Nomination of Chai Rachel Feldblum to Be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionby Senator Michael B. Enzi
Posted on 2013-12-11
ENZI. Mr. President, good morning, Wyoming. In Wyoming it is
midnight right now. I suspect there are people watching and probably
wondering what the heck is going on. We are here at this hour dealing
with a nonessential distraction, and it is being done so that it is a
distraction from the mounting ObamaCare problems.
None of these nominees need to be confirmed, not even the circuit court judges, and maybe especially the circuit court judges. I was here when President Bush tried to fill those circuit court judges in the DC Circuit. And I remember Senator Reid and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee making an impassioned speech that they were not needed, that the workload was too low in the District of Columbia, that they should not be approved. Of course, since they were in the majority, they had the capability to ever keep that from happening. But when the shoe is on the other foot, they need those DC court judges, even though the caseload has not gone up.
So they broke the rules to the change the rules, and part of that was so that--we are calling it ObamaCare 2--it was so that the American people would be distracted from the problems they are having signing up for ObamaCare. Some of my constituents ask that I not call it ``ObamaCare.'' They ask that I call it ``the Obama tax'' because that is what the Supreme Court said was the legal part of it, that we can virtually tax anybody anything we want as long as we call it a tax. If we put it in the Commerce clause, oh, that will not work. But that is the ruling we got from the Supreme Court.
So right now the Democrats are trying to distract us from what is going on across this country; and, oh boy, is it going on across this country. So we should be dealing with the problems of ObamaCare. Each day the health care law is going to fail to live up to the promises made by the administration. How many people have heard the President say--and he started doing this clear back in the joint sessions of Congress so he could explain his law--he said: If you like the insurance you have, you can keep it. That has not been true almost since day one. It especially has not been true since some of the regulations have been put in place.
So we have a failed law. Let me tell you how bad it is failing. A couple weekends ago I got to Cheyenne, WY, early enough to address some school kids. I actually read a children's book to the kindergarten classes of the whole school. After I finished, a little girl came up. She could not have been any taller than that, and she said: Are we going to be able to fix this health care mess? When it has gotten down to kindergartners, you know that the adults are talking about it even more.
It is a problem. It is a problem that needs to be solved. We should not be playing ``the Grinch that stole Christmas'' and doing a whole bunch of nonessential appointments that could well wait until after Christmas or next year without hurting the courts at all. But, again, they want this outcry. They want this to detract from what is happening with ObamaCare.
Millions of people have lost their health care plans that they were told they could keep. Of course, the President has been forced now to admit that he broke his promise. But he did not remove the promise from the White House health care Web site. A week ago, it still said: If you like your plan, you can keep it, and you do not have to do a thing. I guess that might be partly true because he announced a new initiative that he said would really allow people to keep their existing health insurance plans this time. He should have added, if he wanted to be honest: for a short time. Because that is all he gave them. That is not even true because one thing he does not have the power under the Constitution to do is to rewrite or ignore the law.
We passed a law by this body and the House, and he signed it, and he continually talks about how that is settled law and you cannot change it. Then about twice a week he changes it without authority, ignoring the written laws passed by Congress.
So it would also mean that he would have to be willing to ignore a 2010 administration regulation that has prevented insurers from continuing to offer insurance for millions of individuals and small businesses. That is right. At the same time the President was promising out of one side of his mouth that people could keep their health insurance, the other side was approving rules that would make that impossible. Everyone who was in the Senate at the time knew it. It was right there in the Federal Register. It was written by the President's own administration. Congress knew and the administration knew the President was not telling the truth. But he kept making the promise anyway.
When one party has 60 votes in the Senate, the minority party has very limited things that it can do. There are a few exceptions to the majority leader's control. But essentially he decides what the Senate can debate and vote on. I have noticed if an amendment comes up that he does not like, instead of having us vote on it, he pulls the bill down.
Now, that is not the way it used to be. We used to be able to put amendments in, and even if the majority did not like the amendment, we still had to vote on it. Of course, if they did not like it, they voted it down. But that does not happen anymore. A number of bills that we have done around here have been prevented from having amendments, and sometimes this negotiation process that the leader uses takes 2 or 3 weeks. The amendments could be voted on in a week if they were just allowed to be voted on. But this process of negotiating so that he can tell the minority what amendments he is willing to address of ours-- that takes away the right for us to represent our constituents.
Problems are different in the West. Problems are different in Wyoming. Problems are different in big cities. You cannot have one size fits all that works for everything. The reason there are so many Members of the Senate and so many Members of the House is so that the unintended consequences might be found before a bill becomes law. That has not been the case around here. That definitely was not the case on ObamaCare.
So the leader has helped the majority to prevent us from being able to bring up any amendments on any number of topics, and that has led to what we are doing tonight. We are taking advantage of some of our rights as the minority to see if we are going to get a chance at all. Nobody ever expected one party to be able to dictate to the other party. Of course, the other side did have 60 votes, and when you have 60 votes you can do anything you want because there is no such thing as a filibuster if you can get all 60 votes.
