Senate Calendar

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mar 19 2012

Senator Reid: (6:41 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Tomorrow --
    • The Senate will convene at 10:00 AM and proceed to a period of Morning Business for 1 hour, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each. The time will be equally divided, with the Republicans controlling the first 30 minutes and the Majority controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Following Morning Business, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act, with the time until 11:30 AM equally divided.
    • At 11:30 AM, the Senate will conduct as many as 3 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Motion to Invoke Cloture on Reid (for Reed et al) substitute amendment #1833;
      2. Motion to Invoke Cloture on Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank); and
      3. Motion to Invoke Cloture on H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
    • All 2nd degree amendments to Reid (for Reed et al) substitute amendment #1833, Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank), and H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act, must be filed at the desk by 11:00 AM tomorrow. The amendment tree has been filled.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will recess until 2:15 PM for the weekly caucus lunches.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 AM Tuesday, March 20th.

Akaka, Hagan, Durbin

JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 19 2012

Senator Akaka: (5:37 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "In order to keep our nation on a path to economic recovery, we must help small businesses access capital and reduce barriers for start-ups. However, we should not do so at the price of consumer safety or market integrity. We must be very careful to do all we can to promote robust capital investment and at the same time ensure invested protections are securely in place. Many, many groups have voiced staunch opposition to passing an un-amended H.R. 3606 for fear of its effects on the investors and the market. Opponents have said that the bill will in fact only make it more difficult for a small business to access investment capital. And it risks exposing investors to a new round of damaging fraud and abuse while undermining market transparency. President Obama recently urged the Senate to find common ground by supporting the most effective aspects of the house bill to increase capital formation for growing businesses while also improving the House bill to ensure there is sufficient safeguards to prevent abuse and protect investors. I cosponsored the substitute amendment offered by senators Reid, Landrieu, and Levin because it precisely does what the President asked. It adds essential provisions to the house legislation. Among other things, the Invest Act amendment would retain protections put in place after the internet stock bubble burst, ensure that banks and other large companies with lots of shareholders are subject to basic transparency, integrity and accountability protections and reauthorize the export-import bank which provides crucial funding to American businesses and supports almost 300,000 jobs yearly. Most importantly, this amendment fulfills the stated intent of the original bill. It provides new opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow by raising capital in a way that protects investors, provides financing so businesses can expand and hire more workers and encourages U.S. companies to export and compete in a global marketplace. In short, it truly invests in America."

Senator Hagan: (6:04 PM)
  • Spoke in support of the Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank).
    • SUMMARY "His amendment which reauthorizes the export-import bank through 2015 is a critical step in our job creation efforts here in congress. We approved this bipartisan legislation out of the Senate Banking Committee by voice vote in October. It is fiscally responsible, bipartisan, and will allow U.S. businesses to create jobs by leveling the playing field for American exporters. And if we do not act with urgency to pass this reauthorization, the Export-Import bank will not be able to guarantee new loans starting May 31. As our economy is finally showing some hopeful signs of recovery, now is not the time to let partisanship tie the hands of our small business owners who are ready to expand their companies and export their products. For decades, the export-import bank has supported job creation in America and in fiscal year 2011 the bank supported nearly 300,000 American jobs throughout the country and $41 billion in exports. In North Carolina since 2007, the Export-Import bank supported over $1.8 billion in export sales by 169 companies. 116 of those North Carolina companies are small businesses. The backbone of our economy. The Ex-Im bank has made small business growth a top priority and this is not just lip service on their part. In conjunction with the bank, I have convened two global access forums in North Carolina, one in Charlotte, one in Greensborough, with bank President and Chairman freed Hotburg. We had over 400 North Carolina small business owners attend the workshops to learn more about exporting their products. My four favorite words are "Made in North Carolina" and I'm proud to work with the Ex-Im bank to help get that label shipped around the world. This bill also includes an amendment that I sponsored that would add a representative from the textile industry to the bank's advisory committee. The textile industry has a rich history in North Carolina, where we have more than 1,500 textile facilities employing over 130,000 people in North Carolina now. But the U.S. textile and apparel industry has faced a lack of reliable supply chain financing that has caused them to fall behind. Fortunately, the Export-Import bank is well positioned to provide liquidity and financing to this industry it."

Senator Durbin: (6:08 PM)
  • Paid tribute to Lynn and Joe Lucy, who founded Heal Africa Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Honored Lynn Lucy who passed away this weekend from cancer.

