the calendar works out, on whether to defund ObamaCare. That is a vote that I think many of us in this Chamber want to have. I know many of our colleagues on the other side, the Democrats, would prefer not to have that vote. But it is time for us to go on the record and to indicate to the American people, who are very fed up with this law, and frankly have not had a good opportunity yet to see much of it being implemented, because much of the implementation will occur in the next few months--but we are going to get to that vote here in the next few days, one way or the other. The pressure is on. The pressure is on Republicans and Democrats to stand and to indicate one way or the other about whether they are willing to stand with the American people and against ObamaCare, which is having a harmful impact on so many different levels across the country.

I want to point out, if I might, a few of those impacts. Obviously, many of us here in the Chamber are very concerned about the economy, about jobs and about creating a better economic future for the people we represent.

We are suffering through a very sluggish, anemic economy, with growth rates that are hovering in that 1 to 2 percent range, but certainly not a range that gets Americans back to work or increases the take-home pay for middle-income Americans.

If you look at the economic data, it is pretty sobering. We have had this chronic high unemployment rate that has been sustained for several years in a row, 7.5 percent. If you add in the number of people who have quit looking for work or are underemployed, in other words they want to work full time but they are working part time, the real unemployment rate is much, much higher.

There are about 22 million Americans who are unemployed today. If you factor in those who have quit looking for work and those who are underemployed--who are working part time instead of full time--the unemployment rate goes up to well over 10 percent.

You have a lot of Americans looking for jobs. At the same time, the jobs that are being created in the economy are part-time jobs.

What is happening? A lot of Americans, who would love to be working full time to be able to provide for their families, are now being forced into part-time jobs.

In fact, 60 percent of the jobs created this year are part-time jobs, not full-time jobs.

If you look at the labor participation rate, it is at the lowest level that we have seen in 35 years. You have to go back to the administration of President Jimmy Carter to find the time when the number of people in the workforce, as a percentage of those available to be working, is as low as it is today, 63.2 percent.

The economic data just rolls on and on. This is a very sluggish, very weak, very anemic economy.

When you ask people and ask businesses why that is, why are you not hiring full-time workers, why are you hiring part-time workers, why are you reducing the size of your workforce or not hiring people that you otherwise might hire, why is this issue of take-home pay going down relative to what it was when the President first took office, the answer, in most cases, comes back pretty simple: It is ObamaCare. It is the cost, the mandates, the requirements, and the uncertainty associated with the President's health care law, and some other concern, I might add--government regulations. But policies coming out of Washington, DC, are making it more difficult and more expensive for our small businesses and job creators to create the jobs that are necessary to keep our economy going.

This is why you have this sluggish economy and this chronically high unemployment rate, part-time jobs rather than full-time jobs, and lower take-home pay. This is the slowest recovery we have seen, literally, in the last 50 years. This is the economy that we are in the midst of right now.

As we talk about ObamaCare--and my colleagues and I come down here, and I was here when we voted on it back in 2009 and 2010--I was on the floor on a regular basis talking about why I thought this was going to be a disaster for jobs, for the economy, for health care costs. I was offering up amendments, alternatives that we thought would be better. We think there are many that would work much better in terms of actually making health care more accessible and more affordable to more Americans, but we were unsuccessful.

They had the votes. They passed it. It was a partisan vote. It was without a single Republican vote here or in the House of Representatives. It was a party-line vote. I think that is now why the American people have rejected it. They know that it was a partisan piece of legislation passed without any input from the other side and without the ideas and alternatives that might have made more sense in terms of addressing the health care needs the American people said they wanted to see addressed.

But that being said, it is not only us who come down and talk about this. We have now seen, as this thing has been slowly implemented, some of the impact. Some of the taxes have kicked in. You are starting to see some of the additional costs that we said would impact middle-income families in this country when it comes to the cost of their health insurance.

You don't have to look very far to see the people who are writing stories about that.

In fact, instead of listening to only Republicans who come down here on floor and talk about this, you can look at the headlines of the newspapers across this country. These are just this last week. We are not talking about a long period of time, these are headlines from the last week.

The National Review Online: ``Sorry, Mr. President, There Is `Serious Evidence' Obamacare Is Bad For Economic Growth.''

The Associated Press: ``Census: No sign of Economic Rebound for Many in the U.S.''

The Hill: ``Franchise owners come to the Hill to plead for ObamaCare relief.''

