Senate Calendar

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mar 22 2012

Senator Reid: (6:23 PM)
  • Performed Wrap Up --
  • Monday, March 26th --
    • The Senate will convene at 2:00 PM and 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 the motion to proceed to S. 2204, Energy Tax Credit bill, with the time until 5:30 PM equally divided.
    • At 5:30 PM, the Senate will conduct up to 2 ROLL CALL VOTES on:
      1. Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2204, Energy Tax Credit bill; and
      2. Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1789, Postal Reform bill.
The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 PM Monday, March 26th.

Franken, Johanns

Morning Business

Mar 22 2012

Senator Franken: (3:19 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "A provision that I wrote with the catchy name medical loss ratio, which is sometimes called the 80-20 rule because of my medical loss ratio provision, which I based on a Minnesota law. Health insurance companies must spend 80% to 85% of their premiums on actual health care. This is 85% for large group policies. 80% for small-group and individual policies. They must spend 85% - large groups, 80%. And small group and individual policies on actual health care, not on administrative costs, not on marketing, advertisements, not on CEO salaries, not on profits but on actual health care. And we've already heard the medical loss ratio provision is working. Plans are already lowering premiums in order so that the companies can comply with the law. For example, Aetna in Connecticut lowered their premiums on an average of 10% because of this provision in the law. Another key provision in the law is the value index. The value index rewards doctors for the quality of the care that they deliver, not the quantity. For the value of the care, not the volume. My home state, Minnesota, is a leader, if not the leader, in delivering high-value care at a low, relatively low cost. And traditionally, we in Minnesota are, our health providers have been well under-reimbursed for it. For example, Texas gets reimbursed 50% more per Medicare patient than Minnesota does. Now, this isn't about pitting Minnesota against Texas or Florida. It's about rewarding those states, those low-valued states to become more like Minnesota. Imagine if we brought down Medicare expenditures by 30% around the country. While increasing its effectiveness. It will bring enormous benefits not just to Minnesota, but across the country because it will bring down the cost of health care delivery nationwide. That's what we need to be addressing, the cost of health care delivery. Because we all know that bringing down health care costs is key to getting our long deficits in order. In fact, there's probably nothing more important that we can do, and that's where the value index is so important."
  • Spoke on the Rural Energy for America Program Reauthorization Act.
    • SUMMARY "The bill that I am introducing today will reauthorize this important farm bill program and help farmers and rural small businesses continue to cut energy bills and generate electricity on site. Let me go through a few examples of what reap projects can look like. It's putting solar panels on barns. It's wind turbines in fields or wind turbines all over Minnesota. Anaerobic digesters on dairy farms which use waste to generate gas and electricity. Energy efficiency improvements in poultry houses and geothermal pumps and factories. It means that agriculture producers and businesses can reduce their costs and generate an additional stream of income. It means that rural America can make high-tech investments, great jobs, and lead the world in producing clean energy ... The rural energy for America program is a modest program, but it's a wise public investment that effectively leverages private funds. Since it was created in 2002, this program has helped almost 6,000 farmers and small businesses across the nation invest in alternative energy projects. The program has generated or saved enough energy to power about 600,000 homes a year. By providing just $192 million in grants and $165 million in loan guarantees, the program has brought in $800 million in private and state investments. Plus, the rural energy for America program helps create demand for new jobs in rural economies. These are jobs in installation and operations and maintenance work, good jobs that rural America needs. It also bolsters American energy independence and fosters home-grown energy sources like wind and solar and biomass and geothermal instead of foreign oil First, our bill simplifies the application process, making it easier for farmers and small businesses to access the programs, grants and loans. The new application process matches the complexity of the application to the size of the project. That way, farmers and USDA can avoid unnecessary and costly paperwork if the project doesn't warrant it. Second, our bill removes the regulation that currently requires farmers to use the program's funding to install a second electric meter that currently goes unread. In these tight fiscal times, I think it's important that every taxpayer dollar is well spent so the bill will eliminate this redundancy and remove an unnecessary burden on program participants. Third, our bill requires the USDA to include stronger health and environmental criteria when evaluating potential projects, and it expands start-up support and funds for feasibility studies so that farmers and businesses can start projects with sound planning."

Senator Johanns: (3:39 PM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Last week's report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office, just one example. We learned something about the cost of this bill. Before the bill was passed, many of us were saying that this bill was filled with budget gimmicks to make it look cheaper to the American people than it really was. Well, we learned that the cost of the law's coverage provisions alone is projected to balloon to $1.7 trillion. You see, the problem is that CBO. only does ten-year projections, so the major provisions of this law were delayed until 2014. Why? Well, the reason for that is it was done to mask the true costs of this bill when it was fully implemented. When you eliminate gimmicks like this and consider the law's first ten years of full implementation, I fully expect that the total cost of this legislation will not be the $900 billion promised by President Obama. It will be $2.6 trillion. This law certainly doesn't bend the cost curve down. CBO. Concludes that families buying insurance on their own will pay an astounding $2,100 more a year for that insurance. Yet, then-candidate Obama promised that Americans would see their premiums decrease by $2,500 by the end of his first term. The recent CBO report also noted that the federal government will spend $168 billion more on Medicaid compared to last year's estimate. The truth just keeps coming out CBO also recently projected that up to 20 million more working Americans could lose their employer-sponsored health care coverage because of this health care law. That's an incredible shift. Especially when you consider that our President promised no fewer than 47 different times "If you like your plan, you can keep it." In addition to a potential 20 million employees losing their current coverage, seven million seniors are likely to lose their Medicare Advantage plans."