Johnson-SD, Landrieu, Levin

JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 19 2012

Senator Johnson-SD: (4:38 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import bank).
    • SUMMARY "This legislation will ensure that the bank is able to continue to provide support for U.S. Exporters and workers. The amendment extends the authorization of the bank for four years and will increase the bank's lending authority to $140 billion by 2015. It also SUMMARY "provides" transparency and accountability at the bank, strengthens restrictions with companies doing business with Iran and provides for government oversight of the bank's financing and any risks it might have to taxpayers. The Export-Import bank is the official export credit agency of the U.S. it assists in financing in the export of U.S. goods and services to international markets. Following the financial crisis, the bank experienced a dramatic increase in its activities as many companies struggled to find financing in the private market. In fiscal year 2010, the bank saw a 70% increase in authorizations from 2008. And last year, the bank committed almost $33 billion in support of U.S. exports and new workers. The bank has been self-funding since 2008 and returning nearly $2 billion to the treasury. In fiscal year 2011 alone, the bank generated $400 million to offset federal spending and bring down the budget deficit. It's not often that we discuss government programs that reduce the deficit. So let me repeat that. The Export-Import bank returned $400 million to American taxpayers last year. We cannot take future success for granted, however. I am pleased this legislation will eliminate reforms to help ensure that the bank is working as efficiently and effectively as possible to protect the taxpayers. And we must not forget that American companies are competing in a truly global marketplace. The Export-Import bank plays a vital role in ensuring that the global marketplace is also a fair one. When other countries are helping their own companies with export financing, we cannot afford to unilaterally disarm in the face of this global competition. Let me be clear, this is a jobs bill. The Export-Import bank charter directs it to use exports to create and maintain jobs here at home, and last year, the Export-Import bank supported almost 290,000 American jobs. These are jobs in cities and towns across the nation, with large companies as well as small businesses. In fact, last year the Export-Import bank financed more than $6 billion in exports by small businesses, the engines of economic growth."

Senator Landrieu: (4:46 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY ""AARP urges the senate to take a more balanced approach." That's what we're trying to do, take a balanced approach. I'm not trying to kill the crowd funding idea. I'm not trying to kill the IPO on-ramp idea, which is to help fast-growing they call them gazelles, to be able to grow a little before they have to bear the burden of some of those regulations. While important, can be burdensome. I understand that. And my committee has been working for months coming up with some very interesting ideas about how it get capital into the hands of small businesses. It is not something that I am unaware of. But the House bill is not the way to go. Even President Obama sent a statement, the White House sent a statement - and I'm going to get it for you in just a minute to put it into the record because I think it's important to see the nuances here. Yes, it is true that the President did support the House bill. It is true that some very good Democrats who are very good watchdogs on this voted for the bill. But let me read you the last sentence of the President's latest statement of administrative policy and the nuance is important. It says, "The administration supports the House passage of the bill H.R.3606" - that's what they said in the House. But the last sentence says, "The administration looks forward to continuing to work with the House and the Senate to craft legislation that facilitates capital formation and job growth for small business and provides appropriate investor protections." The nuance is very important here. The White House is signaling that while they do support H.R. 3606, they would also welcome additional work to put investor protections into the law. And I think that's good. I know that this President and this administration that's worked so hard to clean up Wall Street, that has held the automobile industry from the brink of financial collapse and has brought it back, that has restored confidence on Wall Street under great controversy and great criticism. It's one of the proudest achievements of this administration. Under no circumstance would we want to go backwards, not at this crucial point. And that's what I'm afraid if we don't fix this bill exactly what will happen."

