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Robert M.
Democrat NJ

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Robert Menendez

    Posted on 2013-09-30

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    MENENDEZ. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. MENENDEZ. Madam President, we are at the verge of the midnight hour here, and what is playing out is a challenge to the very essence of our government, and it is a challenge both at home and abroad. I will speak to that in a moment.

    I was in the other body, in the House of Representatives, 17 years ago when we had the last government shutdown, led at that time by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. I had thought they learned the consequences to the Nation and to their party as a result of such a shutdown. But it seems those memories have faded.

    Now we are on the verge of a consequence that is consequential to the lives of American families, consequential to the economy of the country, consequential to the message we send across the globe.

    What I cannot understand is the fixation that our Republican colleagues have on the question of the Affordable Care Act, which they derisively call ObamaCare. It is something that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President, reaffirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the final voice of what is the law of the land, and then reaffirmed by the American people in their reelection of the President with a significant majority.

    There were two candidates in that election. One was President Obama, who said: I intend to fully implement the Affordable Care Act and create millions of opportunities for those who have no insurance--to control costs; to end preexisting conditions as a limitation; to ultimately ensure that children could stay on their parents' insurance to the age of 26; to be able to provide millions of dollars of relief across the landscape of the country; to help senior citizens who often chose between putting food on the table, keeping their home, or having access to [[Page S7053]] lifesaving, life-enhancing drugs, by getting a doughnut hole--that gap in coverage for seniors--to be ultimately eliminated. It has provided tremendous relief for the seniors in our country not to have to make those dynamic choices.

    So what they could not achieve at the ballot box they are trying to achieve by shutting down the Federal Government.

    And then, at this late hour, after having tried a series of times to undermine the Affordable Care Act--and believe me, when they talk about a 1-year delay, which they seem to try to show that it is benign, it is not benign. There is a purpose to their strategy. The reason that a 1- year delay--in addition to the fact that the law should be able to move forward for millions who have no insurance to be able to finally have insurance--is because if you delay the mandate, that means 11 million people will go uninsured who otherwise would get coverage. It means, as the Congressional Budget Office estimated--the nonpartisan entity of the Congress that scores everything we do: Is this going to cost money; is this going to save money--they estimated that repealing that individual mandate will increase premiums anywhere between 15 to 20 percent because fewer healthy people will enroll to balance out those with higher medical needs. Insurance is about spreading the risk across the spectrum.

    In my home State of New Jersey, we tried to have insurance reform that limited preexisting condition exclusions and different premium band ratings without an individual requirement for coverage. The result was skyrocketing premiums. So, in essence, delaying the mandate for a year--which is the essence of what the House Republicans have sent here various times as a condition of keeping the government open--is a Trojan horse because Republicans know that, in doing such a delay, the mandate will create higher premiums. And in creating those higher premiums, they, in essence, create rate shock and they fulfill that which they would like to see, which is the failure of the Affordable Care Act.

    They have a very particular strategy. It is not benign by any stretch of the imagination. They are not concerned that the Affordable Care Act will fail. They are concerned it will actually succeed. So what they seek to do is to introduce poison pills to make it fail.

    It is amazing to me that I keep hearing: Well, we will replace it. With what? We have not heard with what. When we challenge our colleagues, they say: Oh, yes, preexisting conditions, we are for that, making sure that does not exist anymore. We are for the seniors getting the rebates on prescription drugs. We are for making sure there are no more lifetime caps on anybody's insurance, so if they have a catastrophic illness, they will not come up against that cap. We are for all of those things. The only problem is, to have all of those benefits which Americans overwhelmingly want, it costs money. And the only way to do that is, of course, to have everybody ultimately insured in the country.

    This is not a fight between Democrats and Republicans. This is a battle for the very soul of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, they are playing it out in a way that affects the Nation. This is a designed strategy.

    Jonathan Chait of New York magazine wrote a tremendous piece. I recommend it to all of my colleagues. He basically described a meeting that took place in January of this year. I am going to read from his article for a moment: ``In January, demoralized House Republicans retreated to Williamsburg, Virginia, to plot out their legislative strategy for President Obama's second term. Conservatives were angry that their leaders had been unable to stop a whole series of things, including the Bush tax cuts on high incomes, and they wanted to make sure their leaders would no longer have any further compromises. Not only did they decide they would not have any further compromises, but, in fact, they developed a legislative strategy.

    Before I go into that, I am happy to yield to the majority leader who I understand has an announcement.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority leader.

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