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Charles G.
Republican IA

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Chuck Grassley

    Posted on 2013-10-04

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    GRASSLEY. Madam President, as my colleagues have done on several occasions, I come to the floor also to speak on the shutdown and the pending effort to find a compromise we can finally get to the President of the United States. Today, specifically, I come to the floor to take issue with a remark made by the President on Tuesday this week regarding the health care reform bill that he also sometimes calls ObamaCare. He said: The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled constitutional. It was a central issue in last year's election. It is settled, and it is here to stay.

    While I understand the President's position on the law that now is referred to by his name, he also misses the point. On Monday night, the Senate had the opportunity to keep the government running. The Senate had a bill that funded the government and did so without delaying or defunding ObamaCare. As we all know, the Senate voted down that bill. So let me repeat: The government could have been kept open without delaying or defunding ObamaCare. Anyone who says anything different is simply not being accurate.

    What did the bill Monday night seek to do? The bill sought to delay the implementation of the individual mandate for 1 year and require executive branch appointees to go to the exchanges. Those are changes to ObamaCare.

    Apparently, the President doesn't believe we are allowed to make any changes whatsoever to ObamaCare. I would respect that position if the President actually enforced it over the last several years, as he had bills presented to him that he signed and that actually made some changes in the health care reform law. In fact, Congress has made numerous changes to ObamaCare since it was signed into law. I have a list here, but it is a list I will read in its entirety so people know the President has accepted changes to his prime piece of legislation and so I can refute that the President isn't consistent when I go back now to his quotation when he says: The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled constitutional. It was a central issue in last year's election. It is settled, and it is here to stay.

    By that, I think the President is signifying that we can't do anything to touch the issue whatsoever, even to the minimal extent that we tried to Monday night.

    So this list was conveniently assembled not by this Senator but by the Congressional Research Service, and it was done on behalf of Senator Coburn.

    [[Page S7208]] In the 111th Congress, to start with the first change we made that the President accepted, H.R. 4887 clarified that health care provided under TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and the Nonappropriated Fund Health Benefits Program constitutes ``minimal essential health care coverage.'' Then we had H.R. 5014, clarifying that the health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs constitutes, according to the health care reform bill, ``minimal essential health care coverage.'' H.R. 1586 modified the definition of average manufacturer price to include inhalation, infusion, implanted or injectable drugs that are not generally dispensed through a retail community pharmacy.

    H.R. 4994 offset the costs of the Medicare and Medicaid Program extensions and the postponement of cuts in Medicare physician payments with a change in the Affordable Care Act, but the President signed it.

    H.R. 4853 extended the nonrefundable adoption tax credit through tax year 2012.

    H.R. 6523 extended TRICARE coverage to dependent adult children up to age 26, to conform with the private health insurance requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The President signed that.

    In the 112th Congress, H.R. 4 repealed the requirement that businesses file an information report whenever they pay a vendor more than $600 for goods in a single year.

    H.R. 674 modified the calculation of modified adjusted gross income to include Social Security benefits.

    H.R. 3630 reduced the Prevention and Public Health Fund annual appropriations over the period from fiscal year 2013 to fiscal year 2021 by a total of $6.25 billion to help offset the cost of extending the payroll tax cut. That is a monumental change in the bill. The President signed that.

    H.R. 4348 modified the Medicaid disaster-recovery FMAP adjustment by changing the adjustment factor and the effective date.

    H.R. 8 transferred 10 percent of the remaining unobligated Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan--and we call that the CO-OP--program funds to a new CO-OP contingency fund and rescinded the other 90 percent of those funds and repealed the CLASS Act.

    H.R. 1473 was another bill that the President signed. It canceled $2.2 billion of the $6 billion appropriation for the CO-OP program.

    H.R. 2055 rescinded $400 million of the remaining $3.8 billion for the CO-OP program, rescinded $10 million of the $15 million fiscal year 2012 appropriations for the Independent Payment Advisory Board, instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a Web site with detailed information on the allocation of moneys in the Prevention and Public Health Fund, and prohibited use of those funds for lobbying, publicity or propaganda purposes. That bill was signed by the President.

    H.R. 933 rescinded $200 million of the $500 million transfer from the Medicare Part A and Part B trust funds for the 5-year Community-Based Care Transition Program and rescinded $10 million of the Independent Payment Advisory Board's fiscal year 2013 appropriation.

    These are changes made by Congress to the law the President refers to as settled law. When he talks about settled law, he talks to us that the Affordable Care Act cannot be changed now as we are debating things with a continuing resolution. Obviously, the act is not so settled that Congress cannot and has not amended it in the last several years.

    But as we all know, the President, through his own actions, has, in addition, considered ObamaCare not to be settled law either. The President has, through administrative action himself, made numerous changes to ObamaCare.

    In February, the President delayed application of the out-of-pocket limits. In March, the President delayed implementation of the Basic Health Plan Option. Also, in March, the President delayed a requirement that small business exchanges offer a choice of plans. In July, the President delayed the exchange applicant eligibility and verification. In July, in perhaps the most famous example, the President delayed implementation of the employer mandate. In regard to that, there were even Members of the President's party in the Senate--that said the President did not have the legal authority to do that.

    So on Monday night, House Republicans sent the Senate a bill that did not defund or delay ObamaCare. It continued funding our government. It simply sought to amend ObamaCare in the same way--dozens of times--as I have just illustrated it has been amended. There was not even any debate of the proposals on their merits. It was simply handled in the most simple way you can here, tabled by the Democratic leadership. Now we hear about the farcical issue of settled law.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator's time is expired.

    Mr. GRASSLEY. Madam President, could I have 2 more minutes, please.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. GRASSLEY. I do not know where this settled law legal theory comes from. I would note that some of my colleagues have ignored this theory during previous health care debates.

    In 2003, Congress passed a law, a bipartisan law, called the Medicare Modernization Act. This law passed with Members of both parties supporting it. It was signed into law by the President. It survived any court challenges that were made against it. It was, by the same token, settled law. That did not stop my colleagues from proposing legislation to amend Part D, called the Medicare Modernization Act. In fact, Democrats, including Members still currently in the Senate, proposed and voted to alter the Medicare Modernization Act by striking the noninterference clause. We considered that proposal and debated it on its merits, as we should have the amendments to the Affordable Care Act recently offered. We did not dismiss it as offensive because it sought to amend a settled law.

    The government could be open and fully operating today but for the Democrats' unwillingness to engage in legitimate debate over the proposals to amend ObamaCare, not defund it or delay it.

    We are where we are because the majority refuses to give the American people relief from the individual mandate and treat President Obama and his political appointees the same as all other Americans are by going to the exchange.

    In the wash of words that we will hear on the floor, I hope this simple truth can be heard.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Mexico.

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