Senator Levin: (5:13 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Calling it a jobs bill doesn't make it a jobs bill. And there's a rising wave of overwhelming concern among those who know this area the best that the ground that we're about to tread on, far from helping to create jobs, is going to put jobs in jeopardy. The house bill before us would, its support irrelevance tell us, a-- its supporters tell us, allow companies greater access to the capital that they need to grow, market their products, and hire new workers. Its supporters say it'll create new links between investors seeking new opportunities and the companies who can put those investments to work. For that to take place, investors need confidence that the new opportunities that we seek to create are sound investments. But what are the investors telling us? They're telling us just the opposite. If this bill will help businesses attract new investors, why are the council of institutional investors and some of the largest pension funds and investor funds in the nation telling us that it will frighten investors away rather than attract them? If this bill will create new growth opportunities for small businesses, why are business groups from the main street alliance to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce appealing to us for change? Is this bill will allow companies to access capital more easily, why are the current chairman of the SEC and former SEC Chairman of both political parties telling us that this legislation will dampen capital formation rather than help it? In the guise of job creation, this legislation rolls back important investor protections and transparency requirements that are fundamental to our capital markets. Under the legislation that the house has sent us, investors will know less about the companies they are solicited to invest in, they will have less confidence those companies follow standard accounting practices, they will have no assurance that the solicitation that they have just received over the internet or by telephone is for a legitimate company and for a boiler room fraud operation. It does not have to be this way. We can remove obstacles to small business growth without creating new opportunities for fraud. We don't need to endanger jocks in the guise of helping to create jobs ... Now, what do we do in our substitute? We ensure that large companies with wide public stock ownership register with the SEC file regular financial reports, and follow standard accounting rules. We allow one shareholder to hold shares for many beneficial owners by clarifying that when determining when a stock is wildly enough held to trigger the disclosure requirements accounts its beneficial orientation not just owners of record. We do ease regulatory requirements, as does the House bill, for growing companies that use stock to recruit and compensate employees by exempting them from shareholder account requirements."

Blumenthal, Collins

Morning Business

Mar 19 2012

Senator Blumenthal: (3:58 PM)
  • Spoke on energy and gas prices.
    • SUMMARY "There is a growing consensus among energy analysts that part of the reason - a large part of the reason has to do with speculation. Now, I'm mindful of the fact that there are a lot of experts and a lot of debate on different sides of this issue, but there is a powerful and growing consensus that speculation is a major cause of the rising cost of gasoline. In fact, there's a list of businesses, government organizations, and trade associations who have undertaken their own studies and investigations of the oil futures market. Let me list them for you. Exxon Mobil, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, Goldman Sachs, the American Trucking Association, the Consumer Federation of America, Delta Airlines, the International Monetary Fund, the St. Louis Federal Reserve - what do they all have in common? They have all indicated that excessive oil speculation significantly increases oil and gasoline prices. In fact, according to a recent article in Forbes that's based on a report from Goldman sacs, excessive oil speculation "translates out into a freedom for gasoline at the pump of 56 cents a gallon." The chairman of the commodities futures trading corporation has stated publicly that Wall Street speculators now control more than 80% - in fact as much as 85% - of the energy futures market, a figure that has more than doubled over the last decade. In short, people are buying contracts for future delivery of oil or gasoline that have no intention of ever taking delivery. Something is not working in the markets. Demand has dropped. Consumption has been reduced. Supply is at least at the level it was last year, and yet prices are rising. The excessive oil and gasoline speculation is clearly causing market disturbances that prevent the market from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand. And it is vital that government use every available resource to protect Americans from markets that are not working, from price gouging or price-fixing or illegal manipulation. The causes of the market disruption must be confronted ... Last April the attorney general announced the formation of a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Working Group. I'll repeat that. Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force Working Group that was specifically empowered to combat illegality in these markets. I wrote to the attorney general last May in the wake of the appointment of that task force, telling him respectfully that "announcing investigations and beginning to issue subpoenas could curb some of the worst speculated activity that may well be under way at this very moment." I believe now that this task force has the authority, it has the mandate, it has the responsibility and the obligation to be effective. We've heard virtually nothing about it over this last year. We have heard of no investigation, no action, certainly no prosecution. And now is the time that it should be active, and that is the reason that I have written to the attorney general, seeking from him that this task force be proactive and effective by beginning investigations and taking whatever action is necessary to combat illegality in these markets."