[[Page S8681]] Of course, you probably remember that the majority had to kind of buy some of those votes. Yes, there was the Nebraska ``Cornhusker kickback,'' and that Senator decided not to run again, and there has been the ``Louisiana Purchase,'' and that Senator is up for election. There was the Florida deal and the New York deal that dealt with Medicare Advantage. Now, none of the rest of the States got those deals, and they had to be done. Those are places where there are a lot of seniors, and it was going to take away some of their capability for health care insurance that they already had. In fact, the bill stole $716 billion from Medicare. Medicare is going broke, and it did it to make new programs. It did not do it to fix Medicare.
Tomorrow in the Finance Committee we are going to be marking up a doc fix, a thing so that doctors will be paid adequately, because there was a provision there that will continually reduce the amount they are getting. Of course, as you reduce the amount that a doctor can get, even in times of inflation, pretty quickly the doctors cannot afford to run their practice. When they cannot run their practice, they do not see Medicare patients. In fact, some practices shut down. Others sell out to the hospital. Do you think it is cheaper to get health care from a doctor or health care from a hospital? That drives up the cost again.
So one sure way to inject something not approved by the majority leader is to find an offensive regulation and petition the Senate for a debate and a simple majority vote. We have this thing called the Congressional Review Act, and that is exactly how it works. But you have to keep your eye on the Federal Register because that is where the administration reports what the effects are going to be and what the actual regulations are. Sometimes the regulations have more of an impact than the law itself, and that was the case in this instance. Again, it dealt with this: If you like your health insurance, you can keep it. But there was a regulation that came out in 2010 that took away that right.
Yes, I am the accountant. I read the bills, and now I even have to admit that I read the Federal Register. But there are a lot of dollars that are mentioned in there, and some of those are consequences of the bill. If you can catch one of those regulations within 60 days of the regulation's publication, and you can get enough people to sign the petition, you are guaranteed 8 hours of debate and an up-or-down vote. If you miss that date, it cannot be brought up again, and once it has been brought up, it cannot be brought up again. So if you lose the vote or you lose the opportunity, it cannot be brought up again. That opportunity is gone.
That is an opportunity that Democrats in the Senate squandered. Every single one voted to defeat my resolution, and many ridiculed the effort. Over the next few months their constituents are going to make them answer for this. I can tell, some of them are already antsy over it. They are already drafting bills, and, of course, when you draft a bill in the context of a crisis, there is this legislative rule that if it is worth reacting to, it is worth overreacting to.
So, once again, it is not something that will be brought through the correct process and ironed out so there are not unintended consequences. They will have to pay a price. They need to pay attention when there is a rule that is going to affect people adversely. I have heard their arguments. There were a number of issues in this regulation, and there were two that they thought were good.
There is not any reason they could not have voted for the thing, gotten rid of it, and then brought those two back. That is how it ought to work. I really think that Congress ought to have the right to review every major regulation, and if we do not have a majority vote for that regulation, it should never go into effect.
A lot of the regulations are written by the administration. But the direction for doing the regulation comes from Congress. It is to get into a level of detail that we do not handle here, but maybe we should. Maybe that ought to be our biggest job: to make sure that the regulations are what we want to have happen, and to be sure that the unintended consequences are not even in the regulation. We have kind of given that away. But now we need to be sure we take back some oversight over that; otherwise, you have an administration that is a runaway. And that is the situation we have right now.
I fought against the new health care law for the past 4 years because I knew there was no way the President could keep all of the promises he was making about how the law would affect the average American. As an accountant and a former small business owner, I understood that you cannot mandate that everyone must purchase gold plated health insurance plans without increasing costs and causing millions of people to lose their existing insurance plans.
In fact, I have talked about exchanges, and the exchange that is there is not the one that I envisioned at all. I did not expect that the Federal Government would say: There are only four kinds of plans you can buy. You pick it out from bronze to platinum, but if you do not pick out one of our four plans, you cannot have a plan.
We did prescription Part D, and at that time there were only two companies that were providing seniors with prescription drugs in Wyoming. I was a little worried about what was going to happen if we opened the market a little bit. I was hopeful it would cause more competition, and that is exactly what happened. Instead of 2 companies providing the pharmaceuticals, 48 of them were interested in doing it. That created a little confusion, but there was an exchange that you could go into, and you could list the drugs that you were taking, and when you hit the button it said: These are the companies that can provide that drug, and this is the price that you will have to pay.
Before that went into effect, it saved seniors 25 percent. That is what competition does. That is how the insurance plans should be set up. I have had a 10-step bill since before the President became a Senator that suggested how we could provide insurance for everyone.
Another thing that kind of fascinates me is the President talks about how we eliminated the caps for chronic illnesses so that nobody has to lose their insurance or lose their pay just because they have a chronic illness. Do you know what the flaw in that one is? If you are in Medicare, there are still caps. If you are a senior, there are still caps. We did not remove those. So even that is not a completely true statement.
So there is a little bit more here. If you cannot keep the health plans you like, then you are going to have a tougher time keeping the doctors and the hospitals you like. We are hearing those stories all over the Nation right now. Of course, the biggest problem--and the one that this little kindergartner was raising--was getting on the Web site to even be able to sign up for one of these policies that has more in it than what a family might want, particularly what an individual might want.