Reid, Durbin, Boxer

Morning Business

Mar 22 2012

Senator Reid: (2:25 PM)
  • Filed cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 2204, Energy Tax Credit bill.
  • Filed cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 1789, Postal Reform bill.

Senator Durbin: (2:28 PM)
  • Spoke on the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
    • SUMMARY "I commend the National Football League for taking swift and decisive action to discipline those involved in the Saints' bounty program. But we need to make sure this never happens again on any team, in any team sport. For that reason, I'll be convening a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. I spoke to Senator Pat Leahy about this morning, and he has given me his permission as Chairman to move forward. We will have a hearing and put on the record what sports leagues and teams at the professional and collegiate levels are doing to make sure that there's no place in athletics for these pay-to-maim bounties. I want to hear the policies and practices in each of the major sports and collegiate sports that are being put in place and have one explore whether federal legislation is required. Currently bribery in sporting contests is a federal crime. It is illegal to carry out a scheme in interstate commerce to influence a sporting contest through bribery."

Senator Boxer: (2:57 PM)
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "Everybody seems to be getting the message, but I'm not so sure Speaker Boehner or Leader Cantor are listening. And they have to listen. Because if they don't listen, and as a result of their inability to pass this bill or not want to pass it, what will happen is there will be another jolt to this economic recovery. Because we're talking here three million jobs at stake, thousands of companies are hurting. And I'm hearing from states all over this great nation that they are in chaos because they don't know what the house is going to do. So we took up a House bill. We didn't play partisan games. We passed it in a couple of days. It got 73 votes. Our bill, our jobs bill for highways and transit and roads and bridges got 74 votes. I say you wanted us to do this, we did it. How about you take a look at this bill. How about you save three million jobs. How about you do the people's work before you go off on your break. They owe it to the American people. Boehner owes it to the American people. Cantor, Mica, all of them. They said it's a priority and they do nothing. They are dithering."

Mar 22 2012

Agreed to by Voice Vote:
Executive Calendar #463, Rudolph Contreras, of Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.

Mar 22 2012

Confirmed, 96-2:
Executive Calendar #462, Ronnie Abrams, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 22 2012

Confirmed, 96-2:
Executive Calendar #441, David Nuffer, of Utah, to be United States District Judge for the District of Utah
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 22 2012

Agreed to, 96-3:
The Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 2038, the STOCK Act.
All post-cloture time was yielded back, the amendment was withdrawn, and the Motion to Concur is Agreed to.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 22 2012

Passed, 73-26:
H.R. 3606, as amended, the JOBS Act.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 22 2012

Agreed to, 64-35:
Reid (for Merkley et al) amendment #1884 (crowd funding) to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.
The vote results will be posted here within one hour.

Mar 22 2012

Not Agreed to by Voice Vote:
Reid (for Reed) amendment #1931 ("held of record� to include "beneficial owners�) to H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.

Toomey, Durbin, Merkley

JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 22 2012

Senator Toomey: (11:50 AM)
  • Spoke in support of the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "One of the pieces in this jobs package that's very constructive is a bill that I introduced with Senator Tester. This is a bill that takes the existing Regulation A and in the securities law, the body of law, Regulation A allows companies to issue a security in a streamlined regulatory fashion. It streamlines the process, reduces costs somewhat and the problem is the current limit is only $5 million making it not very practical for the vast majority of companies. Our bill would take that limit to $50 million and make this an option to raise capital and grow a business that would be available to far more companies. The second piece that I introduced with senator carper and for which I'm very grateful to Senator Carper for his work is to lift the permissible number of shareholders that a small, privately held business can have without triggering the full very expensive and onerous SEC compliance regime. Our bill would take that from a current level of 500 up to 2,000, and there are many, many companies throughout Pennsylvania, across the country that are successful, they're thriving, they're growing but they've got a number of shareholders that's bumping up against that limit. They're close to 500, they need to raise capital, they don't want to go public and they've got plenty of people who would like to invest in their business so that they can grow but they can't do it because they're so close to the threshold. We would live the threshold to 2,000 so they can raids money in the private markets. Finally what is in some ways the centerpiece of this legislation in my mind, a bill with Senator Schumer and I thank him for his work on this. This is a bill that facilitates going public. When a company reaches that point in its growth, we are - in order to grow further, to hire more workers, in order to expand it needs to become a publicly traded company, we make it more affordable for more companies to do that so they can do it sooner, they can grow sooner, they can hire the additional workers sooner. We do it with what we call an onramp. A process by which a company if it has less than a billion dollars in sales, less than $750 million in market float, such a company would be able to do a public offering without being subject to all of the most expensive parts of the SEC regulatory regime. They would be required to comply with a big majority of all of the existing reporting requirements, but there would be some pieces, especially section 404-b of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which is extremely complex and expensive to comply with, they wouldn't have to couple fully comply with that for five years or until they reached a billion dollars in sales or $750 million in market float, whichever came first. So what we're really doing with this part of the JOBS Act is we're giving small and growing companies an opportunity to grow into the ability to afford the most expensive regulation to which they would be applied. Nobody's exempted permanently, everybody who goes public would be subject to the full panoply of regulations within five years or sooner if they grow faster and it's only available to companies who have sales as I said, less than a billion dollars."