Senator Collins: (4:12 PM)
  • Spoke on Postal Service reform.
    • SUMMARY "The postal service, which has delivered mail to generation after generation of Americans, will not be able to meet its expenses sometime this fall, according to the postmaster general. In the past two years alone, the postal service has lost an astonishing $13.6 billion. First-class mail volume has dropped 26% since 2006, and the trends are not encouraging. Since no one wants the mail to stop being delivered later this year, that means that we must pass a postal reform bill, and we must do so soon. The economic impact of the postal service is enormous. It is the linchpin of a mailing industry that employs more than 8.5 million people and generates almost $1 trillion of economic activity every year. Virtually everyone from big retailers to small businesses to online shops relies on the postal service to deliver packages, advertise services and send out bills. The jobs of Americans in fields as diverse as direct mail, printing, catalog companies and paper manufacturing are all linked to a viable postal service. Nearly 38,000 Mainers work in jobs related to the mailing industry, including thousands at our pulp and paper mills like the one in Bucksport, Maine, which manufactures the paper that is used for Time magazine. My point, is many of us think in terms of the post office by way of the small post office that may be in our community or the friendly letter carrier who comes to our door. And certainly that is an important part of the service provided by the postal service. But the economic impact of the postal service is enormous. The crisis facing the postal service is dire. You can't lose billions of dollars year after year after year and hope to stay in business. The crisis is not, however, hopeless. With the right tools and actions from congress, the administration, and the postal service leadership, the postal service can reform, right size, modernize and continue to serve our country for generations to come ... Reduce its operating costs, modernize its business model and innovate to generate new revenue. However, the postmaster general and I fundamentally disagree on how to save the U.S. Postal Service. And I am concerned, indeed deeply worried, that he continues to make decisions that will severely did he go grade the service and drive - severely degrade the service and drive away customers. It is clear that we have two very different visions on how best to help the postal service. While each of us wants to ensure that the postal service is set on a sustainable path, I fear that the postmaster general's approach would shrink the postal service to a level that will ultimately hasten its insolvency ... The current plan by the postal service would slow the delivery of first-class mail, close facilities and ignores congress. It flies in the face of the good faith that I and the other negotiators have extended to the postal service during the many months that we have worked on the reform bill. We've worked hand in hand over a number of months with the postmaster general to craft a bill that would save the postal service money in a way that prioritizes the lifeblood of the mail. The mailers and the service around which commercial mailers have built their business models and around which individual customers have developed their mailing habits. Despite these negotiations, the postmaster general has pushed ahead with plans to abandon. Current mail service standards in favor of reduced access, slower delivery times, and higher prices. That will simply force many customers to pursue delivery alternatives. It's those adjustments involve shifting to non-postal alternatives, even in a minority of case, I say, 10% or 20%, the postal service would face an irreversible catastrophe. For once cuts - customers turn to other communications options and leave the mail system, they won't be coming back. And the result will be that the postal service will be sucked into a death spiral from which it will be unable to recover. We simply cannot allow that to happen."

Mar 19 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Johnson-WI, Kyl, Sessions, Boozman, and Roberts)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:05 PM)
  • SUMMARY "This health care law it was in no way, shape, or form going to reduce our federal deficit. It is just not possible. How can you expect to add 25 million people to government-run health care and reduce the deficit at the same time? The reason they were able to put forward that fiction is they proposed a piece of legislation that would have revenue, fees, and taxes and penalties for ten years while at the same time only providing benefits for the last six years of that time period. So basically what they did is they said, we'll raise revenue for ten years of about $1.1 trillion. We'll have six years of cost of under $1 trillion. That was the fiction. Now, half of that revenue generated is going to be in taxes, in fees, and penalties. Personally, I don't understand how by increasing taxes, increasing fees on things like medical insurance, on medical devices, an pharmaceuticals, I don't see how that bends the cost curve down. It won't bend the cost curve down. That's the same logic that president has used when talking about high gasoline prices. Increasing fees on providers, reducing reimbursement rates to providers is not going to bend the cost curve down. It's basically not going to happen. The other half of the payfors, the other half of that $1.1 trillion, was proposed reductions basically in payments to Medicare providers. Now, congress, I would say wisely, has not enacted the sustainable growth rate cuts to providers because they realize if they do that, access for seniors to medical care will be reduced. I don't see how if we reduce Medicare by $529 million, how that same access also won't also be reduced? I think it is highly unlikely that congress will enact that $529 million worth of reductions to Medicare. When they don't do that the $143 billion reduction in our deficit, that fiction, will totally go away ... Another reason that fiction is being exposed is because, you know, fortunately, Congress realized that the CLASS Act portion of the Obamacare simply wasn't going to save the money that he said it was going to save. It simply wasn't sustainable. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad actually called the CLASS Act a ponzi scheme. So this administration has decided not to move forward with its implementation. This doing so, that is removing $70 billion worth of revenue from that budgetary fiction."

