A picture of Senator Barbara Boxer
Barbara B.
Democrat CA

About Sen. Barbara
  • Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2014-01-16

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    BOXER. I appreciate the fact that Senator Grassley has given us his view of how the Senate ought to work. When the Senator says more deliberative and knowing how many filibusters have been supported on that side, that is what it says to me. As someone who didn't want to change the filibuster rules because I thought maybe we would come to some agreement, and we wouldn't be facing historic numbers of filibusters, let me say what the majority leader did was the right thing. It was the right thing.

    I have been in Washington a long time. I came to the House in 1983. The Senate worked well. It isn't working well.

    What the majority leader said is how can we have a President, be he or she Republican or Democratic, how can we have that President function without a team in place, a team, their team. One person can't run a country; they need a team. One Senator can't run our offices; we need a team.

    My God, what if we were told that we couldn't put our team together unless we had a vote that wasn't a majority vote, it had to be a supermajority? We would never get anything done. We would be running in circles. It would be very difficult.

    It sounds to me as if my friend wants to go back to the bad old days where we would have all of these nominees objected to, stalled. It took 154 days to get the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

    My view, having been here, loved this institution, loved my work, and enjoyed my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the Senate has changed because the parties have moved so far apart. Let's call it what it is. In my eyes Republicans have moved so far to the right that, unlike years ago when I came, it is very difficult to get anything done legislatively.

    That is why today is one of those bright, rare moments. My hat is off to Senator Mikulski, Senator Shelby, and their House counterparts. We actually got something done. Half of the Republicans joined all of the Democrats to pass an Omnibus appropriations bill. This is a good thing for America. No side got everything it wanted, we know that. Do you know what the American people received? They got compromise, they got security, and they got stability. In the near future we are not going to have shutdowns, shouting matches, and debates through the night on whether we should have a government.

    We need more legislating such as this. That is why I so look forward to getting the Water Resources Development Act done. This is so important to so many of our States. We need to do flood control. We need to do adaptation. We need to make sure there is recreation on our wetlands and so on. We need dredging in our ports. Those are the economic engines of our Nation.

    We have a bill we passed. Over in the House they have a bill. We are now in the middle of trying to conference the differences, and I am very hopeful we are going to get it done. Senator Vitter and I are working together to get it done. It is a little slower than we would like in terms of progress, but I am convinced we are going to have a bill before this body. We need to take care of the people's business.

    Guess what. The President of the United States has a right to get his team in place. It is as simple as it is.

    The people know it. I go home and the people say: Hooray, thank God you people are doing something. You are getting people confirmed.

    Then we have the courts. We have courts where the judgeships are vacant. Justice delayed is justice denied. We need those judges in their places. The Senator from Iowa, I remember, made a big, eloquent speech about how we wanted to ``pack'' the courts. Anyone who knows anything about history knows pack the courts means wanting to add more judges and put your people in it. It doesn't mean filling vacancies. I think he got off that. But that was something to listen to.

    We need to take care of the people's business and not play politics depending on who is in the White House. Unemployment insurance was a perfect example of this.

    Under George W. Bush, between putting in place the unemployment insurance and extending it, we did it five times, no offsets. Now all of a sudden the Republicans--people are struggling. I am stunned that we couldn't come together and extend unemployment insurance for the 1.5 million people right [[Page S428]] now and the 250,000 Californians included in that 1.5 million who have run out of hope.

    The Republicans said: Pay for it, even though the deficit has been cut in half. They have suddenly noticed the deficit. After George Bush it was $1.4 trillion. They put two wars on the credit card, and they put a huge tax cut for millionaires on the credit card. Oh, no problem. Now they have discovered the deficit even though it has been cut in half by this President. Oh, we have to pay for it.

    OK, we said, we have to pay for it, we will pay for it. We gave them an offset that we took out of Paul Ryan's budget. It wasn't good enough for them. Then they said: We want amendments. We have to have amendments, just give us some amendments. I will give you some unemployment insurance for these struggling people.

    Then Harry Reid: Twenty amendments, OK; 5 a side and 5 side-by-sides, 20 amendments.

    Oh, no, that wasn't good enough.

    It is childish. People are struggling. They are deciding whether they can put heat on in their house. They are wondering whether they can pay the rent, whether they are going to lose their homes, whether they are going to have to beg other family members for their help. This is outrageous. Outrageous.

    Income inequality is outrageous.

    Does the Presiding Officer know that 400 families are worth more in wealth than 150 million Americans? Let me say that again: Four hundred families in America are worth more than half the United States of America. And when there were tax cuts for those people, I never heard one word from one Republican about a pay-for. The deficit soared. They all voted to go to war. No problem. But we want to help these families who are desperate--middle-class families, people who have paid into the workers unemployment insurance fund, people who are looking for work because they can't get that extended unemployment unless they can prove that--and no. Nobody is home over there.

