Floor Updates

Boozman, Baucus, Kyl

Morning Business

Mar 26 2012

03:41 PM

Senator Boozman: (2:45 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Staff Sergeant Reed, a tank driver and gunner with the Army's 28th Infantry Brigade 2nd Battalion A Company, who passed away on February 16, 2012 while serving in Afghanistan.

Senator Baucus: (3:05 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Earlier this month 75% of the Senate came together to pass a highway bill that would create or sustain approximately 1.8 million American jobs each year. That's according to the Department of Transportation. What a tremendous achievement reached by working together, creating or sustaining 1.8 million jobs a year. From my state of Montana, this bill would create or sustain 14,000 jobs each year, and it cuts through red tape to put people to work on jobs even faster. It gives the state of Montana and our local communities the flexibility they need to fund the alternative transportation projects that work best for them. It invests in the land-water conservation fund and continues a vital program to support our communities. And it does it all without adding one single dime to the federal deficit. Simply put, this bill is an investment in jobs we can't afford to pass up. That's why this weekend Montana's largest newspaper, the Billings Gazette, called on the House to pass the Senate bill. I join that call today. The current highway bill expires at the end of this month, and construction season is starting soon. As the Gazette notes, a short-term extension doesn't provide the certainty we need to get highway projects off the ground and workers on the job. We cannot afford to put these jobs on hold by kicking the can down the road, especially if we don't have to. And also especially if we don't have much more road to kick the can down. The Senate bill is the product of months of debate and cooperation, of give and take from all sides, carefully crafted into a bipartisan investment we can all be proud to support. It has already passed the test overwhelmingly bipartisan support in the senate, and there is no reason the House should not take up this bill and pass it right away. The House should understand that we need to work together to achieve solutions the American people rely upon."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "The law improved our health care system to focus on prevention and keep Americans healthy creating forms to pay for quality of care rather than quantity and service. In two years health reform has lowered costs for millions of Americans. Parents can now afford to cover their entire family, including children up to the age of 26. More than two and a half million young adults have been able to stay on their parents' plans, thanks to health reform. Two and a half million. Prescription drugs are now cheaper for seniors because of the act. Already more than five million Medicare beneficiaries have saved more than $3 billion on drugs. Again, that's $3 billion saved by seniors on drugs. And health reform eliminates the so-called prescription drug doughnut hole. This puts dollars back in seniors' pockets, dollars that they can use for groceries and electricity bills. Seniors now receive free annual wellness visits. They receive free screenings. This focus on prevention leads to better health outcomes. It keeps them healthier. And it saves money by allowing seniors and their doctors to catch conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes before they become serious and costly. Health reform also helps those wish to retire early, to afford insurance until they qualify for Medicare. The law has provided almost $4.5 billion to aid businesses to give early coverage to these employees. Let me repeat that. The law has provided almost $4.5 billion to aid businesses to enable them to give early retiree coverage for their employees. Health reform is also saving Americans money through new consumer protections. It's any insurance company abuses. Medical loss ratios are the one that most firmly comes to my mind. Because of health reform, parents cannot keep their kids with preexisting conditions on their plans and insurance companies can no longer exclude these children. Insurance companies can no longer place lifetime and restrictive yearly limits on their health coverage that cost Americans tens of thousands of dollars. And insurance companies can no longer go back and scrutinize applications for tiny errors as a way to deny payments after a customer gets sick. Health reform has also created the Medicare and Medicaid innovation center to put good ideas from the private sector into action. The center is already working with more than 7,100 organizations, hospitals, physicians, consumer groups and employers included reducing costly hospital readmissions. Health reform provided law enforcement with new tools and resources to protect Medicare and Medicaid from fraud and abuse. These efforts recovered more than $4 billion last year. New antifraud provisions in the act, in the health care bill helped recover more than $4 billion in fraud last year more parts of the Affordable Care Act to help consumers would start in the year 2014 include the state-based affordable insurance exchanges. On these exchanges, people will be able to save money how? By shopping for an insurance plan that is right for them. It's like getting on Expedia or Orbitz. Shop around and find the one that's best for you. For too long, individuals and small businesses shopping for insurance on their own have had very limited options. The plans that were available were often too expensive. Now for the first time, insurance companies will have to compete against each other for business on a level playing field. That will mean lower premiums, better coverage and more choices. Health reform has also reduced government costs by dramatically slowing the growth in spending. According to our nonpartisan scorekeeper, the Congressional Budget Office, health reform slowed the growth in health spending by 4%. That will save taxpayers dollars and help get our deficit problem under control."