Washington Times: ``Georgia Health Care Company Cuts 101 Employees Due to Obamacare.''

Reuters: ``Cleveland Clinic announces job cuts to prepare for Obamacare.''

WSB-TV: ``Emory Healthcare to cut 100 jobs partly because of Obamacare.''

Lancaster Online: ``How part-time workers are feeling the pain of Obamacare.''

You can go on and on with only the headlines talking about the impact on jobs and the economy of this ObamaCare legislation, which is in the process now of being implemented.

I think the other thing that we have said all along would happen--and that is what we are seeing happen as well--is that health insurance costs are going up, not down. If you look at the data--and these are some of the news stories that I have mentioned, these are headlines from just the last week.

National Public Radio: ``Health Care Costs Are Projected To Outpace Economic Growth.''

Associated Press: ``Premium concerns lead some small businesses to temporarily sidestep health law.''

I could go on. But the point, very simply, is that the validators of the things that we are seeing here are out there every single day in the media.

There is a study that came out, or I should say a report that came out from HHS, which was supposed to give us a new idea, or a glimpse of what the premiums are going to be under the exchanges when they are fully up and running. That is supposed to be sometime next week.

The Health and Human Services department issued some information about that yesterday.

What is ironic about it is that with less than a week to go before these exchanges are supposed to go online, it is a 15-page report and a press release that summarizes some of the premium data.

What they did is HHS compared what the Congressional Budget Office projected rates might look like in 2016 to its own findings. It didn't compare it to what it cost last year. It didn't compare it to the reality that most Americans are experiencing in terms of the health care costs that they deal with on an annual basis. We are not getting any information that gives us any insight into what these costs are actually going to be.

Fortunately, there are others who have looked at this same information, the data dump that was released yesterday by the Health and Human Services department, and compared it to what insurance costs before the Affordable Care Act passed. In other words, we heard the promises from the President when this was being debated, that health care costs were going to go down by $2,500 per family. Obviously, we are seeing the exact opposite. There was a CMS study that came out just a few days ago that said health care costs, because of ObamaCare, actually are going go up by $621 billion. If you divide that by the number of families in this country, a family of four, that is $7,450 per family of four increase, not decrease, in health care costs. That is the estimate of the CMS actuaries.

When you look at what the information coming out of HHS suggests, and you compare it to a baseline of what health care costs are before this becomes implemented, you get a very different picture. Some of the analysis that has been done suggests that ObamaCare is going to increase underlying insurance rates for younger men by an average of 97 to 99 percent and for younger women by an average of 55 to 62 percent.

It says the worst off is the State of North Carolina, where individual market rates are going to triple for women and quadruple for men. We can go down the list State by State, and we get sort of a detailed explanation of people at various stages in life, such as a 40-year-old woman. I am looking at some charts here comparing my State of South Dakota. This is the Affordable Care Act bronze premium versus the pre-Affordable Care Act health care premiums that people in similar circumstances were faced with. For a 40-year-old man in my State of South Dakota, it says that this is going to increase his premiums by 146 percent and for a 40-year-old woman 96 percent.

The evidence keeps piling up out there. It is in the news stories, from the people, and the businesses who were talking about the impact that it is going have on them. The analysis that is being done actually compares what this is going to do in the exchanges--the premiums are going to be at the exchanges--with what people are actually experiencing today. It is not some hypothetical like the HHS numbers suggested; you find that it is like a picture. A picture is being painted of a very serious situation for middle-class families who were hoping, hoping, when all the promises were made, that they were going to see their health insurance costs go down, not up. An exact opposite effect is happening.

We can go through, again, State by State and look at the various analyses. But I think the point is that instead of having health insurance costs go down as a result of ObamaCare, they are going up, and they are going up dramatically.

In this CMS estimate by the actuary, that just came out a few days ago, there is a $621 billion increase in health care spending in this country attributable solely, singularly to ObamaCare. Divided by the number of families in the country, as I said, that is a $7,450 increase.

Why are people rejecting this? Well, I think that is the obvious reason. They realize, most people do, at least, that these are pocketbook issues. These are kitchen table issues. These are the types of things that as Americans they are trying to figure out, how to pay their bills and how to keep their family covered. They want to figure out how to save a little money for their children's college education, how to make ends meet, and how to keep things afloat.