    I appreciate that some of my colleagues made a speech about poverty. Great. How about doing something about it? How about doing something about it, and not just speechifying? Where are they in raising the minimum wage? I don't know, maybe they will come with us. I don't see it. I really don't see it. I hope so. I pray so. I do. So far, I don't see it.

    In the last Presidential election of 2012, the Republican leader said his top priority was defeating President Obama. That is what the Republican leader said--not working for the people of this country, not passing legislation to make their life better, not moving forward and making sure the air we breathe is clean, the water we drink is safe, not making sure our kids have a good education and workers get job training--no. Top priority: Defeating President Obama. President Obama won; so why don't you wake up and smell the roses and understand we need to work together. You have to accept reality.

    Look. I have had my candidates in the past win and lose. I have been here through tough elections. We lost the Senate, then we won the Senate. We lost the House, then we won the House. We won the Presidency, then we lost it. Guess what. I had to understand that when it comes to legislating, we put that aside. We fight hard during an election, but once it is over you don't carry that over. You work together.

    But too many on the other side are politically motivated. All they want to do is hurt our President, day in and day out criticizing him endlessly, not working with him. He has offered that olive branch over and over, whether it is on economic recovery, jobs, health care, the environment, income inequality--even foreign policy--day after day.

    Here is the thing you never hear from the other side, so I am going to talk about it tonight. When President Obama took office, the economy was losing over 700,000 jobs a month. Now we have added 8 million private-sector jobs in the past 45 months. How does that compare to George W. Bush? After 8 years in office, President Bush's record was that we lost 665,000 private-sector jobs. So far we have added 8 million private-sector jobs in the past 45 months.

    When President Obama took office--we remember those days, frightening days with the stock market collapsing. Now the stock market has gone up 10,000 points. That is unbelievable. The GDP--gross domestic product-- was contracting at a rate of 8.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 as we said goodbye to George W. Bush. Now we just learned that the GDP grew by 4.1 percent in the third quarter. Is this President satisfied? Are we? No. But have we turned it around? Yes. Does the President ever get one ounce of credit for any of this? No. No.

    How about looking at our deficit. Let's look at that, something the Republicans claim is a very central part of it. This is it--a $1.4 trillion deficit down now to 680, going down to 560, and falling at the fastest rate in many, many years, just as health care costs are not rising the way they used to. Do you think we would hear one word about it from the other side? No. No.

    Even on foreign policy, even on foreign policy, politics used to stop at the water's edge. Senator Grassley has a historic perspective. I do too. Politics used to stop at the water's edge when it came to foreign policy. No more. No more.

    But you would never know the deficit has been cut in half, and you would never know that 8 million private-sector jobs have been created if you listen to my friends on the other side because they can't give any credit to President Obama. But history will. History will.

    The last thing I am going to talk about is health care. I listened to my colleague Senator Cruz go after this President and the Democrats on health care. So let us look at a few things.

    First fact: Even though we had a horrible roll-out of the health care site--not in California but the Federal site, healthcare.gov--and a couple of States had a horrible roll-out, let's put that aside. This is what we know.

    There are more now, but I didn't have a chance to make a new chart. We are getting to 10 million Americans, but over 9 million Americans have new, secure health insurance; 3 million young adults have stayed on their parents insurance policies; 3.9 million are on Medicaid; and there are 2.1 million exchange plans, the private plans.

    Let me show this another way on the private plans--the 2.1 million. Now we think it is more. It is a little bit more. Here we are. Very, very tough roll-out. Nothing worked. Now it is working, and it is spiking, and it is only going to get better.

    But you wouldn't know that because Senator Cruz keeps saying over and over: What have the Democrats in the Senate done to protect the people from ObamaCare? I have to protect the people from him because if he had his way, he would repeal ObamaCare. I ask you: What is going to happen to those young people if Senator Cruz has his way and we repeal ObamaCare? What happens to the 3 million young adults? They are back on their own. They have no insurance. They are back at the emergency room. What happens to those on expanded Medicaid? Forget it. What happens to the exchanges? They would be gone.

    So while Senator Cruz says we have done nothing to protect the people, the opposite is true. We stand in support of the people--the people's right to get affordable health care. Do we have the perfect answer on every front? No. Do we have to make corrections? Of course.

    We had a meeting with the President yesterday. He is reaching out his hand to the Republicans and Democrats. If we can fix this in any way and make it work better, we will.

    Let's look at some of our other charts as far as what our Republican colleagues want to do when they say repeal ObamaCare. I am telling you, 400,000 Californians have enrolled, and now it is 500,000. It is 500,000 Californians who have enrolled in an exchange plan through-- coveredCA.com. This is working in my State. It is working.