Senator Durbin: (12:07 PM)
  • Spoke in opposition to the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Supporters of this bill claim that investors will just jump at the opportunity to invest in a company as soon as we reduce disclosure, auditing and accounting standards. They say this is a perfect way to create jobs. But why should investors choose to invest in companies under conditions that do less to protect their money? Why should investors who were burned during the dot-com crash put more capital in companies that are exempt from the same rules we put in place to ensure it would never happen again? Why would investors who were left with nothing after the financial crisis because of risky behavior by executives with golden parachutes find companies exempt from compensation standards more attractive? The answer is, they won't. And the ones that do will be more exposed to deceit and fraud. The result won't be more jobs, it will be less transparency, less accountability. Professor John Coates of Harvard law school agrees. And here what he said, "The proposals here not only reduce front-page scandals but they reduce the very thing they're promoted to increase, job growth." Listen to what Lynn turner said, "The proposed legislation is a dangerous, risky experiment with U.S. capital markets. I do not believe it will add jobs but may certainly result in investor loss." The House-passed bill, as written, won't create jobs but let me tell you what it will do. It would exempt firms with more than a billion dollars in revenue - that's 90% of the newly public companies - more than a billion dollars in annual revenue exempted from the standards that help ensure audits based on facts, not on the managing - not on who is managing the auditor's contract. These are the same internal controls that we just adopted after Enron, after we were burned there after investors lost their money, after pension funds lost their investments, after people lost their jobs. We set up standards and said, let it never happen again. Now in this euphoria, we are going to repeal the Enron standards for these companies. This bill would allow companies to use billboards and cold calls to lure unsophisticated investors with the promise of making a quick buck investing in new companies. According to the New York Times, it will allow anyone with an idea to post that idea on-line and raise a million dollars without ever providing financial statements. This is a scam. How many times have you picked up your cell phone to see there's a Nigerian opportunity out there? Be prepared after this bill passes. They won't be from Nigeria, they may be from next door. And we are giving them the opportunity to ask people all across America for their hard-earned savings on investments that are not backed up with financial statements. Last Friday, SEC Commissioner joined the Chairman of the SEC, Mary Shapiro, in raising concerns about this House-passed bill. Isn't that fair warning that we ought to at least have a hearing on this bill before it passes?"

Senator Merkley: (12:20 PM)
  • Spoke in support of Reid (for Merkley et al) amendment #1884 (crowd funding).
    • SUMMARY "The House bill, as it came over to us, has crowd funding provisions that are simply a pathway to predatory scams, a paved highway to predatory scams. What do I mean by that? Well, they say basically that a company seeking to raise investment capital doesn't have to give any financial information of any kind about their company, and if they do provide information, they don't have to have any accountability for the accuracy of that information. And by the way, they can hire people to pump their stock, and that's okay under the law. In other words, everything you associate with the worst boiler rooms, the worst pump-and-dump schemes is made legal by the house legislation. That's why we need to fix this here on the floor of the senate. We lay out a provision that says, if you raise less than $100,000, you, as the CEO, assert the accuracy of the information you're putting out. You proceed to have an accountant-reviewed statement that you vouch for. If you raise yet more funds, a higher level of funds, then you have an audited financial statement. It streamlines it based on the amount of investment you're asking for. This amendment says then that the directors and officers take responsibility for the accuracy of that information. And that gives investors a great deal more confidence that what they're reading is actually truly the case. And that's the foundation for successful investment."

Levin, Grassley, Reed

JOBS Act (H.R. 3606)

Mar 22 2012

Senator Levin: (10:55 AM)
  • Spoke in opposition to the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "In a few hours, after votes on two amendments that I hope we will pass, we're going to vote on final passage of the House of Representatives-passed bill, the so-called JOBS bill. I'm going to vote against passage of this bill because it would remain far too deeply flawed even if the two amendments were passed to justify passage by the Senate. I'm going to vote no on this bill because it will significantly weaken existing protections for investors against fraud and abuse. The supporters of this bill claim it will help to create jobs. They have even titled it the jobs act. But there is no evidence it will help create new jobs. There is not one study that its proponents have shown us how repealing provisions that protect us from conflicts of interest and the research coverage of companies that up to a billion dollars in revenue will create jobs, nor is there evidence that removing transparency and disclosure requirements for very large companies will create jobs, nor is there evidence that allowing unregulated stock sales to those unable to assess or withstand high-risk investments will create jobs, nor is there much else in this bill that will even arguably help create jobs. It will, however, take the top off the beat relative to the activities of some huge banks and it will threaten damage to the honesty and integrity of our financial markets. Now, that is a mistake in its own right. We should value honesty and integrity in markets as in all things, and legislation that creates new opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse should be amended or rejected. But the damage done by this bill to the integrity of our markets will also work against the purported goal of this bill. The encouragement of investment to create jobs. By making our financial markets less transparent, less honest and less accountable, this legislation threatens to discourage investors from participating in capital markets. That damage would make it harder, not easier, for companies to attract the capital that they need and to hire new workers. Our capital markets are the envy of the world, and that is in part because we recognize that efficient markets that help businesses raise capital and aim to match up investors and companies need transparency and they need financial integrity, but this bill would not allow companies to make - will allow companies to make fewer disclosures and will remove important investor safeguards. They will increase this bill. Many types of risks to investors including the risk of outright fraud."

