A picture of Senator Marco Rubio
Marco R.
Republican FL

About Sen. Marco
  • Nomination of Katherine Archuleta to Be Director of the Office of Personnel Management

    by Senator Marco Rubio

    Posted on 2013-10-30

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    RUBIO. Mr. President, we have all now been aware over the last few days in the news about the problems being faced with the Web site upon which people are supposed to go in order to sign up to be on one of these exchanges. That is important, because next year Americans are going to owe money to the IRS if they do not have health insurance by a certain date.

    One of the ways people are supposed to get health insurance is by going on one of those Web sites and logging on, registering, and being able to see what their options are for insurance, and then signing up. If you do not do that, then you are going to owe money to the IRS next year.

    The problem is those Web sites are not working. In fact, just today as the Secretary was testifying before a House committee, the Web site crashed again. There are a lot of different reasons why that is happening. I am sure eventually, with all of the experts who are involved in it, they will be able to set up a Web site that functions, because this is the 21st century. The ability to go online and buy something, frankly, is something people do every single day with all kinds of things. So to me, it is inexplicable that they are not able to do that when it comes to health insurance.

    But in the meantime, people are struggling not just with the Web site, by the way, there are problems now with the 800 number and the paper application.

    I believe the prudent approach is to say we are going to delay, that we are going to put off punishing people, that we are going to put off the individual mandate until the Web site works. I will admit, I do not think the law works at all in its totality and it will eventually have to be repealed. That is what I favor. But in the interim, what I am proposing is something that I think is pretty reasonable; that is, the notion that until these Web sites are working, how can we punish people for not buying health insurance? Why are we going to punish someone for not buying health insurance if the Web site they are supposed to buy it on, by the administration's own admission, is not properly working? This is creating a lot of anxiety for people. That is why I filed a bill to do that. That is why I come on the floor today for the purpose of making a motion.

    As if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of Calendar No. 225, S. 1592, which is a bill to delay the individual mandate until the health exchanges are functioning properly. I further ask unanimous consent that the bill be read a third time and passed, the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I think it is pretty clear that this motion is inappropriate. This is not what we should be doing and how we should potentially change the act. Actually, the effect here is to disrupt implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act is a law. It has been in place for several years. The Supreme Court has upheld it. Attempts to repeal it failed. I think the House has voted up to 20 times to try to repeal the ACA. They have all failed. The act is here. So the goal here is to make it work, make the act work. Then later on we can ask questions about what happened, why it didn't work, why wasn't implementation of the exchanges as good as a lot of us would have liked it to have been. Then find out who is responsible, et cetera. Right now it works.

    The effect of this motion is severalfold. One, it will deny people having health insurance, people who otherwise would get health insurance. If you delay the individual responsibility requirement, it is going to cause a delay. People will not have insurance.

    Second, it is going to increase the cost of health insurance for a lot of people. Why? Because fewer people will be signed up. The individual responsibility requirement will not be followed as much as otherwise would be the case. The result is fewer people will be in the insurance pool, and therefore prices will be higher.

    Another consequence is it lowers the quality of health insurance, especially for those individuals who are seeking to be insured. They are going to have a lower quality product as a consequence of this request. It is an attempt to destabilize, it is an attempt to undermine the ACA.

    I think for those reasons it is inappropriate and again is another effort to obstruct. We should not proceed in this way, so I object.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard.

    The Senator from Florida.

    Mr. RUBIO. Mr. President, I do not intend to offer another motion since the objection has been heard. I do want to point out a couple of things. First of all, this notion that ObamaCare is the law--it is true it is the law. It was passed by Congress in the years before I got here. This is called the Calendar of Business. This is the Executive Calendar. Basically every single bill that is in here is an effort to change existing law, for the most part. That is what we do around here. That is what the legislative process is about. Virtually every bill that is filed is either an effort to create a new law, but usually it is an effort to change existing law. So if we begin to argue around here that once something is existing law it can never be changed, we might as well close up shop, because that is what we do. That is what the legislative process is about.