Senator Kyl: (3:11 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The numbers are in. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last week released its updated figures. It shows that the real cost of the Obamacare subsidy spending is going to almost double. Last year - or rather when Obamacare was passed, they estimated that the cost would be $938 billion. That's on the Medicaid part as well as the taxpayer-funded health insurance subsidies. And as you said, that's a ten-year cost. And of course part of the games here were that they're collected money over ten years, only paying benefits over six. Can make it look pretty good, like you say. But it turns out that when CBP had to reexamine now with two years of experience, what they found out, looking at the entire ten-year budget window, that the true size of this cost was masked and now that we have a clearer picture, voila, now CBO says the projected amount is $1.7 trillion over ten years. Obamacare is going to cost more than $700 billion more than CBO estimated at the time that the law was passed. Now, how can you miscalculate by almost double from $938 billion to now $1.7 trillion? Well, it's not CBO's fault. They are a bunch of accountants. They take what you give them and do their figuring. And as you senator from Wisconsin said, what the Senate Democrats and the President gave them was just part of the picture. They said, well, we're going to give you ten years' worth of revenues but only six years of suspensions. See thousand that works - see thousand that works out. Here's another way to look at it. We've all heard of a mortgage with a bubble payment at the end. And that's in effect what this was. They basically said, look, we know that CBO has to estimate ten-year budgets. So we have a great idea on thousand make this cost less. We'll put some of the big expenditures in years 11 and 12. Voila! Ten years of expenditures, not too bad. Ten-year budget that goes out ten more years from now, 12 years from when Obamacare was first calculated, turns out that when you add in years number 11 and 12, it adds hugely to the cost. $700 billion worth. We all said this at this time it was tricks, it was smoke and mirrors. They were pulling a fast one on the American people. We said that. Oh no, you can trust CBO sure you can trust CBO as far as they could calculate. But if you said how about years 11 and 12, they would have had to say that's another story, but we weren't asked about that ... By the way, if you want to go out over the entire period once the law is fully implemented - remember, Obamacare has not been fully implemented yet. What happens when you calculate its full cost when truly implemented? ... Total spending under Obamacare will reach $2.6 trillion."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:16 PM)
  • SUMMARY "One estimate that says on net only one million Americans will lose their employer-sponsored care. To me, there are 154 million Americans that get their employer-sponsored care from employer-sponsored plans. Assume that only one million people will lose that coverage and get forced in the exchanges I think is absurd, particularly when you have a study by a very reputable firm, McKinsey and company, that surveyed over 1,300 employers. The results of that study said 30% to 50% of employers plan on dropping coverage and having their employees go into the exchanges. It's actually pretty easy to understand why that might happen. Right now the health care law was 2,700 pages. There's been another 12,000 pages of rules and regulations. Employers looking at the health care law are looking at do I try and comply with, do I try and understand 15,000 pages of regulations and then pay $20,000 for a family plan, which is the new CBO Estimate for a family plan in the year 2016. Do I do that or do I pay the $2,000 penalty? With Obamacare you're not exposing your employees to financial risk. You're making them eligible for huge subsidies ... The big difference that Obamacare throws into the equation is that in the past responsible employers and most employers care about the people that work with them. They wouldn't dream of exposing their employees to financial risk that would be obvious if you didn't provide health care insurance. But with Obamacare, that's not what's happening. Now these exchanges will be available as well as huge subsidies. And, senator sessions, I'm not aware of too many large federal subsidies that go unused. And that's my concern. The equation is totally different now. It's going to be totally different under Obamacare. My question for CBO - I know they just conducted a study and did some sensitivity analysis, but they didn't go anywhere near far enough from my standpoint. I think the largest number of employees they looked at might be 20 million. When you've got 154 employers getting care and more than half of those, 75 million, I think we need to take a serious look at what effect on our budget that would have."

Senator Sessions: (3:20 PM)
  • SUMMARY "I think all of us need to be listening to this because it's something that was not sufficiently considered during the debate. And that is that dramatically nor employers may quit providing insurance. New companies that get started won't provide it. People will be on the exchanges and it will cost far more than what was expected. That's an entirely new issue, assuming the low number that the CBO said will go into the exchanges, just taking the numbers as they assume, let me point out what senator keel said. President Obama, an exact quote, to the joint session of congress when he was promoting this legislation, not some off-the-cuff figure, said this: "Now add it all up, and the plan that I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years." Now this was a delivered attempt, as has been suggested, to manipulate the figures because the taxes started right away, but the spending was four years delayed essentially. So you only have six years of really spending under the plan. And it also excluded many other provisions. For example, the bureaucratic implementation costs were not counted. The amount of effort, even IRS. People that have to be involved was not counted. New spending to close the Medicare doughnut hole, we didn't have the money in the two or 2003 when we passed the - the money in 2002 or 2003 to fund that money. Now we've never been in worse shape. We're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, far worse than we were. Next year will be the fifth consecutive $1 trillion deficit. We don't have the money. Now we're spending more on that program that we didn't have. A new earlier retiree program. Once you add up all the different provisions in the health care law, the total gross spending over the original ten years, not when only six years is being paid for, over ten years is actually $1.4 trillion. That's the numbers we have. So this was a misrepresentation. This is through, from 2009 through 2019, $1.4 trillion. When you add up all the costs over the first full ten years of this health care bill, it will be $2.6 trillion. The point is that the bill is not good health policy. The American people oppose it overwhelmingly, and absolutely we do not have the money. We've never had a more systemic debt threat to America, and it's just so painful to see this happen."