Senator Grassley: (11:06 AM)
  • Spoke on Grassley amendment #1493 (political intelligence gathering).
    • SUMMARY "The amendment that I got adopted when this bill was first up. Because the Democrat leader voted against it, the Republican leader voted against it, the democrat manager spoke against it, and the republican manager was against it. Now, common sense tells you if you study the United States Senate, that an amendment like that is never supposed to get adopted. But we got the 60 votes to get it adopted. Quite frankly, I was surprised that we got the 60 votes to get adopted. And so that is taken out of the bill that we're going to be voting on this afternoon. My amendment simply says that if you seek information from congress or the executive branch to trade stocks, congress, executive branch, and the American people ought to know who you are. Nobody's saying you can't do it. But you ought to know who they are. And you do that through the process that everybody ought to know who lobbyists are. Not that lobbying is illegal or wrong, but it ought to be transparent and with transparent comes accountability, the same way. This amendment asks these people that are involved in seeking information to just register so we know who they are. Nothing in the amendment makes nothing illegal, but we ought to know who these people that seek political and economic espionage, we ought to bring all of that out of the shadow into the public's information. But the leadership of both parties, the majority in the House and the majority in the Senate, went behind closed doors and made that provision just magically disappear. They did was truly amazing because a handful of senators and congressmen overrides the will of 60 senators and 280-plus backers of my amendment in the other body. First the Majority leader in the House said that the definition of political intelligence was so vague that he couldn't possibly figure out how to define it. That's the excuse given for stripping any regulation of political intelligence or my words, or political and economic espionage from the STOCK Act, when it was taken up in the House of Representatives. Now, let me tell you why that excuse is truly amazing to me, and quite a surprise. Because the House of Representatives put in a diluted provision that uses a very - the very same definition I had in my bill of what bill is political intelligence gathering is. Then by taking out my language, putting in theirs, they got it done because it was an excuse that the language I had in my amendment was so vague. But you know what? They took that very same language and put it in their amendment, calling for a study of political and economic espionage and political intelligence and used it."

Senator Reed: (11:35 AM)
  • Spoke in opposition to the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "This is a critical moment. The Senate is on the verge of adopting legislation that could cost the American people dearly in the future. The House bill with respect to capital formation, which is labeled a jobs bill but goes more to fundamentally change the securities laws, is a regulatory race to the bottom. There has not been a normal committee process in terms of weighing this legislation. These are complicated details. The interaction of the securities laws and many different securities laws have not been sorted out, analyzed. As a result, we are rushing to conclusion. Hasty deregulation has repeatedly been the source of financial crisis, the Enron crisis, the great recession of 2008 and the list goes on. And those who lost their savings or dealt with cleaning them up, experts in this field and many more have come out in strong opposition to the house proposal ... I offered with Senators Landrieu and Levin and others an amendment that we will be voting on later today to clarify the Shareholder Trigger for Exchange Act reporting so that all companies count their actual shareholders so they cannot avoid periodic reporting requirements. Adoption of this amendment would achieve one of the stated goals of the legislation, which is ostensibly to have more companies in a transparent market disclosing and listing on stock exchanges. That was the whole reason for this IPO onramp, encourage people to go public so that the market could follow them and investor advisors to advise on purchasing stocks in the market. This is one glaring loophole with respect to my proposed amendment. But frankly too many others remain and I have grave concerns about the impact this underlying bill will have on the middle class. It's needed because initial public offerings are down since the 1990's. They blame regulation, ignoring evidence that the dot-com bubble bursting, which shook the confidence of many in these new IPOS's that are coming on the market quickly with huge multiples in their prices as they come on the market and then quickly disappearing and leaving the scene altogether. And of course the biggest financial collapse since the great depression beginning in 2008 and lingering with us today has shaken the confidence and frankly shaken the basis calculation of many small businesses who are looking to expand when they see the demand out there for their products. If the demand is there, they will even in this environment go forward with initial public offerings. And they also repeatedly blame the lack of IPO on accounting costs and all the other routines that were brought upon by Sarbanes-Oxley. They ignore that the largest source is not the Sarbanes-Oxley 404 audit costs, they're the investors' fees. There is nothing in this legislation that will affect those."

Enzi, Coburn, Burr, Lee

Morning Business

Mar 22 2012

Colloquy: (Senators Enzi, Coburn, Burr, Lee)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.

Senator Enzi: (10:23 AM)
  • SUMMARY "Two years ago, the President wanted a health care bill in the worst way, and that's exactly what he got. That's exactly what America got. Anybody that's out there that's on Medicare or about to be on Medicare or young enough that someday you will be on Medicare should be really concerned about what's happened under this act. All of you, I'm sure, are aware of somebody that is on Medicare that's already been denied a doctor, denied a doctor because they are not being paid what they ought to be paid. To call it the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a major, major mistake. It neither protects Medicare patients nor makes it more affordable. In fact, one of the things we'll bring out today is that there has been a theft of $500 billion from Medicare to fund other parts of the program. There is some fraud in it because it was spent but it still shows up in the account. That's how they showed that this really doesn't add to the debt. And to solve the whole thing, they have got a whole new board of unelected bureaucrats to make additional cuts to Medicare to make it look like it's okay. And then there is the accounting sleight of hand. I'm one of the two accountants in the United States Senate now, and you've got to pay attention to see it, but it goes back to the - the fraud because if this same sort of thing were being done in the private sector, people would go to jail. There are a number of ways that we will bring out how that is not just budget gimmicks and not just sleight of hand but actually taking advantage of seniors. The chief Medicare actuary said that Medicare will go broke in 2024. That's five years earlier than last year's report by the chief Medicare actuary. That's the guy that works for Medicare. He doesn't work for us. And he has to figure out each year how much in the hole it is and what needs to be done to fix it, and my contention, of course, is that you can't steal $500 billion out of a program that's already going broke and expect it to be fine. And we warned about that as we were going through the passage of this Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."

