Nomination of Roy K.J. Williams to Be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Developmentby Senator Daniel Coats
Posted on 2014-05-14
COATS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senate is not in a quorum call.
The Senator is recognized.
Mr. COATS. Madam President, according to a recent National Federation of Independent Business study, ObamaCare and its tax increases will result in the reduction of up to 285,000 private sector jobs. Let's say they are wrong. Let's say they are exaggerating. After all, the NFIB has not exactly been supportive of ObamaCare. Let's say it is 250,000 or 225,000. Let's say it is 200,000. I think that any piece of legislation that causes one job to be lost is something we should take a second look at, let alone 285,000 jobs.
Even though the administration has moved the goalpost more than 20 times in terms of how Obamacare is enacted, it clearly has hurt far more than it has helped. The majority leader famously said that all the stories that have been stated on this floor have been horror stories that are not true, but these are [[Page S3008]] real stories. These are people who have contacted my office and talked to me personally. They have written letters and sent emails. They are simply saying: Here is my experience.
Once in a while I come to the floor so I can verbalize the experiences of the people I represent.
Kelly from Fort Wayne, IN, received a letter from her insurance company that said her provider would change her policy due to the Affordable Care Act. Her new policy failed to cover her lifesaving medication, increasing her monthly costs by over 400 percent compared to what she had paid with her previous plan. She said: What am I supposed to do? This medication I have is lifesaving. It is no longer covered by my insurance plan. And the insurance company has indicated that this is the result of the implementation of ObamaCare.
Bruce from Jasper, IN, had to drop his insurance policy and enroll in a new plan that increased his monthly premium by 70 percent. Bruce said: I can't afford this. I am paying a lot of money already. Seventy percent. I thought the President said this won't cost me a penny more, period. I am sure the President regrets using ``period'' because period means final, no discussion, no debate--trust me, you won't have to pay one penny more.
I talked to Bruce in Jasper, and he is paying 70 percent more.
Traveling across Indiana, I hear these stories from Hoosiers over and over, men and women business owners who are reducing hours, laying off hard-working employees, or closing the doors because of this law's costly requirements. Most importantly, they are very seriously considering dropping any employer-offered coverage whatsoever. They are reducing their workforce, if it is possible, to below 29 hours a workweek so they don't have to provide insurance.
At one national chain, they have stated publicly that they have put all of their thousands of employees on 29-hour workweek schedules so they don't have to subject them to the restrictions imposed upon them under the ObamaCare act.
I don't know how many of these stories we have to share before we try to make some reforms, replacements, or find positive solutions to the problems we face. Republicans have met in caucus. We have some alternatives. We would like to have them considered.
This leads me to my second point. It is clear now that we are not going to be allowed to offer any solutions, any reforms, any changes to any legislation as long as we are here in this session of Congress. We have been allowed nine amendments in the last 10 months. The minority in the House of Representatives has been allowed to offer over 125 amendments in the last 10 months.
People are saying: Wait a minute, I thought in the House the majority rules.
They have a Rules Committee. They decide that maybe they will get one amendment or two amendments. Don't expect to be able to offer amendments if you are in the minority in the House of Representatives.
They say: We won the election. We are the majority.
That is how the House works. I served in the House. I served in the minority for 8 years. I am trying to remember if I was ever allowed amendments. Sometimes our caucus was allowed an amendment.
I came to the Senate and people asked: What is the difference? I said: The difference is night and day. Any Senator can offer any amendment to any bill at any time.
Then Democratic majority leader, George Mitchell, was following a precedent that had lasted for more than 200 years. The greatest deliberative body in the world deliberated. And, yes, we were here late hours in the evenings sometimes when a Member said: Wait a minute, I have one more amendment. That person was allowed to offer that amendment. We spent many nights into the dark hours working through a bill, but the process worked. That was honored by Republican leaders and Democratic leaders. Only now, at this second iteration of mine--it seems like a bad dream, actually--do we have a leader who has basically said: I am not allowing you any amendments. I don't want to force any votes.
That is not what the Senate was designed to be. That is not what it has been traditionally. Yet here we are facing yet another piece of legislation that looks the same as every other piece of legislation we have been faced with this year. The majority leader will use a procedure called filling the tree. The majority leader is using procedures to shut down the minority, to gag us. It is a gag order by the majority leader. He is basically saying: You don't have the privilege under my leadership of representing the people in your State who voted for you to come here to offer their wishes and their desires and amendments to reform a piece of legislation. I am not giving you that opportunity.
That is what the majority leader is saying over and over.
Now, if a Member is in the majority, I suppose he or she can get their changes modified and moved into the bill that the majority leader brings to the floor. But then he turns to the other side and says: You don't count, none of you. All 45 of you, all 45 Republican Senators here, don't count.
This is a Senate run by 55 people under the dictatorship of the current majority leader, who simply has thrown a gag order on any Republican because they are afraid to debate and vote on measures they think might negatively impact them, even though they are many times bipartisan-led amendments--amendments supported by Members on the other side of the aisle.
We said: OK, he is turning down anything we offer, but what if we offered it with the support of a Member from the other side? He turns that down too, so he shuts down his own Members.
It is beyond my comprehension, having served here before and seen the Senate under the leadership of Democratic leaders who caused this body to function in a way where everybody had a voice. We didn't always win our amendments. We were in the minority. We mostly lost our amendments, but we had a chance to offer them. We had a chance to debate them and to try to persuade Members to join us. Sometimes we were fortunate to persuade those Members. Other times they were bills and amendments fashioned together with Democrats and Republicans, brought to the floor in tandem, voted on, and passed, and they were constructive changes. Today, it is, shut up, sit down, don't offer amendments, I am not giving you anything. It defies the history of this place, the tradition of this place, and it has turned us into the world's least deliberative body, not the most deliberative body. There is no deliberation here.
It appears the only way to change this is for the voters to go to the polls and say: Let's get the Senate back to what it is supposed to be.
Let's get to a place where we are not afraid to stand up and take a stand. Let's not be afraid to consider amendments and to say if it passes, it passes, and if it loses, it loses, but at least Members had the opportunity to state their positions and the opportunity to represent the wishes of the people who sent us here.
We are sitting around here being able to do nothing--nothing--because the majority leader said: You are in the minority. I am running this place. It is a one-man show. I am throwing a gag order over all of you, and we are shutting it down.
Now we are coming to the tax extenders. There are good provisions in the bill, there are mediocre provisions, and there are some that probably shouldn't be in there. But shouldn't this be debated? This impacts our economy and impacts our future. There are many things in the tax extenders bill that is coming before us--including research credits and other things that stimulate the economy--some that I think are good and some things that I think are bad. Shouldn't we have the opportunity to try to support the good or eliminate the bad or at least make an effort at that? Yet once again it hasn't happened yet. The pattern has been laid. The majority leader will say: No, you are not going to have any amendments. We are going to shut this down, and you are going to do it our way.
Apparently, that is the way the majority leader has decided he is going to run the Senate. He makes all kinds of false excuses as to why he has to do what he does, but none of them hold water. I regret that. I think it has turned this place into a dysfunctional [[Page S3009]] body, and I think the burden of responsibility for that falls directly on the shoulders of the majority leader.
With that, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.