    I am not going to allow Senator Cruz to take the benefits away from my people who are writing me letters--and I have some of them here, and I will read a little bit of those stories.

    John Nunnemacher is a 43-year-old freelance graphic artist from San Jose, and the last time he had health insurance was 15 years ago, when his employer paid for coverage. But as of January 1, John is covered by a plan he can finally afford. This is what he told the San Jose Mercury News: I hoped this day would come. I worried that it wouldn't. And I'm very glad that it finally has.

    [[Page S429]] So he is happy, and I am not going to let Senator Cruz take away his insurance. Let's be clear. Let's be clear. He waited for a long time, and I am not going back. We can't go back to those days when there was no insurance for our young people. We can't go back to the days when being a woman was a preexisting condition, and you got charged double that of a man. We can't go back to the days where kids were thrown off their parents' policies. We just can't go back.

    Amy Torregrossa, 27, is from San Francisco. She had been without insurance since July, when coverage through her partner's company ended because he changed jobs. She has a congenital heart defect and a history of high blood pressure. She no longer runs because she says ``if I twist my ankle or get hit by a car . . . any doctor visit is so expensive.'' She signed up on Covered California for a silver plan costing $310 a month. She made sure her cardiologist was in the insurer's network and plans to schedule a checkup for early this year.

    Amy, I am not going to let anyone take this away from you. I am not.

    Michelle Strong, 57, is a self-employed product designer. For many years she could not afford any insurance at all because of a false- positive--a false positive--test for lupus, which incorrectly flagged her as having a preexisting condition. For the past 15 years she could only afford catastrophic insurance. Now, thanks to a tax credit, she will pay $55 a month, with no deductible, and a $3 copay. Here is what she said: It just blows my mind that I can get health insurance at this price. I can finally afford checkups, tests, and age- related visits.

    Michelle, I am not going to let anyone take your insurance away from you. You deserve it.

    Elaine Post, 64, from West Hills, CA. She told CNN: When I first got laid off, I tried to get private insurance through the big companies. They all rejected me . . . wanted to charge me really, really high premiums for not very good insurance.

    Now Elaine has coverage through a bronze plan through Covered California that costs $461 a month.

    Elaine, you are going to keep your insurance and we are going to protect you.

    Judith Silverstein, 49, is a Californian who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Her family helps her pay the $750 monthly cost of her existing plan--which she only had because of Federal law requiring that insurers who provide employer-based insurance continue to offer coverage if the employer goes out of business, as hers did; otherwise, she would be uninsured because of her MS. ``I researched the options,'' she says. ``Nobody's going to sell you insurance in the individual market if you have MS.'' But next year she will get a subsidy that will get her a silver level plan for $50 a month.

    Last summer Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina, a married couple in San Diego County, got kicked off their long-term Kaiser health plan, for which they had been paying more than $1,300 a month. When they applied for a plan with a new insurer, they couldn't get coverage because Ellen disclosed that she might have carpal tunnel syndrome. Through Covered California, they found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both with a subsidy for a total premium of $142 a month. Holzman says, ``If not for the Affordable Care Act, our ability to get insurance would be very limited, if we could get it at all.'' Jason Noble, 44, who has his own property management firm in Southern California, found a gold plan that will cover his wife and their three children for a little less than $1,300 a month. That is slightly more than they would be paying this year for the plan they had in 2013, but the benefits are much greater, including pediatric dental coverage. Their family deductible will fall from $3,400 to zero. Last year, the family had a health scare that ran them $1,800 in out-of-pocket expenses, but next year, a similar event would cost them nothing. ``It's definitely a good deal,'' Noble says.

    Barbara Neff of Santa Monica, who had been stuck in a bad plan because of a preexisting condition, said she is relieved that under Obamacare, she will get life-saving preventive care at no cost. Neff said, ``I have been paying for my mammograms out of pocket, and that's $400 to $450 per year,'' Neff says. ``That type of care is 100 percent covered under this new policy.'' Rakesh Rikhi of San Jose, CA, paid $950 a month last year to insure himself, his wife and two children with Kaiser. Through Covered California, he will be able to get a similar Kaiser plan that saves his family $400 a month.

    Tim Wilsbach, a 40-year-old TV editor who lives in Culver City with his family, had been paying for a bare bones policy with an $11,000 deductible for himself and his 4-year-old son, and another policy with a $5,000 deductible for his wife. Wilsbach checked out his options on the Covered California website, and was pleased to find a plan for the whole family that offers broader coverage, a much lower $4,000 deductible and a more affordable monthly premium. ``Our premium went down, not quite 100 bucks, and just looking through what the plan covers versus what used to be covered, yeah, I'm quite happy about it,'' Wilsbach said.