There is a lot of discussion on that. But that Web site is just the tip of the iceberg. That is what we have seen so far, the Web site failures. I think a lot of people have noticed that there are some Web site failures out there. In fact, I remember Jay Leno saying: You got to watch these health care sites because there are 700 sites already that are trying to steal your personal information, steal your identity. But he did point out that there is one way to know if you are on one of those phony sites: If you are able to sign up, you are on a phony site.
So, yes, there have been Web site failures. Here is what is coming: higher premiums, canceled coverages, you cannot keep your doctor. If you cannot see your doctor, do you have any insurance at all? I do not think so. And then there is the fraud and identity theft I mentioned and higher copays and deductibles. Pretty universal. There might be a few examples out there of where this has benefited someone, but most of the people are now paying through the nose and finding out that it is very hard for them to be able to afford the insurance they want.
So we should get ready for the next wave of disappointment and frustration from the expectations created by this President and his public relations machine as they come crashing up against the harsh reality of the real world.
[[Page S8682]] ObamaCare casualties will continue to grow even if the President launches media blitz after media blitz--and those cost some money, incidentally--in an attempt to convince people that higher premiums, worse coverage, and a bigger debt for this country is a good thing.
One of the things we were able to get in the bill was a requirement that the Senate and the House come under the same rules as everyone else when it comes to exchanges. That has created quite a bit of consternation around here.
In the committee, it has improved things. I remember that about 4 months ago in the Finance Committee we were having a hearing with the people doing this Web site that has all of the failures. Both sides were asking intense questions because we wanted to be sure this would work.
One of the questions was: How is it coming? They said: Oh, it is fine. We have already beta-tested it. It will work when it comes to October 1. Everything will work.
Well, I remember Senator Baucus saying: Can we get a list of the people who beta-tested it? To my knowledge, he has never gotten that list because what we found out since is that it had not yet been tested at that time. So would that be considered a lie? I am not sure that all of the hearings are under oath. Maybe they ought to be.
But at any rate, it was not ready. As it turned out, there was 26 hours of beta testing. Talking to some of the other companies that would have liked to have tried to bid for a final project instead of bidding for a cost-plus job--that is what we got, a cost-plus job. Anyway, that complicates it, makes it more expensive, makes them earn more money. Talking to some of those other companies, they said that should have been beta-tested for at least 6 weeks to 6 months. Not only that, they should have had professional hackers trying to get into that system to see what is happening.
We keep having hearings on this issue. I remember at one of them Secretary Sebelius was there. We were asking about the security of the information. I am still trying to figure this out. She said the information goes in there, it pings around to the different people who need it, but none of it is stored on the system. Everybody is saying: So how do you retrieve your records? Well, I guess that is the problem so many Americans are having. They put in their information, they try to retrieve their records, and they cannot get their records. So it is a system that is fraught with a lot of problems and should never have happened. I guess that is what happens when you get in a hurry and you are not ready for it and you are more interested in public relations and media blitzes than you are in getting it right.
I know the President went coast to coast and all over the place and he sent others trying to convince people that higher premiums and worse coverage and a bigger debt for this country is a good thing.
There was another interesting thing at our hearing. They said the premiums came down. So there were some extensive questions about that because there were not very many people who were aware of any of them coming down. The explanation was that the administration's estimate was that the prices would go up by 68 percent and they only went up by 45 percent. So that was a reduction in rates. No, that was an increase in rates. You cannot fool the American people that way. A lot of this is a smoke-and-mirrors attempt. It is not working.
So what is the opposition doing? We are doing a bunch of judges who do not need to be approved. That is to take the attention off ObamaCare. Well, we are not going to let that happen. The American public deserves to know what is happening with ObamaCare. The American public is concerned about it. We have kindergartners concerned about it. We have a lot of people concerned about it.
In fact, we had a cookie party at our office today. My wife bakes a couple thousand cookies every year. It is for the people who do the real work around the Senate. It is for the janitors and the carpenters and the electricians and the plumbers and the guards and people who work in the restaurants, and they all come by. I was surprised at how many of them were concerned about what is happening with their insurance and their ability to get on it. Some of them even recognized the effort I made in 2010 to get the Congressional Review Act--the only window we had to reverse that lie that if you like your insurance, you can keep it.
So during the health care debate, the President and his congressional allies also promised that the new health care law would reduce health insurance premiums for American families. I covered that briefly. I and my colleagues argued that rather than saving money, the new law instead would drive up the cost of insurance for millions of families. There is no way in there to increase the competition. If you are going to increase the competition, you need to have a sale of insurance across State lines and you need people to be able to go through an association to get a big enough group who can effectively negotiate with an insurance company. There are a lot of ways of getting that to increase. That did not happen. There also were some co-ops that were formed. Now it looks as though the money that went to the co-ops may have been money poured down the drain because apparently they are not doing too well. So the disastrous planning and implementation of the healthcare.gov Web site made it difficult for Americans to learn just how much this partisan law has driven up costs.
We warned, when it was 60 votes that could pass the whole thing, that if the 60 votes passed the whole thing without a single Republican vote, they would be stuck with it. That is exactly where the majority is at the present time--stuck with it.