Senator Sessions: (3:24 PM)
  • SUMMARY "As a part of the funding for the Obamacare legislation, there was an increase in Medicare taxes and a cut in Medicare benefits totaling $400 billion. That money was used to fund the new health care bill by the U.S. Treasury, an entirely new program. But it's Medicare money. It's not the Treasury's money. Medicare has trustees. Medicare loaned the money to the U.S. Treasury. It was borrowed money that's used to fund this bill, not money that came in new and free of charge. And since Medicare is going in to default and going to claim its debt in a few years, the federal government is simply going to have to either raise taxes, cut spending somewhere else or more likely convert the borrowing from Medicare, borrow money on the open market from china and other places and then pay Medicare back. So it's really, as the CBO Director told me in a letter, December 23, the night before we voted, you're double counting the money. No wonder this country is going broke. This is, this isn't extra money. Half of the original estimate of the bill, $900 billion, was funded by borrowed money from Medicare. And this is how this country is surging in its debt and why we were in danger of the entire economy entering into collapse."

Senator Johnson-WI: (3:27 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Let's say we actually do enact those cuts to Medicare and we don't reimburse providers and doctors, in some cases to even cover their costs. I know this is a hard figure to get to, but I've read where only 60% of providers are willing to see and treat Medicaid patients. So now what we're going to be doing is we're going to be adding 25 million new individuals on to Medicaid rolls where only 60% of providers are seeing - only 60% of providers are seeing those."

Senator Boozman: (3:28 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Far from creating jobs as the president promised, it's estimated the law will actually result in 800,000 fewer jobs over the next decade. It's almost as if the law was written with no input from America's small business owners and the health care providers that will run it. In the 24 years that I was at our clinic in northwest Arkansas, we grew our staff from five employees to 85. My colleague from Wisconsin can attest to the fact that guiding your business to the point where you can add personnel is not an easy task. It takes strategic planning and management, but it also takes an economic environment that allows small businesses to expand, invest and hire. Instead of doing that, the health care law furthers the climate of uncertainty that our job creators already face. Small business owners are certainly hurting in this economy, they worry about tax hikes that Washington keeps threatening to force upon them. They see an enormous flood of regulations coming their way. Gas prices keep skyrocketing, profits are way down as a result of the sluggish economy. There is so much uncertainty, what mandates will evolve from this health care law and ultimately what these costs will be for small business owners only adds to that unease. When interviewed, business owners say the major concern that keeps them from hiring - and I have been out and about as much as anybody in the last two years, and this is exactly what I am hearing is the major cause that keeps them from hiring people is the uncertainty caused by the cost that they feel they would incur by the new health care law. We need to repeal and replace it with health care reform based on a free market system."