    Allan Pacela, from Santa Maria, CA, is a retired engineer on Medicare. His wife was insured through Cigna, under a group plan offered by her husband's engineers' society, and because of preexisting conditions, could not leave the plan even though premiums had gone up to $20,000 per year, because no other plan would take her. This year, her insurer canceled her entire plan, leaving her with no insurance. ``So we turned to Obamacare,'' Allan told his local paper. ``She found it simple and easy to sign up through an agent in a 10-minute phone call. She obtained their best plan, providing much, much better coverage than in the past. . . . My wife would not have insurance coverage at all as of January 1, if not for Obamacare. And, here's the kicker--we now are saving $8,000 per year, for a very much better plan.'' Megan Foster, from Kern County, CA, said, ``My mom is finally able to get health insurance after being denied for so long because of her Crohn's disease and epilepsy, and it's for an affordable price. She works full time but her job doesn't offer benefits and she can't work without her medicine. It's not a perfect solution, but I am happy that my mom doesn't have to choose any more between medicine or groceries.'' Lori Greenstein Bremner is a cancer survivor, a single mother and a self-employed real estate agent in Sonoma, CA. Before the Affordable Care Act, she struggled to obtain and afford health insurance because of her pre-existing condition. Now Lori says, ``In January, for the first time since my diagnosis 36 years ago, I will have an individual health plan that offers quality coverage for me and my family. I will save $628 every month on premiums. Best of all--I wasn't even asked if I've ever had cancer.'' Mr. President, I just want to say that when you listen to the naysayers and the bad news bears and everyone who comes here and starts criticizing, you should get to the bottom of it. Look at this 9 million number, headed toward 10 million, and understand what is happening in our Nation. People are getting health coverage.

    Here is the deal. The way we did it, ObamaCare, is just like it was in Massachusetts when Governor Romney put it through. That is where the ideas came from. We did not do another plan. We did that type of plan, and it is working in Massachusetts where I believe 95 percent of the people are covered.

    Now, I will close with a couple of other protections that are in effect, so that you can see why, when Ted Cruz and my other Republican colleagues and friends come to the floor who want to repeal ObamaCare, I'm saying: No way. You want to work with us to make it better? Absolutely. But I am not going to let my constituents lose their insurance. You want to tell your constituents they can lose their insurance, that is your business, but don't mess with California.

    Look here: Already in effect, 3 million young adults insured through their parents' plans; 71 million Americans are getting free preventive care, such as checkups and birth control and immunizations.

    You want to take that away from Texans, be my guest. You are not going to do it because we are not going to let you do it.

    Health reforms in effect: 17 million kids with preexisting conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, cannot be denied coverage. Insurers cannot cancel [[Page S430]] your health insurance because you get sick. No lifetime limits on coverage. No annual limits on coverage.

    You can't deny coverage or charge more for preexisting conditions. You can't charge women more than men. You can't put annual limits on a plan.

    Women. Women. Two-thirds of women are on the minimum wage. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. So if you don't support raising the minimum wage, you are taking on the women, and that is a fact. They are not students. They are not youngsters.

    Look. Women now can get contraception so they can plan their families. Well-women visits, STD screening, breastfeeding support, domestic violence screening, gestational diabetes screening, HIV screening, HPV testing, this is all happening because of ObamaCare.

    So I say to anyone within the sound of my voice--if I haven't put you to sleep--when anyone gets on the floor and starts complaining about ObamaCare and wanting to repeal it, just say to them: Why do you want to hurt the people of this country who have waited so long to get health insurance, who have suffered so much, who have gone bankrupt because somebody had the misfortune of getting cancer? Why do you want to go back to those days? That is not good for America. Just because it was President Obama who signed the bill? The Affordable Care Act is now called ObamaCare. What a wonderful thing for this President. Anyone who stands and says they want to take away these benefits is hurting the American people and I am going to collect these stories and I am going to come to the floor and read them. This is about real people getting secure insurance for the first time in their lives, and it is affordable. No one is going to turn back the clock. We can't go back to those days.

    So we have to deal with making this health care bill work the best it can. We have to work on income inequality. We have to come back and still work for unemployment insurance extension for the 1.5 million Americans who desperately need help. We have to work on making sure there is a bright future for our families.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.

    Pensacola Naval Air Station Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I am going to get to another issue in a moment, but there is a special anniversary in Florida I wish to commemorate, and it is Naval Air Station Pensacola which is now celebrating its centennial anniversary. NAS Pensacola, as it is more commonly known, is a Florida institution and is known as the Cradle of Naval Aviation.

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