So people are learning how much their premiums are increasing. The more they do, the more people will not appreciate how the President's promise failed to reflect the reality of the new health care law. I think they really thought they might get to just kind of pick what they needed and find out what the cost was. That was my idea for how we ought to do it. I presented that at the summit with the President. He invited several of us after the bill passed. He should have done it before the bill passed, but he did it after the bill passed. A dozen of us and a dozen Democrats got invited to the Blair House to tell him what we thought should be in the bill. The strange thing about that was every time Republicans threw out an idea, he chopped it to bits. He did not comment on the Democratic ones. At the end of the day he gave a speech he had obviously written the day before because it did not deal with any of the ideas we had discussed on either side of the aisle. He obviously rejected every one of the Republican ideas.
I talked about exchanges and said: You should be able to go online, have a list of insurance possibilities. You could check whatever possibility you thought you needed. One of the things they talked about is if you are a 60-year-old lady who has had a hysterectomy, you probably do not need maternity care, so you would not check that box. But you would check the boxes that you thought applied, that you would really like to have. Then when you hit the ``enter'' key, it would bring up the list of the companies that would provide exactly what you wanted and tell you what the cost would be. You would not have to sit down with a dozen or two dozen insurance agents and hear their pitch for why they are the best. You would be able to tell what you wanted, and then you would be able to see who provided it and what it would cost. Then you would have choices. That would inspire competition, partly because each of the companies would know what the other companies were selling things for. That sometimes brings prices down as well.
So we had disastrous planning and implementation. People are starting to learn how much their premiums are increasing.
The President and his allies also promised that the new law would improve the economy and protect Medicare beneficiaries. I have often been wondering how that would work. We now know that the small businesses across the country are not hiring workers because of the impact of the health care law and the impact it will have on the bottom line.
I am traveling Wyoming, and I run into a guy who says: You know, I have this great business. It is time for me to [[Page S8683]] expand. In this town I want to go to, there is a phenomenal location. It is the perfect location and the price is right. Should I expand? One of the questions that I ask is, How many employees do you have? If he says 45 to 50, I say: I would take another look at it because you better see the effects ObamaCare is going to have on what you are trying to do. In most of those instances, they have not increased. There are a number of problems like that.
I was in a small business committee hearing. I was kind of wondering what ``aggregation'' meant. That is a pretty big word to use. But they were able to explain aggregation. An aggregation means this rule that if you work under 30 hours, you are considered part time. So we changed it from being under 40 hours to being under 30 hours before it was part time, and that has caused a lot of people to take two jobs and not get benefits from either of the jobs. So they are getting a reduction in pay because of this law.
But here is the kicker. That doesn't help the small businessman anyway. Here is how aggregation works. You have 10 employees at 29 hours; that is 290 hours. You divide by 30, and then you find out that you still have 9 2/3 employees. So by making this drastic cut, you were only able to reduce your numbers by one-third of an employee. Again, that is kind of a fraudulent situation to rope people into doing the ObamaCare thing.
Another way that aggregation works, according to this hearing I went to, is that if you own a piece of one business and you own a piece of another business but you do not own a majority of either of the businesses, the two have to be combined to figure out whether you have employees who come under ObamaCare. That is wrong. That is fraud.
These things ought to be very clear. I think that if we were able to get a vote on raising that part-time work back up to 40 hours, we would see a huge number of people who would vote for it or a huge number of people who would not be around here much longer. Of course, the Small Business Administration says that a small business is not 50 employees, a small business is 500 employees.
So just by changing those two things in ObamaCare, we could probably have more jobs in the economy than the stimulus package ever provided. There are other changes we could make in ObamaCare that would have a bigger effect than the stimulus package. Oh, yes, that is right, that is not a very high mountain to climb, is it? Another thing we ought to do is eliminate some of the regulations that have been put out there. I know of six regulations that if we got rid of them, it would not affect our way of life, but it would increase jobs and the economy more than the stimulus. We could have an increase in the economy around here, but we cannot do it if we keep loading up the businesses with more regulations. You know we had a government shutdown not too long ago.
I got an interesting letter from a trucker from Pinedale, WY. He said he was getting a little tired of all of the people who were riding in the wagon and how many fewer people were pulling the wagon. What he is referring to with that is that every time we expand the government, every time we do one of those new programs and put a whole bunch of new people on the payroll--heck, we got a whole bunch more just in IRS people who are supposed to be checking on ObamaCare. If you put them in the wagon and the private sector has to pull it, there will come a point where they cannot pull it anymore.
What he was suggesting was that if we wanted to really find out about America, that the private sector ought to have a shutdown. It would not take 16 days for us to realize the effect of the private market. That is something we have to watch out for because that is where the taxes come from.
Oh, yes, all of us in government pay taxes. None of us pay as much in taxes as we receive in wages. We are riding in the wagon, and it is getting tougher and tougher to pull.
ObamaCare is something that really loaded the wagon with the regulations they have to pull around. It is a tremendous burden. A small businessman can't read the thousands of pages of regulations. Do you know what. They have to.
I was able to get a review committee, and it was over $1 million in costs in new regulations. That is a very severe committee. They do a very good job. I am pleased with the people who run it. Unfortunately, again we are missing an enforcement piece, so that again the regulation disappears for small businessmen. It is going to be very detrimental.