Senator Coburn: (10:26 AM)
  • SUMMARY "Let's just take the example of colon screening. I'm a colon cancer survivor. I was diagnosed through colonoscopy with colon cancer. But let's take that example and then let's take the example of the other aspect of the Affordable Care Act which is called the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Now, what's the purpose of the Independent Payment Advisory Board? It is to cut the costs of Medicare through decreasing of reimbursements, first for the first eight years physicians and outside providers, and then starting in 2019, hospitals. Well, what do you think is the first thing that's going to get cut? The first thing that is going to get cut is the reimbursement rate for a colonoscopy. So when the reimbursement rate for a colonoscopy goes bow the costs - and it's very close right now, by the way. The cost to actually perform a colonoscopy versus what Medicare reimburses - when that is cut, what do you think is going to happen on screening? The goal of changing health care is an admirable goal. We know that one in three dollars doesn't help anybody get well and doesn't prevent them from getting sick today, but what the American people need to understand is what is coming about is a group of 15 unelected bureaucrats who cannot be challenged in court, who cannot be challenged on the floor of the Senate or house, mandating price reductions to control the cost of Medicare. What does that ultimately mean? They will do their job. We won't be able to do anything about it, but what it means is they will reimburse at levels less than is the cost to do services, and so consequently what will happen is the service won't be there. They also are going to do what is called comparative effectiveness research. We know about comparative effectiveness research. If you're a practicing physician today you have to do continuing it's like they're reinventing something that already exists. The point is they're going to use that to deny or change payments for procedures that patients need. What's wrong with all this? What's wrong with all this is we are inserting a government board and government bureaucrat between the patient and the doctor. Think about that for a minute. When I go to my doctor, I don't want him concentrating about anything except me. And if he's looking over his shoulder about whether or not he met the IPAB's comparative effectiveness study on what he's doing for me when in fact the art of medicine as well as the science may say they're wrong, and he's going to do what the government says rather than what he thinks is best for me, what am I getting for that? I'll be on Medicare next year. Much to my regret, because my choices will now be limited in terms of who I can see. The greatest threat to the quality of care - it wasn't intended to be that way. It was intended to be helpful. I don't doubt the motives of anybody that set this board up. The greatest threat to the quality of care for seniors in this country is the Independent Payment Advisory Board and their non-caring position, because they're going to be looking at numbers and words, and they're never going to lay their hand on a patient. They're never going to impact a patient directly. They're never going to listen to a patient. But they're going to make the ultimate decisions based on what that patient's going to get."

Senator Enzi: (10:32 AM)
  • SUMMARY "Decisions that were made in the health care bill, in the health care bill we took $500 billion, half a trillion dollars, that should have stayed with Medicare to solve Medicare problems. The doc fix is one of the big problems we need to solve. It's up to about, I think, $230 billion we need to do that. That would be a pretty big chunk out of this. Unless that's done, people won't be able to see a doctor. I keep saying if you can't see a doctor you really don't have health insurance. That's what we're going to be doing to our seniors. We cut $135 billion from hospitals. We cut $120 billion from the 11 million seniors that are on Medicare Advantage. We took $15 billion from nursing homes and took $7 billion from hospices. And we spent it on programs that have nothing to do with Medicare or those things. That's fraud. And it shouldn't have happened. The CBO actuary and the chief Medicare actuary have acknowledged this reality. Incidentally, the chief Medicare actuary says the program is going to go broke in 2024. The CBO says it's going to happen in 2016. 2016 is pretty short term. Pretty short term to be fixed. I think that 2024 is short term. Whichever estimate you want to take, Medicare is in trouble. And $500 billion should not have been taken out of it. That $500 billion should have been dedicated to fixing Medicare. We still have to fix Medicare, and the only solution we've come up with is the one that the senator from Oklahoma, Senator Coburn, mentioned which is to form this new board with surprising powers that are going to be able to cut some more in Medicare, so that it doesn't look like we stole $500 billion from Medicare."

