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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2013-10-02

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    CORNYN. Madam President, I listened with great interest to the comments of the distinguished deputy Democratic majority leader.

    I was reminded of a radio commentator, who perhaps is not remembered as frequently now, but when I grew up, he had radio show where when he started out he would say: And now for the rest of the story.

    I wish to offer the rest of the story. I listened as Senator Durbin spoke about the fact that the National Institutes of Health is not open for business. The good news is that Republicans and Democrats both agree that we should reopen the National Institutes of Health. In fact, it is my understanding that the House of Representatives will pass a bill perhaps as early as today and send it over to the Senate.

    I hope Senator Reid, unlike over the last few days where he has killed every reasonable offer by the House of Representatives, will reconsider and he will not kill that funding for the National Institutes of Health during this partial government shutdown.

    There are some other areas where I think we could work together. Senator Reid knew that Republicans were going to come to the floor and try to make sure that our uniformed military continued to get their full pay on time during this impasse of Congress. Like the good politician he is, he actually beat us to the punch. He came down here first and made the same offer. The good news is there was bipartisan support for funding our troops in full, our uniformed military, on a timely basis during this impasse.

    This has been sort of a surreal experience in so many ways because my friends on the other side of the aisle have been making what I consider to be some very strange arguments. The argument they have been making is that President Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, is untouchable, and that our efforts to modify it in any way are illegitimate. Their favorite word is ``extreme'' or the product of some effort by the tea party Republicans or some other disparaging connotation.

    I am not sure exactly how to respond except to say this: If ObamaCare is untouchable, if the Obama administration is perfect, if we can't change one word and one sentence about ObamaCare, then you need to tell the Obama administration. Since 2010, the administration has granted more than 1,000 different waivers to its friends and political allies. It suspended all work on a large portion of ObamaCare known as the CLASS Act. It has delayed ObamaCare's basic health program and delayed the employer mandate. When we tried to delay the individual mandate so average Americans get the same sort of consideration from this administration that employers get, that businesses get, we were told this is an unreasonable request. Senator Reid tabled that, in essence killing that provision rather than taking it up and embracing it and saying: You know what. If employers get a break for 1 year, then let's give average Americans a break.

    The Obama administration has likewise delayed the eligibility verification for the exchanges. It started yesterday. In other words, you can apply for one of these insurance exchanges, but you don't have to prove what your income is. If there is a bigger open invitation for fraud, I am not aware of what it might be. But that is what the Obama administration has done, delayed the eligibility verification for the Obama exchanges, and they have delayed the cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

    In short, the Obama administration has, by its very actions, demonstrated that ObamaCare is not perfect. The administration itself, by its own actions, has acknowledged ObamaCare is not ready for prime time.

    This became painfully obvious to millions of Americans yesterday when the ObamaCare exchanges encountered widespread problems on its first day of operation. The President calls these glitches--glitches, a nice poll-tested, fairly benign-sounding word. But these were systemic failures of the ObamaCare exchanges yesterday when they came online-- obviously, not ready for prime time.

    Meanwhile, there have been other changes in this perfect, inviolable, can't-change-a-word ObamaCare. While the Supreme Court, we certainly acknowledge, has upheld major portions of ObamaCare, it is important to remember it declared a major piece of the law--the compulsory expansion of Medicaid--as unconstitutional. Unconstitutional: incompatible with our fundamental law of the land. Does that sound like a law that is perfect, can't be changed? Let me give another example. During the ObamaCare debate, Democrats voted on a party-line vote to impose a medical device tax on medical device manufacturers. It is not based on their income, it is based on their gross receipts or how much money comes in the door, before they even deduct their cost of doing business and their overhead. So they would actually have to pay taxes without it generating any net income because of the nature of this tax. This is a job-killing tax.

    I have had constituents come into my office and say: We have operations in Costa Rica, so we are going to have to move jobs we would create in Dallas to Costa Rica because of this job-killing medical device tax. You know what. Medical devices are some of the [[Page S7109]] most innovative parts of our health care system. How better to discourage medical innovation and lifesaving discoveries and manufacturing than to impose this gross receipts tax on medical devices.

    That is not just my opinion. The last time we had a debate on the budget resolution, 79 Senators voted against the medical device tax because they realized it was a terrible mistake in this law we are told today, yesterday, and the day before is perfect in every way, wouldn't change a thing. But Senate Democrats are now lining up to repeal the medical device tax. Somehow, in a schizophrenia I don't quite understand, other Democrats are saying an attempt to do that would represent partisan extremism. Which is it? I think the American people know.

    I am not sure exactly how our friends on the other side of the aisle define extremism, but I would submit that very few extreme ideas gain the support of 79 Senators in the Senate on a bipartisan basis. How is it extreme to delay ObamaCare's individual mandate when the administration has unilaterally done the same thing for businesses? How is it extreme to ask Members of Congress to live by the same laws that apply to everyone else? The majority leader, Senator Reid, tabled two amendments to the continuing resolution that would change this special carve-out for Congress that would provide a delay of the individual mandate for average Americans, such as the administration has already done for businesses, and we are told that is extreme; that somehow we are the ones who caused the government shutdown.

    I am absolutely convinced President Obama and Harry Reid think this shutdown is the best thing that ever happened to them politically in recent memory. So rather than come out and tell sympathetic stories about what is happening at NIH, let's work together to mitigate some of the hardship and inconvenience. Let's talk about working through this impasse. Why can't we get the President to do what he reportedly intended to do in the first place, which is to convene a meeting at the White House with Republicans and Democrats to work through this? They are not just refusing to negotiate big compromises, they are refusing any compromise. It is my way or the highway.

    They will not even agree to keep the war memorials open for our Honor Flights coming to Washington, DC. I would urge the majority leader and President Obama to join with us in passing a bill today that would keep our war memorials open.

    My father was a World War II veteran. He is dead now, but he was a B- 17 pilot in World War II. On his 26th bombing mission, he was shot down and captured as a prisoner of war. My father-in-law landed on Utah Beach the second day of the Normandy invasion. He is 95 years old now. His mind is still sharp, his body not quite what it used to be. He would love nothing better than to come to Washington, DC, on one of these Honor Flights. Unfortunately, his health will not allow him to do it.

    The chairman of the Honor Flight Network, James McLaughlin, has said: It is beyond belief that those deserving men and women who have waited decades to see their memorial and were selected for this trip of a lifetime, to discover they may not be able to see their memorial.

    For many of them, this may be the last time they get during their lifetime. I would ask that the President cancel his trip to Asia--he is leaving on Saturday--to overrule Senator Reid and convene that meeting at the White House and come together to try and work through some of these differences.

    We can fund NIH. We could do it today if Senator Reid and President Obama would allow it. But, no, instead, we are told it is my way or the highway. We actually like this shutdown, they are saying to themselves, because they think they are winning politically. But they are not winning politically when the American people are the net losers.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from New York.

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