We try to do these one-size-fits-all things around here, which is what ObamaCare is. Well, it is four-sizes-fit-all. One-size-fits-all or four-sizes-fit-all won't take care of America. This is probably the most diverse country in the whole world and the most successful country in the whole world because it is so diverse. We have so many different kinds of people doing so many different things.
It has also been one of the most innovative countries in the world, and that is where we want be. We want to be inventing things for the world and having the other countries pick them up when they get a little older and steal them at that point. That is the way it has always worked. But we are taking away the incentives for these people to use their minds to create new things that will sell all over the world the way we are used to it. That is what has brought prosperity to the United States--inventiveness. We invented a new government, and it has worked very well up to now. We have invented all kinds of things from which the world has benefited. We need to make sure that what we do encourages that instead of discourages it.
This thing that the government knows best--I don't run into many people who think that is right. Most of them think the government doesn't have enough experience in business.
I go back to Wyoming almost every weekend, and I travel to a different part of the State. Over the weekend I try to get into a business or two. I try to find out what they do, how they do it, and, most importantly, how the Federal Government might interfere or help them. It is very valuable. I have found that if a person hasn't been in business, every business looks simple.
We should look at how people look at our jobs. It looks very simple. They don't expect that anybody is going to be speaking at 2:30 in the morning. They think all we do is vote, which is not true. We have to draft bills. But it is more difficult in the private sector than it is in government because people's wages, people's food, and people's housing rely on that business paying them.
Among the small business committee--and I keep explaining that one really hasn't been in business unless they wake straight up in the middle of the night in a sweat, saying: Tomorrow is payday. How do I meet the payroll? That is being in business, and it happens to every small businessman out there once in a while. For some of them, it is the end of that small business.
We have to watch out for those small businesses because those are the ones that grow into big businesses. Those are the ones that become a part of the world market. There is more opportunity for that now more than there ever was, but there won't be if we keep stifling them, if we keep piling regulations on so they spend all of their time reading the regulations that we did. Thousands of pages of regulations are turned out all the time. I read the Federal Register, and it is getting heavier to carry all the time.
We know that small businesses across the country are not hiring new workers because of the impact of the health care law and what it will have on their bottom lines. If they are not profitable, they will be out of business. They are not like the government. They can't spend more money than they have. They don't understand why we don't understand. Why do we keep spending more money than we have coming in and doing it continually? I guess it is because we can sell bonds and we don't think there is going to be any consequence to it. If interest rates go up, we are not going to be able to do even national defense. So we need to be more careful about what we are doing and do things more timely.
Millions of Medicare beneficiaries are going to face reductions in their existing benefits as a result of the billions that were taken from Medicare. That was to fund the new law; it wasn't to [[Page S8684]] provide more benefits for seniors. Most of the seniors have figured that out. I already mentioned that they have caps on their benefits even though the President promised there wouldn't be caps on benefits. There aren't caps on benefits if someone is out there working in the private sector, which, incidentally, makes it very hard to figure out the actuarial cost of a plan.
It is not quite 2014 yet, and most of the thousands of pages of the new law haven't even gone into effect. But each day it seems there is a new breaking story about what a debacle this health care law is turning out to be.
I received a letter from Jessica in Laramie, who explained how this health care law is negatively affecting her. Jessica's catastrophic health care plan, as a single adult, according to healthcare.gov, is $297 per month. This is with the premium support from the Federal Government. I repeat, this is with the subsidy.
The University of Wyoming health insurance rate for a semester is $452. This is over the course of 4 months. The university's rate is nothing new; it was available for students long before the Democrats forced their health care disaster through Congress.
Today, Jessica's premiums would cost more than any of her medical bills to date. Jessica recently fractured her foot--a very common injury--and that cost her less than $300 in some medical bills. When they start looking at the Web site, they are going to find out that the deductibles have gone up dramatically.
One of the things that has been constrained and in some cases eliminated is health savings accounts. That is the right thing for young people to have. Of course, that doesn't pay for the older, sicker people, so we had to force them out of that system and get them into the regular system with everybody else and compress the prices so that the younger people are paying for the older people. I don't think they are going to stand for that for very long. I think they are going to be upset about it. I think they are already upset about it. Health savings accounts provided them a way to have catastrophic insurance and the right to put money, tax free, into an account that could grow over time and provide for the deductible they have. That is very essential. If they keep putting money in the account tax free and it keeps growing, it might take care of their health care for the rest of their lives. I think it is a solution for everybody. Again, it is one of those where one size doesn't fit all, but it fits a lot of people, and they ought to have that option, but they don't.
Of course, the bill doesn't really allow us to do the flex spending accounts either. That is one where some people have the right, through their company's health insurance plan, to set aside some additional money to take care of health care during the year--again, tax free. Of course, since it is tax free and we want to raise taxes, we are going to eliminate that. Well, I don't want to. I think that was essential and we ought to have it. But the other side of the aisle decided it was terrible and we ought to eliminate it or reduce it and put extra requirements on it so there was less that you could get with it even though those are individual choices on health care expenditures that a person has to make with their own money.
That is one of the keys to bringing down health care expenditures-- have people make their own choices with their own money. If people are making the choices with their company's money or the Federal Government's money, it doesn't make nearly as much difference. If they are not participating in a plan at all and they can get whatever they need and they can go to a very expensive place instead of a less expensive place, that is going to break the system, and that is some of where we are.