They are very concerned about what they are seeing and the impact of this legislation on what they are having to pay for health care coverage. They are also very concerned about what it might mean for the jobs that they have today and hopefully aspire to in the future. Many of these are in jeopardy, because businesses who are hit with these new mandates, these new penalties, these new requirements under ObamaCare. Businesses are finding it more and more difficult and more expensive to create the jobs that will help these middle-income families meet the needs of their families and try to provide a better future for their children and grandchildren.

One of the reasons is, at the end of the day, as people are assessing this, there is so much information, polling data, and survey data that corroborates the anecdotal information we are hearing from individuals and businesses out there. People are increasingly skeptical, increasingly suspicious, and increasingly frustrated with the ObamaCare legislation. They want to see a do-over.

One of the biggest examples of that--and they probably were the biggest advocates of this--were the labor unions. If you look at what the labor unions are now saying, there was a letter a few weeks back from three of the largest unions in the country, including the Teamsters union, led by Jimmy Hoffa.

They said that ObamaCare would shatter benefits for their members. They said it would create nightmare scenarios. They said that it would destroy the foundation, the backbone, if you will, of middle-class families, and that is the 40-hour work week.

The reason they are saying that is because, as I mentioned, the number of jobs that are being created in America today are primarily part-time jobs. Why? Because small businesses have incentives to hire part-time workers.

One, if they hire above 50 employees, they are covered by the mandate that says they have to provide government-approved health care to their employees.

Two, the full-time employee hour limit is 30 hours. More and more, employers are trying to stay under 50 employees and trying to employ people for fewer than 30 hours a week so that they are not hit with these mandates under the ObamaCare legislation.

This is not a good scenario for someone who is out there looking for a job and for someone who is looking for a better job. It certainly isn't going to help Americans improve and increase the amount of take-home pay that they receive on a weekly to monthly basis.

That is why, if you look at again, some headlines from newspapers.

The Washington Examiner says: ``Just 12 percent think Obamacare will have a positive impact on their families.''

Fox News poll: ``68 percent concerned about their health care under the new law.''

NBC News poll: ``Obamacare remains highly unpopular as implementation looms.''

Washington Post poll: ``Many Americans confused about the health-care law.''

CNN Money: ``Most employees still in the dark about health care reform.''

There is anxiety, there is frustration, there is skepticism. I think most of these folks share the view that was expressed by the unions, perhaps the biggest advocates of the health care law when it passed. What we would like is a do-over. It either needs to be fixed or it needs to be repealed.

That was essentially the message that was coming from the unions at a meeting they had in California a week ago.

It goes on and on. We are going to have an opportunity to right that wrong. We are going to have an opportunity to get that do-over and to have a vote.

The vote is going to occur in the next few days, and it is going to give us an opportunity to go on the record about whether we ought to continue to fund a program that we now know is not working.

And all the evidence that I mentioned here today, all the conversations we have with businesses in our home States, with hospitals--I mentioned earlier Cleveland Clinic, which is reducing its workforce to prepare for ObamaCare. That is going on all across this country. It is not too late for us to get this right. We can correct this. There is a better way to do this. It didn't take a 2,700-page bill and 20,000 pages of regulations to fix the things that were wrong with the American health care system.

But now we have a government takeover of literally one-sixth of our economy, massive amounts of redtape and bureaucracy and regulation and the uncertainty associated with that, higher cost for individuals, much higher costs--dramatically higher costs, as I pointed out--and fewer job opportunities for families around this country, at least for full-time jobs, and lower take-home pay and a lower labor participation rate and sluggish economy. That is what this has wrought. That is what we need to correct and fix, and we are going to have an opportunity to do that with a vote later this week.

So, Mr. President, I know it is very hard to acknowledge sometimes when something is not working, and it is something you have invested in, something that in this case a number of our colleagues voted for when it was passed here several years ago. But in the interest of the American people, in the interest of doing what is right for jobs, for our economy, for the health care needs of American middle-class families across this country, it is time for us to fix this, to right this wrong, and to move in a different direction.

So I hope we will have the votes. There will be some of our colleagues on the Democratic side who will vote with us when we get to this vote here in the next few days and may send a very clear and loud message to the American people that we are listening, that we hear you, we understand your frustration, we want to fix this and get it right, and we want to go in a different direction. And I think that will be a welcome relief to Americans, who in overwhelming numbers are finding this less and less to their liking. The more they find out about it, the less they like it and the more concerned they are about their future and their families.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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