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Harry R.
Democrat NV

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Harry Reid

    Posted on 2013-09-30

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    REID. Madam President, when defining insanity, Albert Einstein said: It is doing the same thing over and over and thinking you are going to get a different result.

    Einstein was a genius, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out the proof is watching the House Republicans because they have lost their minds. They keep trying to do the same thing over and over. They have voted to repeal ObamaCare 45 or 46 times. That is kind of a lot of repetition. Now they are trying to do it again.

    They just passed over there another piece of legislation to try and diffuse, defeat, and get rid of ObamaCare. But ObamaCare is the law. We had a couple of Republicans today come and talk about the Obama health care bill. That has long since passed. It is the law. Do I need to remind everyone again that the U.S. Supreme Court has said it is constitutional? The Speaker, instead of allowing all 435 Members of the House of Representatives to vote to keep the government open for business, is once again pushing for a government shutdown. I think this is what they want. Remember, they don't believe in government. So what is a real good way to hurt government? Shut it down.

    The House once again has attached ridiculous policy riders that are dead on arrival over here.

    I heard this story before--in fact, just 6 hours ago. Republicans are once again threatening to shut down the government unless Democrats repeal ObamaCare for 1 year. But, once again, we will not relitigate the health care debate or negotiate at the point of a gun. This time the House has attached a poisoned pill that would punish 16,000 congressional staff. The amendment originally offered by the junior Senator from Louisiana would force congressional staff to cover the full cost of their health care.

    Think about this for a minute. Others have thought about it. The newspaper Politico said yesterday, perfectly explaining the hypocrisy of this approach: Some health care opponents claim the Obama administration is giving members of Congress and their staffs special treatment under the Affordable Care Act. The claim, which . . . is simply false: Although they will be required to enroll in health plans offered within the new health-insurance exchanges under the law, members of Congress and their staffs will not receive extra financial help to pay for their medical care.

    In reality, it's the critics--as part of their ongoing assault on the health care law--who are seeking special treatment for Congress, by proposing to make members and their staffs the only workers in the United States whose employer is barred by law from helping to cover their premiums.

    I repeat, in reality it is the critics--Politico said--as part of their ongoing assault on the health care law--who are seeking special treatment from Congress, by proposing to make members and their staffs the only workers in the United States whose employer is barred by law from helping to cover their premiums.

    Like other Americans who get their health care through their jobs, a portion of the cost of congressional staff health care premiums is currently covered by their employer. Their employer is the Federal Government. There are about 6 million of us. In other words, Members of Congress and congressional staff live by the same rules as other Americans and other Federal employees. As a matter of fact, all Members of Congress will be getting their health care on marketplace exchanges just like tens of millions of other Americans. Six hundred thousand Nevadans are now eligible. They will start signing up tomorrow. But House Republicans want to force our staff, who work so hard, to live by a different set of rules.

    Although many of these Republicans have gladly allowed the Federal Government to pay for a portion of their own health insurance, for years--decades, some of them--they now want to force 16,000 congressional employees to cover the full cost of their health insurance.

    If Republican Senators believe they should bear the full cost of their own health insurance, they should decline the employer contribution and pay their own way. They should stop being hypocritical. They should practice what they preach. But punishing 16,000 innocent congressional workers is simply mean-spirited.

    Speaker Boehner knows this new amendment won't last any longer than the last one, once it gets to the Senate; and it should be quick. The Senate will vote it down, and the House Republicans will be in the same pickle they are in right now--but with even less time left before the government shuts down.

    [[Page S7040]] But there is still a way for the Speaker to get out of this quagmire, to get out of this ditch, this hole that they have dug for themselves. But I am not sure they want out of this hole, because common sense dictates, if you want to get out of the hole, stop digging deeper. But they do that. They are over there now figuring how glad they are the hole is deeper than it ever was. I believe there is a significant number--if not the majority--of the House Republicans who want the government to close.

    So here is what the Speaker should do to get out of this hole that he has dug: Let the House vote, all 435 Members, on the continuing resolution that we passed. We did it on Friday. We affirmed that this afternoon. Stop standing in the way, I say to the Speaker John Boehner. Let the House work its will.

    If Speaker Boehner prevents the Senate bill from coming to the floor before midnight, the responsibility for this government shutdown is clearly a Republican government shutdown and will rest squarely on his shoulders, as all America knows.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.

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