I mentioned Jessica's plan and how it is going to go up considerably higher than what her costs are for normal medical. Well, Jessica's mother also works for the State government and she has health care through the State. However, even though she is under the age of 26, Jessica is not allowed to join her mother's insurance plan. That is yet another example of a broken promise from the Obama administration. The President's flawed health care bill is a raw deal for our students and for our Nation.
Jessica said: It feels like the government is punishing everyone for the few people who have health care bills worth more than a house. It isn't remotely fair.
Students are paying the price, and they are realizing it. They know what a bad deal has been foisted on them.
Karen from Cody contacted me because her construction company had to drop their Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan. Why? The President's flawed health care plan mandates health care coverage for full-time employees who work more than 90 days for the company. The company was already providing health care plans for their employees, and now these folks can't keep the health care plan they like. Their employees are mostly young Americans, and they are trying to make their budgets work. They couldn't afford to sign up for health care plans that would reduce their pay. As a result, all of her employees will have to seek individual policies in 2014. Karen also said there is a lack of information on insurance plans. She doesn't know what doctors and what medical facilities will be included or even available in any health insurance plan next year. Karen is upset. I am upset too.
I have said for 5 or 6 years that if a person can't see a doctor, they don't have any kind of insurance. And that is what we are running into. Doctors are changing the way they operate, and they are saying: If you are on Medicare, I don't think I will be able to take you. We have problems with doctors who deliver babies because of the long tail on their potential liability, which goes until the child is of age. That creates a lot of other costs, but that is a different story.
It is time for Congress to heed the calls of the majority of Americans and repeal this partisan law. That isn't going to happen unless ordinary Americans continue to speak out and demand those who brought them ObamaCare keep their promises, every one of them.
I can go on about health care much more, and I may come back to it, but I am going to talk about the budget deal because I am a little upset about that.
One of the problems we have is that we are now in a mode of making deals instead of legislating. This body isn't designed to make deals, to send half a dozen people to solve a problem or, in this case of the budget deal, 2 people--one from the House and one from the Senate. Everybody else feels as if they ought to have some input. No--everybody feels their constituents should have some input, and that is what we are missing.
We send 2 people, 6 people, or 10 people to come up with a deal, we set a date so the media can crescendo up to that point, and then they bring us what the budget deal will be and we vote yes or no. We don't get to do any amendments. That is not how we are designed, and that won't work either.
I would like to talk about the recently announced Murray-Ryan budget deal. I hoped we would have an open process to finally come up with a solution to our Nation's spending problems, but that didn't happen. Instead, we have another backroom deal put together by two Members. That is bad for our country. It is tough on those individuals. They worked hard and came up with something, but they didn't have all of the input from everybody. That makes it difficult too. It is usually done through amendments--amendments that are debated and voted up-or-down. But that doesn't happen anymore.
This budget deal increases spending and shows that one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on is putting off the tough decisions. We can't keep on doing that. I just showed how we are piling it onto the young with ObamaCare. Now we are piling it onto them with the budget deal. Every man, woman, and child out there--a child who was just born today already owes $50,000 in national debt. How would you like to carry that burden around and then be looking at student loans? Incidentally, student loans were a part of paying for ObamaCare. People probably heard the controversy where the rates were to go to 6.88 percent. At that time the Federal Government was paying .86 percent for interest, so that other 6 percent was to go to help fund ObamaCare. But the students found that out and said: That is not fair. The President said: Yes, it is not fair. We [[Page S8685]] are going to change that. We are going to knock it down to 3.44 percent. Well, that is still 3 percent the students are paying on ObamaCare. But the real kicker is that it was just extended for 1 year and it was only extended for 40 percent of the students attending college. That is wrong. When it came up the next time, several of us got together and did a little bill. That bill makes its more fair for 100 percent of the kids going to college. We set it as a slight fee above whatever the Federal Government is borrowing the money at. What that fee is when you enter into that loan will be the price of that loan for the life of the loan, and it will apply for 100 percent of the individuals. So we found a way, and it actually passed. I think everybody was relieved, although we have this habit around here of wanting to hold people hostage 6 months at a time. That is what we have been doing on the doc fix for quite a while.
But to get back to the budget deal, the plan does spend more than the current law. It charges people in States for more things and uses the money to increase the spending in nonrelated areas. Spending cuts are scheduled for outlying years. We say: Oh, yes, we are going to cut that stuff, but we are going to do it on the end of 10 years, but the so- called savings from that are used up right now.
Is there anybody in America who can go ahead and spend their future earnings now and not have to do it on the other end, when it actually comes due? That is what we have been doing for far too long. Those spending cuts are scheduled for outlying years and are called savings but are used up right away, and that just isn't real. Let's call it what it is. It is not real, and it is wrong.