Senator Burr: (10:34 AM)
  • SUMMARY "As a matter of fact, as a federal employee, I can pick from probably 30 different health care plans, the same one that every federal employee can choose from. Now all of a sudden in a health care bill, we've said to seniors, you know that Medicare Advantage which allowed you choice, you could choose a provider other than the federal government, we're going to take that away from you. We didn't really take it away. We just said we're not going to reimburse them to the degree that lets them offer the plans. But let's look at what Medicare Advantage provided for seniors. It provided a wider array of benefits than does traditional Medicare. It's good for some. They've chosen it. It won't be good for them in the future if this health care bill is not reversed. Because through the actions of IPAB and through the explicit language of the bill, Medicare Advantage will not be an advantage anymore. And everybody will have to default to the government plan that probably won't be as expansive with preventive care. I know that the senator from Wyoming knows in north Carolina we sort of lead the country as the model of medical homes. We're on the verge there of trying to put seniors into medical homes. We've already done it with a Medicaid population. Now, we've saved money. But my state of North Carolina this year has a gap of about $500 million in Medicaid. The people we're responsible for and the money we've allocated for, even though over the last three years we have saved almost $1 billion by being creative at how we designed our Medicaid program. This health care initiative, with no input from any state, will double the population of Medicaid beneficiaries in North Carolina, and what have we done? We've shifted the responsibility down to the state at the state taxpayer level. We didn't magically change anything in health care. We're just reallocating where we're collecting the money from. And every state's the same. They underpay for reimbursements under Medicaid. Doctors limit the number of patients that they see that are Medicaid patients. Imagine what happens when we double the size of the Medicaid population in America. Hospitals don't have the ability to limit. They're under federal law that says when you show up, you've got to see them. What we're going to do is probably attempt to bankrupt the infrastructure that we've got for health care in this country, for the simple reason that rather than fix health care, we just came up with creative ways to pay for it. Or in the case of IPAB, the Independent Advisory Panel, we figured out an external way from Congress to cut the reimbursements to doctors and to hospitals and to limit the coverage of all plans where it doesn't have to go through the legislative process in Washington. We're not always the finest example of legislation becoming laws. But, you know, this is the mechanism our founding fathers set up to make sure bad things didn't happen. I've got to say this is one that slipped through. Now we've got the responsibility to go back and fix the pieces of it that would be devastating to the future of health care in this country."

Senator Burr: (10:40 AM)
  • SUMMARY "I believe we're on the cusp of a new era of innovation that can only be thwarted if in fact this health care bill is fully implemented. Because the incentive will now be gone for entrepreneurs to take risks. There's no longer going to be an incentive that says take a risk, and there's an opportunity at a reward. And I think the senator from Wyoming pointed out very well, we've created Medicare Part D. What a novel approach to actually take a health care benefit that didn't exist in the 1960's when we created Medicare, and match it up with the coverage of the rest of the delivery system. What was the result of creating a market-based coverage? Today Medicare Part D is 50% less than the estimate we made years ago when we created it, of what the annual premium cost was going to be. Why? It's because we created private-sector competition. We didn't create government plans. It probably would have been much easier just to say, okay, we're going to supply a benefit for every senior in the country. I can assure you had we done that, we would have been well over what we projected the annual cost to be. But we're 50% under because we have private-sector entrepreneur companies that are out there competing for the business, that are smart enough to look at the type of coverage and they're custom designing it to meet the needs of seniors in this country. I dare say that the current health care plan that's going to be implemented and fully executed by 2014 was not personalized for anybody in this country. It looks at a 17-year-old the same way as it does a 77-year-old. Yet, the health challenges, the income are different for both ends of the spectrum. And that's because government can't look at us as individuals. They can't group us and design something that addresses not just the coverage needs, but the cost long term and the solvency."

Senator Lee: (10:44 AM)
  • SUMMARY "The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, contains an individual health insurance mandate that takes Congress' powers to a whole new level. For the first time in American history, our national legislature has required every American in every part of this country to purchase a particular product. Not just any product, but health insurance. Not just any health insurance, but that specific kind of health insurance that Congress in its wisdom deemed appropriate and necessary for every American to buy. This is absolutely without precedent. It is also, I believe, not defensible. Even under the broad deferential standard that has been applied by the United States Supreme Court since the late 1930's and early 1940's. Among other things, the limits that have been maintained by the Supreme Court, notwithstanding its deference to Congress under the commerce clause, have been limbed by a few principles. First, the Supreme Court has continued to insist that although some intrastate activities will be regulated by Congress under the commerce clause, some activities occurring entirely in one state, activities that historically would have been regarded as the exclusive domain of states, activities like labor, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, although some activities might be covered by Congress, those activities at a minimum have to be activities that impose a substantial burden or obstruction on interstate commerce or on Congress' regulation of interstate commerce. The Supreme Court has also continued to insist that the activity in question that's being regulated needs to be activity, first of all, and not inactivity, but it also needs to involve economic activity in most circumstances, unless, of course, it is the kind of activity that while ostensibly noneconomic, by its very nature undercuts a larger comprehensive regulation of activity that is itself economic. Finally, the Supreme Court has continued to insist time and time and time again that Congress cannot in the name of regulating interstate commerce effectively obliterate the distinction between what is national and what is local. Now, the Affordable Care Act through its individual mandate effectively blows past each and every one of these restrictions, restrictions that even under the broad deferential approach that the Supreme Court has taken toward the regulation of commerce by Congress over the last 75 years or so, even the Supreme Court, even under these broad standards isn't willing to go this far. There are very good reasons for that, and those reasons have to do with our individual liberty. They have to do with the fact that Americans were always intended to live free, and they understood that they are more likely to be free when decisions of great importance need to be hammered out at the state and at the local level. That is, unless those decisions have been specifically delegated to Congress. Specifically designated as national responsibilities. This one is not. Decisions about where you go to the doctor and how you're going to pay for it are not decisions that are national in nature, according to the text and spirit and letter and history and understanding of the constitution. They are not and they cannot be. If in this instance we say well, this is just important so we need to allow Congress to act, if we do that, we do so at our own peril. We stand to lose a great deal if all of a sudden we allow Congress to regulate something that is not economic activity. In fact, it's not activity at all. It's inaction. It's a decision by an individual person whether to purchase anything, whether to purchase health insurance, or if so, what kind of health insurance to purchase. Our very liberties are at stake."

