Floor Updates

Collins, Sessions, Carper

Buffett Rule bill (S. 2230)

Mar 29 2012

03:46 PM

Senator Collins: (2:40 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "During the past week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law. This week also marks the two-year anniversary of the President's signing that law. Now, there is no question that our health care system required and still requires significant reform. In passing this law, however, Congress failed to follow the Hippocratic Oath of first do no harm. The new law increases health care costs, hurts our seniors and health care providers and imposes billions of dollars in new taxes, fees. This in turn will lead to fewer choices and higher insurance costs for many middle-income American families and most small businesses. The opposite of what real health care reform should do. I find it particularly disturbing that President Obama's health care law does not do enough to rein in the cost of health care and to provide consumers with more affordable choices. In fact, Medicare's Chief Actuary estimates that the law will increase health care spending across the economy by more than $300 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that the law will actually increase premiums for the average family plan by $2,100. Moreover, a recent report issued by the CBO found that the new law will cost $1.76 trillion between now and the year 2022. That is twice as much as the bill's original ten-year price tag of $940 million. The new law will also mean fewer choices for many middle-class Americans and small businesses. All individual and small group policies sold in our country will soon have to fit into one of four categories. Mr. President, one size does not fit all. In Maine, almost 90% of those purchasing coverage in the individual market have a policy that is different from the standards in the new law. I'm also very concerned about the impact of the law on Maine's small businesses which are our state's job creation engine. The new law discourages small companies from hiring new employees and from paying them more. It could also lead to onerous financial penalties, even for those small businesses that are struggling to provide health insurance for their employees I'm also very concerned that the new law is paid for in part through more than a $500 billion cut in Medicare, a program which is already facing serious long-term financing problems. It simply does not make sense to rely on deep cuts in Medicare to finance a new entitlement program at a time when the number of seniors in this country is on the rise. Mr. President, we need to fix and save Medicare, not add to its financial strains. Moreover, according to the administration's own chief actuary, those deep Medicare cuts could push one in five hospitals, nursing homes, and home health providers into the red."

Senator Sessions: (3:05 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "It is widely agreed that social security has an unfunded liability of $7 trillion over 75 years. That's an enormous sum. It's double the entire amount of the United States budget today. So my staff used the models that are used by the center for Medicare and Medicaid services. They have talked with these individual experts about these numbers and worked diligently to come up with a figure using appropriate methods. That figure, using the administration's own optimistic assumptions and claims about the cost of the law, is an incredible $17 trillion that would be added to the unfunded liabilities of the United States over the next 75 years. That is more than twice the unfunded liability of Social Security. Now, I want to emphasize this $17 trillion figure is not an estimate based on what we think the bill will really cost if all the administration's claims and promises that were to be proven false. Certainly there have been matters proven false already, but we have used the administration's own figures, so the unfunded liability is almost certainly not going to be less than $17 trillion, but if any more of the administration's claims unravel as so many have already have, the cost of the program's unpaid obligation would rise radically higher than the $17 trillion. For instance, the former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an expert widely respected in these matters said that millions of more individuals may lose their current employer coverage and may be placed into the government-supported exchanges than we had currently projects, than the administration has projected. I didn't follow Mr. Holtz-Eakin's arguments or his concerns. We took the administration's assumptions. So let me briefly explain some of what now comprises this additional $17 trillion in unfunded obligations. $12 trillion is for the health care law for the premium subsidy program. You see the law created new regulations that driving up the price of insurance for millions of Americans. The writers of the law knew it would inflate the cost of insurance premiums to do so, so to cover that cost, they had to include new government subsidies so people could pay for their more expensive insurance. On made - onto the Medicaid, this new health care law has added another $5 trillion to its unfunded liabilities. This is on top of the substantial unfunded obligations at the federal and state governments have already had the take - had to take on in order to support Medicaid, and they have protested vigorously to us, warning of these additional deep expenditure requirements that are falling on the states. And these figures don't even account for the dozens of new bureaucracies that will be created to implement the president's health care law or the expansion of the bureaucracies. Those costs are not included in the $17 trillion or the cost estimates that the administration has used for the bill."

