A picture of Senator David Vitter
David V.
Republican LA

About Sen. David
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  • Nomination of Nancy L. Moritz to Be United States Circuit Judge for the Tenth Circuit

    by Senator David Vitter

    Posted on 2014-05-01

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    VITTER. Thank you, Madam President.

    I come to the floor again to urge consideration and a vote, and a positive vote, on my no-Washington exemption from ObamaCare proposal.

    I think the first rule of American democracy should be that whatever Congress chooses to impose on America it lives by itself; whatever laws Washington passes, it lives by itself. That should be the rule across the board, and that should certainly include health care and ObamaCare. But that is not the case.

    That is not the case at all, because there is a Washington exemption from ObamaCare. There are special-interest Washington subsidies under ObamaCare that the average American doesn't get in any way, shape, or form. As it relates to health care and ObamaCare, I think the rule should be simple: The baseline plan, the fallback position for all Americans is what we live by. Under ObamaCare that was first during the debate called the public option, but then it came to be known as the exchanges. That should be the plan we all live by and our staff live by and the White House and top members of the administration live by--no special exemption, no special deal, no special subsidy, no special treatment.

    That was the intent of an amendment, and that is actually the clear language of an amendment that actually passed this body and passed the process and became part of ObamaCare, thanks to the leadership of Senator Chuck Grassley and others, and I certainly strongly supported the amendment. There was a clear amendment added to ObamaCare in the Senate that said every Member of Congress, all of our staff, have to go to the so-called exchanges for our health care. The problem is on the way to implementing that, after passage of the bill, folks around here understood what that meant and so they watered down and amended that language through the back door by administrative fiat in an illegal way.

    They got the President and his administration to issue a special rule that took all of the sting out of that amendment. That rule did two things: First of all, it came up with a mechanism whereby a lot of congressional staff don't even have to go to the exchanges at all; and secondly, this illegal rule gave Members of Congress a special subsidy to go to the exchanges that no other American gets at comparable income levels, no one else gets, completely unique.

    [[Page S2588]] In addition, the administration, top members of the administration, such as Cabinet officials and top White House aides, have never been subjected to anything like the same rule.

    Again, I think we should come back to what almost all Americans feel should be the first rule of American democracy: What is good for America has to be good for Washington. What is imposed on America needs to be imposed first and foremost on Washington, with no special exemptions, no special subsidies, no special carve-outs, no special deals, and that is what my no-Washington exemption from ObamaCare proposal is about. Every Member of Congress, our staff, and the White House and top administration officials should go to the exchanges for our health care, with no special deal, no special exemption, no special subsidies.

    I have been fighting for simply a full debate and vote on this for 6 months now, and unfortunately have been completely shut out of any vote. This started as soon as the administration announced its special illegal rule to get around this provision of ObamaCare late last year, and as soon as that was announced, I said: This is wrong. We need to address this. We need to stop this. I proposed my clarifying language, and I brought up that language as an amendment on the floor as soon as I could. It was in September of last year on the Portman-Shaheen bill which is back on the floor now, and after a lot of back and forth, the majority leader finally agreed: Fine, we will have a vote on the Vitter amendment on this subject. In fact, Senator Reid was quoted in The Hill on September 17 of last year: ``What I said I will do is we'll vote on Vitter,'' meaning my no-Washington-exemption language, `` . . . as senseless as that is.'' I appreciate that endorsement of the proposal.

    ``I mean, we'll go ahead and do that.'' So he agreed to that vote on Portman-Shaheen. That was reported the same day by Bloomberg on September 17: Reid said on the Senate floor that a vote would be allowed on the Vitter proposal as long as Republicans agreed to consider a yet-to-be unveiled Democratic counterproposal that would be offered as a side-by-side or second-degree amendment.

    And also that same day in CQ: Reid said Tuesday he was willing to give Senator David Vitter, R-LA, a vote on his proposal to force more government workers onto health care exchanges and to pay the premiums themselves . . .