This bill has a lot of problems. It again raises rates for premiums that private companies pay the Federal Government to guarantee their pension benefits. I worked on a bill--the Pension Protection Act-- several years ago, and the goal of that bill was to make sure companies that promised people pensions would result in people getting pensions. We wanted to do it without putting the companies out of business because then it falls on the Federal Government with this Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
Two years ago, we raised the rates, and the PBGC could use the money, but that isn't where the money went. We put it into highways for 2 years. Ten years' worth of money, 2 years' worth of highways. Now we are raising that pension guaranty again by $200 per person. How many companies do you think are going to keep their pension plans? People might not be aware that pensions are voluntary in this country. They are not mandated. They are voluntary. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies that realize the value of maintaining their employees and so they have pension plans and they worry about those pension plans. They want to make sure they are going to be solvent so they can provide what they need to. They are liable for it. So it is wrong for us to increase a tax to say we are going to help make sure those are more secure and then the money never goes into the fund that insures it. Let's see. Should that come under the category of fraud? So those savings from these rate increases will be spent on Federal discretionary programs, and employers are still in the process of implementing a $9 billion rate increase to pay for the highways in last year's transit bill. So to put it simply, over 2 years the flat rate premium will have increased 40 percent, and over 3 years the variable rate premium will have increased over 100 percent.
If you are in business and you are looking at a 100-percent increase in your pension costs, you have to take a look at it and say there has to be a different way we can go, and that is going to mean a lot of people are not going to have pensions. They will have the pensions they have been promised to that date but not the pensions they were looking forward to at the time they retire. That is a huge tax and it will cause companies to end their voluntary pension and their retirement plans.
These pensions are completely voluntary, and if the cost to keep them goes up, companies may have to reevaluate. Workers and their families will be forced to find other ways to save for retirement due to this increased tax on companies.
There isn't anything else you can call it. I notice they are trying to call it a fee. The definition of a fee is if you don't participate, then you don't have to pay it. But that isn't what we are trying to do. We are trying to have companies provide pensions. We are not trying to have them realize they can't afford the pensions they are giving out because of increased charges by the Federal Government. So that is wrong.
Under this budget deal, they are again telling Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and other States that allow for the production of minerals on their land that the Federal Government deserves more than half the revenue. Under Federal law, States are entitled to half the royalties collected by the Federal Government for energy production on their lands. To distribute the State's share, the law intends for the Minerals Management Service to divide the amount of mineral royalties collected by the two and to write a check for that amount and mail it to the States. But an even split isn't enough under this new budget. In an attempt to satisfy an insatiable appetite for spending, the budget bill plans to take more money away from our States--about $40 million each year.
We had an interesting situation this last year when they did the sequester. The Federal Government said: OK. Our half of the money when it comes in is revenue. Your half of the money when it goes out is an expenditure. Therefore, we need to take the 5.3 percent out of that. When we heard that, we started passing a bill around and getting a lot of traction on it from both red and blue States saying: That is wrong. You can't take our money away. If you are going to take something out for sequester, it at least ought to come out of both halves, but it definitely doesn't deserve to come out of what is by law money that belongs to the State.
We raised enough furor, and it looked like that bill could pass--and I am sorry we didn't go ahead and pass it. The Federal Government decided they were wrong, so they have agreed they are going to pay back that 5.3 percent they stole from the States. But this budget puts about another $40 million each year in there that the Federal Government is going to keep out of the State's half. That is money the States use for roads, for health care--yes, health care--education for children and more efficient environmentally friendly development of our energy resources.
It is money that finds its way directly to the people, not down some bureaucratic black hole. A disproportionate share of this funding-- about $20 million--comes from my home State of Wyoming, which supplies a disproportionate share of energy to this country. Yet the Federal Government still wants more. Unlike bureaucrats, we have to answer to our constituents. Mine are telling me they do not want the Federal Government to take any more of our State's money. I am sure my colleagues will hear the same thing. Whenever you have some money, they are saying: OK. The States are rich now, compared to the Federal Government, and that is true for almost every State. So they are planning on how they can steal money from the States and give to it the Federal Government.
Worst of all, the so-called budget conference committee, for all practical purposes, did not exist. The agreement was the sole product of one House Member and one Senate Member. I sat on the conference committee, but I can tell you that I am hearing the particulars of the deal at the same time as the public. They weren't part of the process or the negotiations and neither were we. We did have a meeting to begin with, and everybody got to give statements for how they thought this deal ought to go, but there were no further meetings of the conference.
Any conference I have ever been on, once there was a deal made, you met again and you got an explanation of the deal and then all the sides voted. If it didn't receive a positive vote in the Senate and in the House, it wasn't passed on as a conference that was finished yet. You went back to the drawing board again.
I guess we are in a crisis here and decided we had to do something in a [[Page S8686]] hurry, but that is the worst of all worlds when you do that. We were not a part of the process or the negotiations, and it is not the way this body was designed. Conference committees have a definite purpose.
Actually, the task should not have even been assigned to the Budget Committee. The task should have been assigned to the spending committees. We were at the point where in the calendar business there are already bills that the appropriators--the spending people--have put together for all 12 items. Those could have been brought up one at a time, probably would take 1 week for each of them, if amendments were allowed, and we would have wound up with a pretty good budget, in pretty good standing.
Of course, I am kind of fascinated. We are about to January, and in January I will have dozens of people visiting me. It is a long trip from Wyoming to come out here and they will come out here on individual programs of the Federal Government and they will say: Please, this is how important this particular program is. Please make sure we get funding for it.