Senator Carper: (3:15 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "The way we decided to do it in the health care bill, law is rather than just mandate that people have to get coverage, say we want to incentivize you and if you choose not to, that's your business. If you happen to be poor, we're going to provide assistance to you. But if you're not poor and you have the financial means, we'd like for you to go ahead and get coverage. We're not going to mandate it. But the first year that you have means to have coverage and choose not to there will be a fine or penalty of some sort, maybe a couple of hundred bucks. But that will go up several hundred dollars in order to encourage people to get the coverage. At the end of the day, some people say, you aren't paying $600 or whatever it ends up being, instead of paying this fee, why don't I just go ahead and get health insurance coverage? The idea is to provide some plans that are reasonably affordable for folks to take advantage of. The main issue ... How do we incentivize the patient, the person whose health is at stake here, how do we incentivize them to take personal responsibility for their own health care? In my mind, that is the heart and soul of health care reform right there. The things that work are large purchasing pool. We have an 18 million purchasing pool for us. We're part of, members of congress, our staffs, all federal employees, federal retirees are dependent, part of a huge purchasing pool called the federal employees' health benefit plan, like 8 million people. We don't have 8 million federal employees, but you have 8 million people when you add in retirees and so forth. We're part of this big health purchasing pool and we get lower prices - not free, we pay about 28% of the price of our premiums as federal employees, as servants, if you will - and our employers, the taxpayers, pay the other 72% or so. But what we're going to do is provide the opportunity for individuals, for families, for businesses, small and mid-sized businesses all over the country in less than 24 months to be able to join a similar kind of purchasing pool. We're going to start them up in every state every other state will have the opportunity to have their own large purchasing pool, to be able to take advantage of lower administrative costs - our administrative costs for our federal employees' health benefit plan, $3 out of every $100 for cost of premium, $3 oust every $100 of premium cost goes to administration. You compare that to other plans, it's more like 30%. A large purchasing pool. We're going to have them available in every state. The other thing we have going for us in the federal employees' health benefit plan, we use private health insurance plans; we're not using socialized medicine."
  • Spoke on Menendez Energy Tax Credits bill.
    • SUMMARY "We are drilling more in this country than we have at least the last eight years and because we are drilling more, the U.S. is now a net oil exporter, not a net oil importer. And this country which for years we said we are the Saudi Arabia of coal, we're now on our way to becoming the Saudi Arabia of natural gas and as we have opened up for drilling additional acres, onshore, offshore, off Alaska and the Gulf, we are in a position to become a net oil exporter. Now, the administration, the Obama administration, has made available millions of acres for oil and gas exploration the last year or two. Approving more than 400 drilling permits since the new safety standards were put in place. These safety standards you may recall were implemented to make sure we didn't have a repeat oil spill disaster like the BP oil spill that occurred almost two years ago today ... We have a record number of oil rigs operating right now, more working oil and gas rigs in the west than oil combined. With the changes that have been made, the increases in permitting in the last year or two, we now have a record number of oil rigs operating right now. More working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined. And yet of the millions of acres the government has allowed, our government has allowed for oil and gas development, only 25% of those acres are being used for production ... We actually have permits for the oil and gas companies could be drilling, 25% of these producing acres, and 75% of these are nonproducing acres. It's not because people are drilling and coming up with a dry hole. In many cases, they are not drilling. Keep that picture. You know the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words ... We have 75 million acres that are leased and have yet to be tapped Yet American consumers are still paying more at the pump. All the while the five largest oil companies, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch, Shell group, they did pretty well. They made about $137 billion last year. And to top it off, these companies receive billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to drill for oil and gas even as they are making very healthy, I think, record-breaking profits. Now, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. But let me just stop. I want to be clear on this one. I don't begrudge, I don't think any of us should begrudge the oil and gas companies their success. They have a fair amount at risk when they drill for oil and gas. It's not a business without risk. But this is also a business with enormous payoffs, enormous rewards for assuming those risks. But I do question giving away billions of taxpayer dollars in drilling subsidies at a time when we're running record federal deficits, to establish and really establish in successful industries that I don't think need a whole lot of financial incentive to drill more in this country."