Senator Roberts: (3:33 PM)
  • SUMMARY "Employers and health care providers told me that when the majority of the provisions of the health care reform law would take effect, it would be more affordable for an employer to simply stop offering their employee coverage and pay a penalty rather than face the predictable increase in premiums and to continue to offer any coverage. Now these predictions have turned into facts. A new study just released by McKinsey and company, a consulting company, predicts large numbers of workers will be shifted into the health exchanges in 2014, and that's a shift that folks should be worried about. Exactly what you're talking about Literally thousands of regulations and waivers are pouring out of the department of health and human services. In fact, to date, 12,307 pages of additional regs to restrict personal freedom and micromanage the private market. And to make matters worse, there is the predictable worry that the changes would be better described as something similar to Medicaid HMO's. That's the kind of service we could get. That threatens access, choice of doctors, not to mention the rationing regime that will be the marching order of the day, and I will have a lot more to say about that in a colloquy in the next several days. At the time the president made his promise, the CBO estimated, as Senator Kyl pointed out, that only about 7% of employees covered by employee-sponsored insurance would make the switch or be forced to switch to taxpayer-subsidized exchanges. Now I would tell the senator study after study is releasing facts and figures that mind the health care reform law will cause many or most employers to quit offering their current health insurance. And in a survey by benefits consultants at Lockton, when asked about the costs of notifying employees or changes required by or resulting from health care reform law, they said each notification will cost $1 to $3 per employee. You can talk about cost. This would raise costs by tens of thousands of dollars or more for some firms and nearly one in five firms is considering terminating coverage outright thanks to the law. Each study, the numbers go up. The McKinsey survey found that 45% to 50% of employers say they will definitely or probably pursue alternatives to their existing health care plans. 30% of employees will simply stop offering coverage, so those are the facts."

Senator Kyl: (3:41 PM)
  • SUMMARY "CBO now estimates that Obamacare will increase premiums by 10% to 13%, and to make that number real, that's a $2,100 annual increase in the cost for the average family of just purchasing their own insurance company - coverage. Six separate private actuarial analyses have all indicated that this Obamacare will increase premiums, with projected increases ranging as high as 60%. And why is that so? It's like a balloon. You push in on one side, it pops out the other. The health care is still going to cost. Doctors still have to treat people. Hospitals still have to take care, pay the people that work in the hospitals and so on, so it isn't free as our colleague from Kansas is pointing out. Somebody has to pay for it. Well, if the government can't afford it, then what the insurance companies have to do is charge the extra expense on to the people in the private insurance market. So when the president complains about why insurance costs are going so high, he only has himself to blame. If the government isn't going to reimburse the providers adequately, they have got to get the money from the private sector. And that's why a 2,100-dollar annual increase in the cost of insurance for the average family because of the cost shifting that's going on. It's a result of the way that the government designs the insurance that it is provided for in Obamacare. It hits the young people especially hard because they are the ones that end up having to buy insurance that they don't really need, according to the America's health insurance plans, premiums increase 48% for people between 18-29 years old. That's in only 42 of the 50 states, premium increases of 48%. And then of course they also tax health insurance which we end up paying for because that cost is passed on to us in the form of higher insurance premiums. That's a $60 billion tax on health insurance added on top of the new taxes on innovation, on new pharmaceutical products, on new medical devices, the taxes that are included in Obamacare on those are all passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. The bottom line is that we're paying for all of this one way or the other, either through new taxes, through what we pay to the government or through what we pay in our private insurance because the physicians and hospitals have to make up the money one way or the other ... The bottom line is that Obamacare which was supposed to have reduced costs ends up increasing them, and by the way, it was supposed to expand the people that are covered but now we find that - according to Milliman, which is a private association, estimating the costs there, actuaries there have estimated that the cost shift from government programs, Medicare and Medicaid, totals 8 to a family's insurance policy. That's on top of what I spoke of before. This cost ship obviously will greatly increase with Obamacare's Medicare cut further on down the road and that will cause premiums to skyrocket even more."

Senator Sessions: (3:51 PM)
  • SUMMARY "The essence of the President's proposal, it went to the core of the proposal financially, was by federal government expansion of our authority, we would bend the cost curve and make health care cheaper for all Americans. That was a fundamental principle that was sold to business people and some business people thought it was great idea. But it hasn't happened. Per-person government debt is worse than any other western world nation. Per capita we have more debt than Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, $44,000 per person we all owe, man, woman, and child. And the President submitted a budget, if it were to be enacted - and certainly it will not be - that will go to $75,000 in ten years. Every expert we've had at the Budget Committee has told us we are on an us sustainable path, a spending debt path that will lead to financial collapse."