    The second point that was made was that this law will prevent people have having health insurance. That is not true. Let me say this: No. 1, I am in favor of people having health insurance. I do think we cannot ignore the health insurance problem this country faces.

    No. 2, admittedly, I am in favor of repealing ObamaCare and replacing it with a better alternative. But that is not what this bill does. All this bill says--this is the only thing it says: The only thing it says is you cannot enforce the individual mandate, you cannot tell people next year that we will fine you, that the IRS is going to impose a fine on you. You will not be able to do that until the Web site is fully working.

    In terms of this preventing people from getting health insurance, that is simply not accurate. This does not prevent anyone from going onto the Web site and signing up. If the bill I am proposing is adopted, it would not keep [[Page S7658]] anybody from signing up for health insurance under ObamaCare. The only thing it would do is keep the IRS from fining you if you are unable to do it. The reason why that makes sense is because the way we are supposed to do it on a Web site simply is not working.

    So it is not accurate to say this will somehow prevent people from buying health insurance. It does not. It does not prohibit you from trying to get it on the Web site. It is just the recognition that the Web site is not working well and there is a consequence to it. The consequence to it is if they cannot get these Web sites up and running, there are people who will not be able to buy health insurance and they are going to get fined for it. That does not sound fair to me.

    So while I continue to want to repeal ObamaCare, I think for the good of our people it is unfair to continue to hold over their head the threat of an IRS fine when the method of compliance we are asking them to follow is not fully functioning. That is all this would do.

    I would point out this is not a theoretical concern. I get letters and emails every day. But I want to read one I got. I will paraphrase it. It is from Barbara in Ruskin, FL. She is 63 years old. She tried to apply to the health insurance marketplace on October 1. As of the writing of this email, she is no further along. She sought the services of a certified navigator on October 14. After spending hours on line trying to get an account established and making the application, the navigator, with her on speaker phone, after many hours finally assisted her in making an application. She was told she would receive additional information via email. Ten days later she has still heard nothing. She is worried because she is currently covered, but that is being terminated at the end of the year because of ObamaCare. It is going to end on December 31. According to the information provided to her, she has to be enrolled in another insurance plan or she is going to face the fine.

    This is just one example. I could go on and on. I do not want to burden the time of the Senate. But there are thousands upon thousands of people who are dealing with this problem.

    Here is the last point I would make. I have now heard on a number of occasions the administration say with full confidence that by the end of this coming month, by the end of November, the Web sites will be up and running. If that is true, then there is no reason to be against my bill. If, in fact, you are so confident the Web sites are going to be up and running by the end of November, then this problem will be taken care of. If, in fact, you are right, and the Web sites are going to be up and running at the end of November, then the mandate will be back in effect.

    The only thing my bill does is say: As long as the Web site is not working and until it is working, you cannot enforce the ObamaCare mandates on people through a fine from the IRS. That is it. That is all it says. That is why I think this makes all the sense in the world. I am surprised that we somehow believe we should continue to hold the penalty over people's heads when the way we are asking them to comply with the law, by the admission of the administration, by the admission of the Secretary today, is simply not working well enough.

    I hope in the days to come my colleagues will reconsider, because I think our people, irrespective of how you feel about ObamaCare, deserve better. To that end, I would read to you one email I got from someone who actually supports ObamaCare. Nicholas in Palm Bay, FL, wrote an extensive email. He talked about how he submitted an application to the Web site. It took hours to complete because of Web issues. They finally finished the application 23 days later. The application is still in progress, but it will not let him go any farther to choose the insurance. So while he does not agree with me about defunding or repealing ObamaCare, he agrees with me that we should suspend the individual mandate penalty until this Web site issue is fixed.

    I think there are a lot of people who are going to feel that way. I think there are a lot of people who would be shocked that the government is going to punish them for not buying insurance when the Web site they are being sent to buy it on does not work.

    Again, I think it is a commonsense approach. I am surprised there is objection to it. I suppose I should not be, but I am. I hope in the days and weeks to come my colleagues will reconsider, because in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of many Americans, it is simply unfair.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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