    In addition, at the same time the next day, September 18, and the day following, September 19, Senators Shaheen and Portman said the same thing. Senator Shaheen was on the Senate floor September 18 saying: Great, we will give Senator Vitter his vote. I have no problem with that. Senator Portman, September 19, the same thing.

    My understanding is that there has been a general agreement to have a vote on the Vitter amendment. That is something I have heard on the floor from leadership.

    Well, as we all know, that agreement never materialized, was never honored. I have never gotten that vote. It is now 6 months later, and I am simply asking for a full debate and a fair up-or-down vote on this important issue.

    Look, it is a free country. People don't have to agree with me, but let's have a vote. We voted yesterday on something that we have voted and revoted multiple times at the majority leader's insistence.

    I am asking for one vote on this important issue that the American people care about. We voted and revoted on things multiple times. I am asking for one clear vote on this issue. After the majority leader agreed to a vote on this amendment that I never got in September, a couple months later when I was revisiting the issue, he said: Okay. Well, you can have a vote, but it has to be the only vote in this Congress.

    Well, I resisted that at the time, but I will take that one vote. Can we have one vote on this important issue this Congress? Can we have a modicum of free expression and open debate and an open amendment process on the Senate floor? Can we have one vote on this issue that the American people certainly care about? That is what I am asking. I am asking for the majority leader to honor his commitment. That is what I am pushing for. That is what I will continue to push for, which is why I am filing the amendment to the Portman-Shaheen bill. And again, I am filing it to this bill for one clear reason: That is the context in our previous consideration of Portman-Shaheen where I was told we agreed to having a vote on this issue. We will have the vote. I am simply asking for that commitment to be honored.

    I also care deeply about other important issues, including energy issues, moving forward with a very important jobs project for America, the Keystone XL Pipeline; and because of that, when I saw the majority leader's recent proposal that we move ahead on Portman-Shaheen with five energy-related votes, one of which would clearly be the Keystone XL Pipeline, I certainly took that very seriously. That is also an important issue and it deserves a vote. It has had votes in the past, but that needs to be addressed. So as soon as I saw that--and again, this is an offer by the majority leader--a hotline request that we now consider the Portman-Shaheen bill and limit considerations to five energy-related amendments, that would be chosen by the Republican leaders--as soon as I saw that hotline and that offer, I called the Republican leader to make sure of two points--two points that I care about quite a bit--No. 1, that one of those amendments would be a very substantive amendment on the Keystone Pipeline, not general, vague, sense-of-the-Senate language, but binding language that would approve, without the President's involvement, this very important jobs project; and No. 2, that at least one of the other amendments was an important matter within the jurisdiction of the EPW Committee on which I serve as ranking member.

    The Republican leader absolutely agreed that was the case. Yes, absolutely, once we lock in this unanimous consent request by Leader Reid, one of those votes would absolutely be a binding proposal about the Keystone Pipeline. Another would clearly be an important matter from the jurisdiction of the committee on which I serve as ranking member on EPW. So those are important matters and those are significant votes.

    So I will set aside temporarily my pursuit of this no-Washington- exemption vote. I promise I will be back to it. I promise I will use every reasonable opportunity to get that vote which was promised to me last September, 6 months ago and counting; but I believe we should move forward with Majority Leader Reid's proposal that he made as a hotline request this morning.

    I offer that as a unanimous consent agreement, so we can lock it down and move forward, and move forward with this Keystone vote, move forward with these other energy votes, and then move forward beyond that, hopefully to a vote on the no-Washington-exemption language very soon. So I make as a unanimous consent request Majority Leader Reid's own proposal, that there be a unanimous consent agreement on S. 2262, the energy efficiency bill; that we move to its immediate consideration; that the only amendments in order be five amendments to be offered by the Republican leader or his designee related to energy policy, with a 60-vote threshold on adoption of each amendment; and that following the disposition of these amendments, the Senate will proceed to a vote on passage of the bill as amended, if amended.

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