Morning Business

Mar 19 2012

Senator Reed: (2:08 PM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Another section of our bill that will help small and medium sized companies access large amounts of money, up to $50 million to infuse businesses with much-needed capital. We have proposed a few but very important improvements to the work of Senator's Tester and Toomey in their legislation and similar language in the House bill. Let me talk about the improvements to the so-called Regulation A or mini offering section of the bill to achieve a better balance between investor protections and access to capital. Like the House bill, our bill raises the amount of money that can be raised in a mini offering process. However, four improvements are made in the Reed-Landrieu-Levin amendment. We require audited financial statements be filed with the mini offering statement so that investors truly know what the financial situation of the company is before they invest. Let me make a point here. The House proposal would allow statements, accounting statements that are unaudited to be used to solicit up to $2 million from the general public. I would think as a basic premise that if you're using accounting statements for an offering of this nature, that they would at least be audited. Our legislation requires that. We require periodic disclosures of material information to investors. For example, perhaps the inventor of a certain high-tech product that a company is making leaves the company or passes away or something else happens. Investors deserve to know about that type of information. We limit the amount that can be raised through the mini offering process to $50 million every three years. The House bill would allow investors to raise $50 million every 12 months, potentially allowing many companies to avoid fully going public and evading more rigorous public reporting requirements. Finally, we require a study and report on the new mini offering exemption from securities act registration. This study is to be conducted by the SEC. In consultation with the state securities administrators and submitted to congress no later than five years after the date of enactment, so that we consider whether any changes are needed to be made to the mini offering concept created in this legislation. Although this is still an experiment to allow general solicitation, I believe that the protections we have built in will make it a safer experiment. We also work to make improvements to the initial public offering or IPO. Onramp to the bill. The essence of the proposal in House is to phase in certain securities laws and regulations for in their terms, emerging growth companies. So that they can grow more slowly and to becoming a public company with all of its benefits and responsibilities. There are companies that have either outgrown the private placement method of raising company or the new Reg-A method of raising capital. The key difference is what we think the definition of an emerging growth company should be. The way the House bill is written, it would exempt virtually all new public companies from nonbinding shareholder votes on say or pay and executive compensation pay in connection with an a merger or acquisition. The requirements under Section 7 that two years of audit financial statements are provided for an IPO. And a requirement companies audit or test the effectiveness of the company's financial systems or internal controls under section 403-b. After discussions with many, many experts it is clear that a company with $1 billion in annual revenue is not what most of them consider to be emerging growth companies, but that is the level the House has chosen, $1 billion in annual sales. In fact, under this definition the House bill would have exempted more than 80% of current IPO's from registration requirements which as I mentioned earlier, requirements that only recently appeared to be difficult to manage. As a result Senators Landrieu, Levin and I decided this definition needed to be much more targeted towards smaller IPO, companies with less than 350 million in annual revenues."


Opening Remarks

Mar 19 2012

Senator Reid: (2:02 PM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will proceed to a period of Morning Business until 4:30 PM, with Senators permitted to speak up to 10 minutes each.
    • At 4:30 PM, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
    • All first degree amendments must be filed at desk by 4:00 PM Monday.
    • The amendment tree has been filled.
    • There will be NO ROLL CALL VOTES today. The next ROLL CALL VOTE will occur on Tuesday prior to the weekly policy lunches.
  • On Thursday, cloture was filed on:
    1. Reid (for Reed et al) substitute amendment #1833 to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act;
    2. Reid (for Cantwell et al) amendment #1836 (Export-Import Bank) to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act; and
    3. H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "While this IPO proposal will be good for business, experts agree its impact on jobs will be limited. It is a good bill but we recognize its job-creation impact will be fairly limited. So we want to do something in this legislation which we have done to increase the amount of jobs that will be forthcoming soon. It's important congress also as part of this IPO bill reauthorizes the Ex-Im bank and do it now. It will help competition in the global economy. Last year Ex-Im bank financed and helped 3,600 companies and almost 300,000 jobs were added. That's why the Ex-Im bank enjoyed broad bipartisan support. The last time this measure came before the body it was offered by a Republican senator and was passed by unanimous consent. We'll vote on tomorrow is also bipartisan. It passed the banking committee unanimously. It has three republican cosponsors and strong banking of the U.S. Chamber of commerce. I read some of my Republican colleagues don't want to advance this bipartisan measure. Remember, it does not increase the debt whatsoever. Instead I've been told that some Republicans want to start another drawn-out knock-down fight over a proposal that passed unanimously the last time the Senate considered it. Let's review what's at stake. Unless Congress acts the Ex-Im bank will reach a lending limit this month. American exporters can no longer rely on an even playing field with global competitor. The Ex-Im lends money to businesses when private money is not available. Its investments made $41 billion in United States exports possible last year."

Mar 19 2012

The Senate Convened.

Mar 19 2012

The Senate is considering H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act. Republican senators continue to focus on creating jobs, lowering the deficit, reducing gas prices, and replacing the Democrats' health care bill with reforms that will actually lower costs.