Mar 22 2012

Senator McConnell: (9:48 AM)
  • Spoke on the JOBS Act.
    • SUMMARY "Later today the Senate will take up an attempt to pass the JOBS Act, and so we find ourselves once again on the cusp of passing a bipartisan jobs package that will make it easier for entrepreneurs and for innovators to get the capital they need to build businesses and create jobs. As I said yesterday, this bill had overwhelming bipartisan support over in the house. Nearly 400 members voted for it, and the president himself says that it will create jobs. He supports it and he would sign it when we get it to him. Yet, for some reason, some in the Democratic-controlled Senate seem intent on slowing it down and others want to essentially take a step actually backward and undermine a critical provision sponsored by Senators Toomey, Carper and Hutchison, included in the house bill and that was just this weaken doctored by the SEC's forum on small business capital formation. The Reed amendment, Rhode Island, could subject thousands of businesses could SEC regulation unnecessarily, and the senate should reject it. So once again, I ask them to reconsider. Let's put politics aside and pocket this important bipartisan jobs bill. The JOBS Act is a great example of the type of legislation we should all be able to agree on, and there is simply no good reason for delay. Let's get this done. Let's get it to the President's desk and have him sign it into law."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "We all remember when Speaker Pelosi famously said we have to pass this bill so we can find out what's in it, and one of the things Americans found out about was something called IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This is an unelected, unaccountable board of bureaucrats empowered by this law to make additional cuts to Medicare based on arbitrary cost control targets. As a result of this new board, 15 bureaucrats would now have the power without any accountability whatsoever to make changes to Medicare. What's more, there is no judicial or administrative review of IPAB personnel or recommendations. In other words, they are accountable to no one. IPAB isn't answerable to voters, and it can't be challenged in the courts. Its main role, as "the wall street journal" editorial board put it, will be the inevitable dirty work of denying care. The inevitable dirty work of denying care. In an effort to control spending, IPAB will limit patient access to medical care. It's that simple, and frankly it's totally unacceptable. Republicans recognize the problem of Medicare spending and the need for reform. We also recognize that IPAB isn't the answer. This is just one more reason Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced. That's why even democrats are cosponsoring a bill to repeal it over in the House, calling it a flawed policy that will risk beneficiary access to care. So this isn't just a Republican issue. There is strong bipartisan opposition to this new law. Look, if the President himself doesn't even want to talk about this law anymore and even Democrats are sponsoring repeal of parts of their own law in the house, it should be pretty obvious there is a fundamental problem here. We need to reform health care, but this reform made things worse. The evidence and broken promises are all around us. It's time the President acknowledged it, and it's time the two parties came together and did something about it. It's time to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the kind of commonsense reforms americans really want, reforms that actually lower costs and which put health care back in the hands of individuals and their doctors rather than bureaucrats here in Washington."

Senator Harkin: (9:55 AM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "We don't have a health care system in America. We have a sick care system. If you get sick, you get care, one way or the other. But there is very little out there to help you keep healthy and to maintain wellness and to keep you from going to the hospital in the first place. Now, that would be a true health care system, and that's what we have begun to establish with the affordable care act. By preventing chronic diseases, enabling people to stay healthy, stay out of the hospital in the first place. Right now, the United States spends about 75% of all our health care spending. 75% of the nation's health care spending is spent on chronic diseases. Only 4% for prevention. So during the last year that we have the data for, 2005, the U.S. spent about $2 trillion on health care. Of every $1 spent, 75 cents went toward treating patients with chronic diseases, many of which are preventable. Only four cents went toward prevention. Now, that had to tell you something right there. That's the old system. That's the system that republicans want us to go back to, is this system. Spending more and more to treat people after they get sick rather than trying to put something up forward to keep people healthy. Well, in the affordable care act, we have tremendous opportunities to again move us to more prevention and wellness. We have made historic new investments in this area of prevention and public health Right now we ban lifetime limits, helps more than 100 million people. They want to take that away. Republicans want to take that away. We cover vital preventive services Young people remaining on their parents' coverage up to age 26. More than 2.5 million helped so far. Republicans want to take that away. They want to end all that. Well, I don't think the American people want to end it. I think the American people want to move forward with this health care reform bill because we've made too much progress. Too much progress in making sure that health insurance is affordable, available Everyone here in this Senate body belongs to the federal employees health benefit program. You know what? We have coverage for preexisting conditions. We have no lifetime bans on our policies. And yet, that's what we did. Remember the debate, we wanted to say to the American people whatever we have we want you to have too? We put that in the Affordable Care Act. Republicans say we're going to take that away from the American people but keep it for ourselves. I don't think so. I don't think the American people want to say, well, you senators and you congressmen, you can keep all that but you can take it away from us. We're not going to do it. We're not going to go backwards."

