Floor Updates

Barrasso, Franken, Grassley, Harkin

Morning Business/Executive Session (Medine nomination)

May 07 2013

11:59 AM

Senator Barrasso: (10:18 AM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "You see candidates like the Democrat running today in the special election in South Carolina trying to distance herself from the health care law. How did she do it? Let's just turn the tape back to last week's debate. In a congressional race, special election, South Carolina - here's what she had to say. "Obamacare is extremely problematic. It is expensive. It is a $500 billion higher cost than we originally anticipated. It is cutting into Medicare benefits. And it's having companies lay off their employees because they are worried about the cost of it. This is extremely problematic." That is a Democrat who said that running for Congress just last week. The election is today. Another Democrat, the ranking member of the Energy Committee, he had this to say. "There is a reason for very concerned about what's going to happen with young people." He said, "If their premiums shoot up, I can tell you this is going to wash into the United States Senate in a hurry." Well, I agree with the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. So what are the prospects for implementation? Well, one of the key architects of the law, another Democrat, said he sees "a huge train wreck coming down." That's what Senator Baucus said. And I think he's right. We are headed for a train wreck. That's what concerns the people that I talked to, all of those patients, employers, families, that I mentioned. So what does the president have to say about this? When he was asked about it the other day at a press conference the president's answer went on for more than 1,000 words, but it came down one thing. He said, "For the 85% to 90% of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing has already happened ... They don't have to worry about anything else." Can that truly be what the president thinks? He even repeated the idea a couple of times. He said 90% of the Americans don't have to worry. I would just say, with all due respect to the president, people are worried and they are right to worry."

Senator Franken: (10:38 AM)
  • Spoke on the sequester.
    • SUMMARY "To take just two examples from the many I could cite from every state in the nation, on March 13, the AP Reported that in Indiana Head Start program was forced to use a random drawing to determine which 36 children would be cut from their program. And on March 31 the Portland Press Herald in Maine reported that a local Meals on Wheels program which had never before turned away a senior in need was now using a waiting list and reducing the number of meals delivered to existing participants. Then on April 25, the Senate passed a bill to allow the Department of Transportation to shift funds from one account to another. Therefore, exempting DOT from the strict across-the-board cuts mandated by the sequester. The funding shift was needed to prevent the furlough of air traffic controllers, which was beginning to cause a significant inconvenience to American travelers and could have had harmful effects on our economy. The House passed the bill the next day, and it has now been enacted into law. I am pleased that American travelers were spared this inconvenience, but as the reports I just cited from Minnesota and from elsewhere would suggest, there are a lot of people suffering needlessly because of the sequester, and a case-by-case approach isn't the right way to handle the effects of the sequester. The sequester in fact was designed to affect every government function equally with just a few exceptions, and the extreme across-the-board nature of these cuts is the very definition of a thoughtless approach to deficit reduction. The sequester was designed to be replaced. And that is what we must do. Just as the sequester affects every government function equally, our response to the sequester should be complete and inclusive, not piecemeal. We must replace the entire sequester with a mix of new revenues and smarter targeted cuts that do not inflict needless pain on those who can least bear it and that do not harm our ongoing fragile economic recovery."

Senator Grassley: (11:01 AM)
  • Spoke on the Medine nomination.
    • SUMMARY "I oppose the nomination of David Medine to be Chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Mr. Medine was nominated for this position during the last Congress, and the Judiciary Committee, where I serve as the ranking member, held a hearing on his nomination April 2012. At that hearing I asked a number of questions about the various national security statutes that the board is tasked with overseeing. This included questions about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act. Specifically, I asked for his views on these laws. Unfortunately, the responses that I received failed to provide his views. Very simply, when people are called for confirmation, they ought to answer our questions. He simply stated in answers to questions that he would balance the views of government against the board's mandate to review privacy. Well, that's pretty commonsense. That's what every member of that board ought to do, but that doesn't answer the specific questions that I asked him. I also asked Mr. Medine about his views on the use of law enforcement versus military authorities for combating terrorism. I was very disappointed that he failed to answer a basic yes-or-no question about the national security law, that question being "Do you believe that we're engaged in a war on terrorism?"Instead I didn't get a simple yes or no answer. He opted for a more limited answer that military power is permissible in appropriate cases. What does that have to do with the question "Do you believe that we're engaged in a war on terrorism?" This technical answer gave me pause, especially in light of the continued threat that we face from international terrorist organizations."

Senator Harkin: (11:19 AM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "It is ill-advised and shortsighted to raid the prevention fund, which is making absolutely critical investments in preventing disease, saving lives, and keeping women and their families healthy $332 million that they took from the prevention fund. Last year it was $5 billion. And I'll get to that in a moment. So, again - and they're raiding this prevention fund - not only is it a case of misplaced priorities shall it is frankly an outrageous a fund that is saving families all across America. A major purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to begin to transform our current sick-care system into a genuine health care system. One that is focused on saving lives through a greater emphasis on wellness, prevention, and public health. I have been saying for 20 years or more that we don't have a health care system in America; we have a sick care system. When you think about it, when you get sick, you can get pretty good care in America. We have the best surgeons and clinics. Probably no better place to be to get cured. But what we're lousy at is keeping you healthy in the first place. Every expert acknowledges that we will never reduce health care costs or have a healthier and more productive society until we have a major focus on prevention. However, I have no choice but to conclude that when it comes to prevention and wellness, some people in this administration just don't get it. The prevention fund already has been a giant step forward for public health in our nation. Typically prevention and public health initiatives have in the past always been an afterthought. This means that important community-based interventions often go unsupported. The prevention fund - that's part of the Affordable Care Act - is making it possible for us to make national investments in evidence-based programs that promote physical activity, improved nutrition, and reduce tobacco use."