Continuing Appropriationsby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2013-10-01
CORNYN. Mr. President, if we need evidence that there is a
parallel universe in America today, on one hand is Washington, DC, and
the bubble that seems to occur around this place, and then the rest of
America. If we need evidence of that parallel universe, all we need to
do is listen to the comments of the majority leader this morning who
said, in the presence of these folks in the gallery in the Senate,
``The government is shut down. The government is shut down.''
That is clearly false. You know what. There are a lot of Americans
who think that Washington is a train hurtling down the track, out of
control. Who can blame them? When they look at our national debt, $17
trillion, more than $50,000 for every man, woman, and child in America;
when they see our unsustainable programs such as Medicare and Social
Security, which the majority leader and the distinguished Senator from
California hold so dear--we do too. Those are important programs. So
why would we not want to try to fix them?
The most amazing thing I heard today is the majority leader said that
ObamaCare is sacrosanct. It is the law of the land. You cannot touch
it. Over the last 3 years the Obama administration has repeatedly and
unilaterally issued waivers, granted exemptions, and announced delays
relating to this sacrosanct law known as ObamaCare. Since when is it
beyond the power of the Congress to change existing law by amending it
or repealing it or defunding it? It is absolutely unprecedented to have
a majority leader of the Senate, someone who knows this institution as
well as anyone, say Congress is powerless to act when our constituents
tell us they want us to act because they do not believe ObamaCare will
perform as advertised.
The best evidence is the unilateral actions of the President of the United [[Page S7069]] States, who granted waivers, exemptions, and delays for his preferred constituents. Meanwhile, the rest of America has to live with this monstrosity that will not work as advertised. Again, all we have to do is compare the President's promises to what has actually happened. He said if you like what you have you can keep it. That is not true. Millions of Americans are being dropped from their employer-provided coverage into the exchanges they do not want to be on because they would prefer to have their employer-provided coverage. When the President says the average family will see a reduction in their health care premiums of $2,500, that is not true because they have actually gone up, on average, $2,400. For many young people, such as my daughters, they are going to have to pay more so my generation will have to pay less, even though they do not need the government-approved, gold-plated health care plan, nor want it, nor can afford it.
We know that ObamaCare is, in the words of some of the leaders of organized labor, doing permanent damage to full-time work because people are being moved from full-time work to part-time work in order to avoid the employer sanctions, and it is doing damage to our broader economy. All of us have listened to the small business men and women for whom we work, who are our constituents, who say: We cannot afford ObamaCare, so we are not going to hire more people. In fact, we are going to cut back in order to avoid some of the sanctions associated with it or, you know what. At some point I am tired of working for the government instead of working for myself, my family, so I am just going to close business and shut her down.
Despite all that, the majority leader has the temerity to come on the Senate floor and say this is the law of the land; we can't touch it; it is perfect, couldn't be better. That is like whistling past the graveyard. Senate Democrats have refused to make any changes whatsoever, even in those provisions they themselves believe are flawed or defective in ObamaCare. They are refusing to abolish the medical device tax, which is a job killer and kills medical innovation that saves lives, even though 79 Senators, Republicans and Democrats alike, voted against the medical device tax on the budget resolution.
They are refusing to delay the individual mandate, even though the President of the United States has given businesses a 1-year delay in the employer sanction. Yet Democrats voted against delaying the individual mandate for average Americans. How can that be fair? Most remarkably, when it comes to the ObamaCare exchanges, Senate Democrats have toed the line--you might say walked the plank last night, at the insistence of the majority leader--and they refused to treat Members of Congress the same as all other Americans. That is what one of the votes we had last night did.
If I were a Democrat running for reelection in red States in 2014, I would be very worried about that. This is a toxic vote for them because Americans, although they may not be able to quote Federalist 57, know what it says in their hearts and spirits because it is fundamental to our democracy; that is, that Members of Congress should be treated no differently, certainly no better, than the rest of America when it comes to the law of the land. Those who cast that vote, who walked that plank last night, will be held accountable in the 2014 election.
You know what. I believe all of this points to the fact that the majority leader and President Obama want a government shutdown because they are reading some of the polls that say they think this will benefit them politically. They are willing to risk a shutdown of the Federal Government in order to gain political advantage. I am not so sure about that. I certainly did not believe that a shutdown--it was not my first choice. I thought surely cooler heads would prevail. When it came to the individual mandate, when it came to the medical device tax, when it came to eliminating the special carve-out for Congress, surely we can find some common ground somewhere. When there is plenty of evidence that the President and his administration have acknowledged the flaws and the defects and the unkept promises of ObamaCare, surely we could find somewhere we could find common ground.
Our colleagues in the House have now passed multiple bills to keep the government open and allow ObamaCare to remain funded, even though clearly our first choice is to repeal and replace this devastating legislation which is killing jobs, running up costs, and falling out of favor with even its most ardent advocates such as organized labor. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, from the President of the United States to the majority leader of the Senate, to all Democrats in this body, have become the party of no: no compromise, no negotiations, no changes. It is all perfect. We would not change a thing. Life is good.
But the Government shuts down and invariably some people get hurt. The President of the United States was thinking about holding a meeting of congressional leaders at the White House. The report in one of the newspapers in Washington is Senator Reid, the majority leader of the Senate, shut it down. The President wanted to demonstrate some leadership. He should demonstrate some leadership. People expect leadership out of the President of the United States, but Harry Reid shut it down. So Harry Reid shut down the Government and got what he wanted.
I think it is about time the President overrule Harry Reid. He was elected by the American people. For many of us he was our second choice, but he is the President of the United States. He needs to demonstrate some leadership. Instead, the Democrats have doubled down on their strategy, hoping to gain political advantage at the expense of the people hurt. The shutdown was not my first choice, but there are many of my constituents who are calling me, telling me: Look, we are worried. We are scared about our future. We are scared not only about our ability to find jobs, we are scared about our children and their future. My generation was the beneficiary of the sacrifice and hard work of the greatest generation, the World War II generation, people who risked everything so we might have a better life.
I am hearing from a number of my constituents back home, and they are saying, look, we are willing to risk some hardship if that is what it takes to get the American people, the Democratic Party, and the President to wake up and say: We need to work together and fix these problems that we all know exist, the national debt, lower median income, unsustainable Medicare and Social Security, for which the Democrats offer only higher taxes and more regulation. No wonder the economy is growing so slowly. The triple whammy is ObamaCare, which is killing jobs and hurting the economy.
We can do better than that, and we certainly can by working together. Now is the time for the President to call that meeting in the Oval Office.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.