Senator Whitehouse: (10:06 AM)
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "I want to describe how the law is already making a difference for families in Rhode Island and across the country. By drastically improving access to higher-quality care, by addressing rising health care costs and by protecting consumers. Look at the changes. Children with preexisting conditions were denied coverage. No longer. Lifetime limits on insurance policies left many American families struggling to pay medical care bills on their own. No longer. And insurers could cancel coverage for individuals who became sick. No longer. In addition, the law helps kids just out of school who all too often can't get that first job with health insurance. It helps them to stay on their parents' insurance policies until age 26. For seniors, prescription drug costs are down, as the Medicare doughnut hole begins to close. This is real change Because of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government now has the opportunity to support and encourage their focus and to deliver much-needed savings in the most patient-centered way - by improving the quality of care and health outcomes. There is tremendous potential for improved care and cost savings in five key areas - payment reform, primary and preventative care, measuring and reporting quality, administrative simplification and health information technology. Savings from a range of responsibility viewpoints run from $700 billion to a trillion dollars a year, all without compromising the quality of care Americans have come to expect, indeed likely improving the quality of care."

Reid

Opening Remarks

Mar 22 2012

Senator Reid: (9:32 AM)
  • Today --
    • The Senate will 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 Majority controlling the first 30 minutes and the Republicans controlling the second 30 minutes.
    • Following Morning Business, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act, post-cloture, with the time until 12:30 PM equally divided.
    • All second-degree amendments to the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 2038, the STOCK Act, must be filed at the desk by 10:30 AM.
    • At 12:30 PM, the Senate will proceed to 7 ROLL CALL VOTES on (after the first vote, all votes will be ten minute votes):
      1. Reid (for Reed) amendment #1931 ("held of record� to include "beneficial owners�);
      2. Reid (for Merkley et al) amendment #1884, as amended, if amended (crowd funding);
      3. Passage of H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act, as amended, if amended;
      4. Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Motion to Concur in the House amendment to S. 2038, the STOCK Act (there will be 4 minutes of debate, equally divided, prior to the vote);
        • If Cloture is Invoked, all post-Cloture time will be yielded back, the amendment will be withdrawn and the Motion to Concur will be Agreed to.
      5. Executive Calendar #441, David Nuffer, of Utah, to be United States District Judge for the District of Utah;
      6. Executive Calendar #462, Ronnie Abrams, of New York, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York; and
      7. Executive Calendar #463, Rudolph Contreras, of Virginia, to be United States District Judge for the District of Columbia.
  • Spoke on the Highway bill.
    • SUMMARY "I was disappointed to hear in the news that the republicans decided to not do the Highway bill, a bill we worked three weeks on here, a piece of bipartisan legislation that will save 2.3 million jobs. They are so disorganized, such a state of disrepair, the House of Representatives, that they can't even extend the Highway bill. I don't know what's in their mind. This program was started by that radical liberal Dwight Eisenhower who decided after having tried as a major under orders from his commander to bring a caravan of military vehicles across the country, that the roads were awful. He remembered that all during his military service. When he became President of the United States, he said something needs to be done about that. The interstate highway system was the brainchild of Dwight Eisenhower, and now the Republicans in the House are talking as if it is some socialistic program that was developed at Harvard or some other radically liberal place. I can't imagine what their mind-set is. Barbara Boxer and Jim Inhofe came together on a bill we passed on a bipartisan basis here. The vast majority of Democrats voted for it. The vast majority of Republicans voted for it. It's a good bill to save 2.8 million jobs. But over in a big, dark hole we now refer to as the tea tea-party dominated House of Representatives, they couldn't agree on it. They couldn't even agree to their own bill. They destroyed their own bill, and now they won't agree to take up our bill. The funding for our highway system terminates at the end of this month. I am not inclined to go for this short-term extension they're going to send to us. They're going to have to feel the heat of the American people, they being the tea party-driven House of Representatives."
  • Spoke on Obamacare.
    • SUMMARY "Two years ago tomorrow President Obama signed a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. It was the greatest single step in generations toward insuring access toward affordable quality health care for every American regardless of where they lived or how much money they make. Millions and millions of Americans have already felt the benefit of this law. Seniors are saving money, millions and millions of dollars, on their prescriptions and their free checkups. The doughnut hole is rapidly disappearing because of this bill. This law, I should say. Insurance companies can no longer set arbitrary lifetime caps on benefits. What they would do is you thought you were in good shape. You had an insurance policy, a health insurance policy, and you get in a car accident or you get cancer or some other dread disease, and you're in the process of being taken care of, and you're told your bill is not being paid anymore. Your limit was $10,000 or $50,000, and they stopped paying benefits. Under this legislation that can no longer be done. That's why the President signed the bill. Under this legislation that is now law, children can no longer be denied insurance because they have preexisting conditions, a protection that will soon extend to all Americans. And in two short years, in fact, less time than that, every man, woman child in America will have access to the health care insurance they can afford. They will have the same kind of insurance you and I have. Basically the same insurance. And for people to rail against this plan of President Obama's they call it, I haven't seen a single one of the republicans rail against this law, saying we don't want our insurance because it's government insurance. Every member of the United States senate has the same insurance that we by law are giving to everyone in America."

Mar 22 2012

The Senate Convened.

Mar 22 2012

The Senate is considering H.R. 3606, the JOBS Act.  The Senate is also considering three judicial nominations.  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.