Senator Kyl: (3:19 PM)
  • Wished former Vice President Cheney well as he recovers from heart transplant surgery.
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "The argument on Obamacare and referring to a different piece that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, I wanted to talk just a little bit in more detail about the justification of this mandate to purchase health insurance, the requirement that every individual in the united states be the recipient of a defined, a specifically defined policy by the United States government. The rationale that the government has provided is that if we don't do this, then free riders are people who don't have insurance or might get sick will end up shifting all the burden of their care on to the rest of us, and therefore the government needs to regulate that by forcing everybody to buy insurance. Well, on March 20, the journal published a piece by Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Vernon Smith, a former CBO director and an economics professor respectively, which I think really debunks this argument on the merits. It explains the real reason why this mandate as well as a dramatic expansion of Medicaid are both unconstitutional, and I just wanted to recite or highlight perhaps the points that they make here. First, Holtz-Eakin and smith address this individual mandate question. States, of course, have general police power to regulate the conduct of their citizens, but federal power by contrast is very limited over individuals. The authors here make the important point that health care policy has traditionally been a state's function. Health care needs for individuals and varies from region to region. As a policy matter, states have a better understanding as to what kinds of improvements the health care access are needed. Here is what they wrote. "The administration's attempt to fashion a singular, universal solution is not necessary to deal with the variegated issues arising in these markets. States have taken the lead and passed reform efforts. They should be an integral part of improving the functioning of health care and health insurance markets." So if the states have the legal power to address health issues and they are better equipped to do so, then where does the justification for federal jurisdiction come from? The authors note that the administration's argument is that the federal government mandate is needed to address the cost shifting, the thing that I talked about before, but they node that this is a red herring. In reality, they write the mandate has almost nothing to do with cost shifting, end of quote, and that's because in actuality the young and the healthy, the people that aren't buying health insurance aren't imposing much of a burden on the system because they don't get sick that often. They don't knee as much insurance because they don't need as much health care, and the authors say "the insurance mandate cannot reasonably be justified on the ground that it remedies costs imposed on the system by the voluntarily uninsured." In other words, as I said, there isn't that much free writing going on. The authors conclude that the real purpose of the mandate is not to decrease the costs of uncompensated care. It's meant to force the young and the healthy to buy health insurance at rates far above the amount and scope of coverage that they actually need because they are generally healthy individuals, but this extra money will help fund health insurance companies and therefore offset the huge increased costs imposed upon them by Obamacare's many new regulations. This is the real reason for the individual mandate. In fact, as an amicus brief by over 100 economists points out, "The Affordable Care Act is projected to impose total net costs of $360 billion on health insurance companies from 2012-2021." With the mandate, however, "insurance companies can be expected to essentially break even." end of quote. Well, this is no coincidence. So if this is the real justification for the mandate to purchase health care, I submit that it should have been done through an enumerated power, perhaps under the tax power of the federal government, which is at least one of the powers that the constitutional explicitly provides. In any event, this individual mandate cannot be justified to regulate interstate commerce."
  • Spoke on President Obama's comments to President Medvedev.
    • SUMMARY "It has to do with comments that the President was overheard making in a meeting that he was holding with Russian President Dimitri Medvedev in South Korea. He had a hot mike which, in other words, captured comments he was making privately to President Medvedev and he requested a little space in negotiations over missile defense until after the election when he said we have more flexibility. Well, obviously this presents a problem that is going to have to be discussed with the U.S. Congress. Because if the President is in effect saying that he'd like to make a deal to limit U.S. missile defenses now but he would be accountable to the American public if they became aware of it before his reelection bid, it would be very difficult for him to make the kind of concessions that Medvedev wants. But if the Russian President will wait until after the next election, then the President will have more flexibility to work with the Russians on what they want. Well, the Russian president said I will pass this on to Vladimir. Mr. President, here are a few things we know. We know that President Obama canceled plans to station antiballistic missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. He supported language to link missile defense to nuclear reductions The President has significantly reduced funding for and curtailed development of the national defense system, undermining our ability to interest yr effectively intercept ballistic missiles, and we know the President has doubled down on efforts to reduce our nuclear arsenal while failing to honor his promises to modernize the aging weapon complex. What we don't know is what President Obama has in mind for working with the Russians after his reelection when he would, as he put it, have some flexibility in negotiating with them. Perhaps the Russians and who - in whom the President confided should shed some light on missile defense plans, perhaps the president should shed that light on these negotiations with the American people before discussing them with the Russians."