One of them is Head Start. They actually think we get to look at the Head Start budget and make additions or subtractions from it. We don't even get to look at Health and Human Services or transportation or any of those. They all get lumped together sometime in the year. There is no oversight. There are no decisions by the main body on how to spend $1 trillion a year. That is the wrong way to do it.
So this is a symptom of the abandonment of the committee process. Instead of Representatives and Senators offering constructive amendments and debating spending bills in public, a couple of people and their staffs sit in a room and then present a take it or leave it right before a holiday or a manufactured crisis deadline.
We are going to have that yet on the Omnibus spending bill. Right now we are just doing a continuing resolution and allowing those agencies to spend one-twelfth of what they spent the year before, essentially. So they do not know what they get to do for the rest of the year. When the sequester hit, it was supposed to be 2.3 percent, so they had to take those cuts out of the last 4 months. The result was they had to take 5.3 percent out.
I mentioned Head Start. They came to me and they said: We can't afford to have a 7\1/2\-percent cut every year. I said: Where did the 7\1/2\-percent come from? They said: That is what we are being cut.
It looks to me like what happened is the bureaucracy in Washington took their 5.3-percent cut but stole 2.3 percent from the local folks in order to pay for the Washington bureaucracy. So it was the kids who suffered. The kids didn't get the money. More kids had to be taken off the roll instead of more kids put on the roll. If it is going to hurt, it ought to hurt in Washington. It shouldn't hurt out there where the kids are.
I have some solutions for it. One of them is the no government shutdowns. The way that would work is if those spending committees don't have their work done by the time they are supposed to, which would be October 1, each spending committee would have to take 1 percent off of what they are allowed to spend each quarter until they actually get their work done. I think that would be a little incentive for them to get their work done.
I also have a penny plan. A penny plan would cut one cent off of every dollar the Federal Government spends. That in conjunction with the sequester would balance our budget in just 2 years--just 2 years. That would be 3.2 percent for 2 years. I think the people would say: You know, that wasn't too bad--provided we didn't make it hurt.
That is one of the terrible things about government. They always like to pick the things people will notice, instead of eliminating things such as duplication. There is plenty of duplication out there. There is $900 billion a year in the Federal Government in duplication. We ought to be able to eliminate half of duplication, shouldn't we? That would be a better deal than the sequester. But we don't do that. We make it hurt. We want people to notice their item is being cut and then they complain and then we restore it and that is how you get to $17 trillion worth of debt.
But with the penny plan everything would be on the table. It would have flexibility so it didn't have to hurt. We could get rid of that duplication.
Then, of course, I am also proposing a biennial budget. The way that would work is we would appropriate for every agency for a 2-year period so they know what they are doing for 2 years. They could actually do some planning. We shouldn't wait until we are 8 months through the year before we tell them how to spend their money for the last 4 months.
I have a little twist in my biennial budgeting. I would split the 12 spending bills into 2 categories. Right after an election, that year we would do the six bills that are tough, and then the next year we would do the six bills that are easy. Then we would actually be able to look at those individual items, and then a lot of these things that come up on the floor as extraneous amendments to other bills wouldn't need to be done because they would be done with the spending part they are supposed to do.
So those are a few plans right there. We do have a spending problem. We don't have a revenue problem. We shouldn't raise taxes in order for Washington to spend more. We can't spend our way to prosperity. That is more people getting in the wagon and less people pulling the wagon.
Identifying a process forward for tax reform is where part of the effort for the budget conference should be focused. If done correctly, tax reform will help to generate additional revenue through economic growth. Let me repeat that--not through new taxes but through economic growth to reduce the deficit and pay down the debt, and I am ready to make that happen.
We need to prioritize spending. Find the spending cuts that do the least harm and start there. It has worked in Wyoming. Our Governor knew he might be having an 8-percent cut in the revenues the State was going to get. So what did he do? He got ahold of all the agencies and said: I want to know what you would cut if you had to cut 2 percent; what you would cut if you had to cut 4 percent; what you would cut if you had to cut 6 percent; and what you would cut if you had to cut 8 percent.
Why did he do that? That gives him four lists to look at and he can see what that agency thinks is the most important to cut. What would be the least hurt to cut. That is exactly what they did. They wound up having to do a 6-percent cut and there wasn't a whimper. We could do that too.
I sit up nights worrying about our Nation's debt and how it will affect Wyoming children, my children, grandchildren. There is a chance to apply reasonable constraints to impossibly high future spending, but instead we get more spending and no plan to solve the problem.
America wants a plan. There is nothing as universal as that. They tell me every time in Wyoming: We have got to quit spending more than we take in. I agree. Congress should have been working on Federal spending bills and a responsible budget for months, and the Senate majority put that work off.
I could go into some things on the Defense bill. I have a lot of things here, and over the next few days I will be talking about these. But what we are going through right now is, instead of these things that are really important to the American people and will really make a difference in their lives, we are working on judges which doesn't make any difference. There are plenty of judges out there already. But that is to detract us from these problems of ObamaCare and a budget. We have got to solve the real problems and quit worrying about whether the judges can be stacked in the District of Columbia so that the President can have his way. That is wrong.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Murphy). The Senator from Utah.