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John B.
Republican WY

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  • Paycheck Fairness Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2014-04-09

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    BARRASSO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Health Care Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, this week President Obama has been holding what appear to be made-for-TV events to talk about the economy. He has been talking about the policies he wants Congress to enact, policies that he says will finally get America's economy going again.

    President Obama has been in the White House now for more than 5 years, so I think it is fair to ask: What has this administration--the Obama administration--been doing for the economy over the past 5 years? We know that the recession actually ended almost 5 years ago. Since then, our economy has not bounced back the way it should have or the way it typically does after a deep recession.

    The Obama administration has spent a lot of money on failed ideas such as the so-called stimulus package. Since the recession ended, Washington has racked up more than $6 trillion worth of additional debt, and it has not gotten us nearly the kind of growth we should have had as a result of this spending.

    Now the President has come out with a budget in which he has asked for tax increases of over $1.7 trillion--nearly $2 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade. Taxes are already too high. When I go home to talk to my constituents--as I would think most Members of this body hear from their folks at home--they say taxes are already too high.

    Americans are now preparing to file their taxes. Income tax day is coming--April 15. As Americans prepare to file their taxes, they are getting a reminder of just how much of their hard-earned money Washington is taking from them. Next Tuesday, April 15, is the deadline for most of us to fill out the forms and send everything off to the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS. According to the Tax Foundation, Americans will spend more on taxes this year than they spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.

    We now know how much President Obama is spending, but what kind of effect have his policies been having on our American economy? We know that the economy is still not producing the number of jobs we need for a real recovery. We know if we want to look for the reasons why that seems to be the case, we could talk about the two million jobs Democrats are blocking with their restrictive energy policies.

    We could talk about the minimum wage bill that Democrats are pushing right now. The Congressional Budget Office says that would reduce employment in the United States by one-half million jobs--they say maybe as many as 1 million jobs. Yet the majority leader comes here and says it is the best thing we can do for the economy. Again, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will cost the economy one-half million jobs and maybe up to 1 million jobs.

    But probably the largest and most harmful thing the administration has done--not just with regard to the economy, but to other factors, including the lives of the American public--is the President's health care law. This law is hitting people across the country. There are folks who are seeing their premiums go up, losing access to their doctor, getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies, and it is also having an effect on our economy.

    Today we had our usual Wyoming Wednesday where people from around the State of Wyoming come to Washington and meet with their two Senators from Wyoming so we can talk to people from our communities. Today I heard another horror story related to the President's health care law. A family had insurance that worked for them, and it worked for them for a long time. It fit their budget, and it fit their needs as a family. But, of course, it was canceled as a result of the President's health care law and the mandates where the President believes he has a better idea of what works for their family than they know in terms of their family.

    This husband and wife have a couple of young children, and they lost their insurance. They tried and tried again to get reinsured through the exchange. It took them months. They finally went with paper forms to apply. The stories go on and on, and it is horrible to listen to what American families have had to go through as a result of the President's health care law. This is a family that was hurt as a result of the President's health care law in terms of what they are paying for insurance, in terms of the deductibles that are now in place, and in terms of not being able to go to the doctor of their choice.

    We have the effect on the family and the effect on the economy. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care law is going to lead to 2\1/2\ million fewer people working over the next decade. These are not my numbers. These are the Congressional Budget Office's numbers. Because of the warped incentives that are built into this law, some people will have to choose between working more and getting higher wages or working less so they can collect government subsidies.

    Remember Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House on the Democratic side. When this law was jammed through and down the throats of the American people, she was saying: First you have to pass it before you get to find out what is in it.

    I actually read the whole thing, and it continues to astonish me how few Members of this body and the body across the way actually read it and instead just took her for her word. Now what we are seeing are these unintended consequences continuing to show up.

    Even some Democrats have had to admit as much about this issue of people having to work more and getting higher wages or choosing to work less so they can collect greater government subsidies.

    One liberal columnist wrote in the Washington Post back in February that ObamaCare is ``a drag on economic growth.'' He said it was ``a drag on economic growth.'' It is a drag on economic growth ``as more people decide government handouts are more attractive than working more and paying higher taxes.'' The President wants higher taxes, but he sets into place a health care law that discourages the work and additional income because the government subsidies get greater if you work less and have a lower income.

    That is one way that the President's health care law has been harmful, and there is another way as well. Remember, this law requires employers to pay for insurance for anyone working 30 hours per week or more. Thirty hours per week or more is considered a full-time job. There is bipartisan legislation in an effort to try to actually overturn that and get that back to the 40-hour workweek, which is what most Americans think of as a full-time job.

    How do people have to respond to the health care law that is out there? What are towns doing with their town budgets? What are counties doing in States all across the country? What are school districts doing? We see what they are doing, and they are talking about it. Towns, communities, counties, school districts, and universities are cutting back on the hours of their part-time bus drivers, librarians, coaches, and other middle-class workers. They are cutting back to get them below 30 hours a week so they don't fall into the mandates of the President's expensive health care law.

    What does that mean? It means it hurts people's take-home pay. If someone is working 32 or 33 hours a week and finds that their hours have been cut to 29 hours--regardless of what the majority leader wants to do with minimum wage--their paycheck is going to get smaller. Their paycheck is going to be smaller because of the health care law. Their paycheck will be smaller because of policies that Democrats have voted for--many of whom never read it in the first place.

    Is this just a Republican versus a Democratic idea? Not necessarily, because a group of labor union leaders who supported the law initially have said that this health care law will ``destroy the foundation of the 40-hour workweek that is the backbone of the American middle class.'' The House of Representatives voted last week to do something about it. They passed--in a bipartisan vote--a [[Page S2296]] bill that would change the definition of full-time work under the health care law from 30 hours to 40 hours.

    Senator Susan Collins introduced a bill to do the same thing here in the Senate. So what has happened with it? Well, the Democratic majority leader isn't allowing a vote on that bill.

    This is a commonsense way to reverse some of the harm the President's health care law is doing to hard-working Americans--how it is impacting their take-home pay, how they are seeing smaller paychecks and impacting their quality of life. But the Senate majority leader has blocked the vote. So the health care law hurts patients, it hurts health care providers, and is hurting the economy.

    It is interesting, because the President said all he wanted to do was insure the people who didn't have insurance. So we have an exchange. We have turned the whole health care system upside down. We have impacted one-sixth of the economy. And the whole purpose: to take people who didn't have insurance and get them insured.

    What does the Wall Street Journal say about it today in the headline talking about the newest statistics in the RAND study? They say most who bought policies through the new exchanges--most who bought policies through the new exchanges--already had insurance. They weren't uninsured. These people had insurance already.

    Many lost their insurance because of the President's health care law. Yet we have turned upside down one-sixth of the economy in an effort to help some but have hurt so many in the process. That is one of the fundamental flaws and problems of a health care law where the President promised, if you like your coverage, you can keep it; if you like your doctor, you can keep him or her. Now we have millions of people whose coverage has been canceled. We have many people who can't keep their doctor, can't go to their hospital. They are seeing higher premiums, higher copays, higher deductibles, more pain because of what the President and the Democrats have forced through the Congress, forced through the House, forced through the Senate.

    The American people wanted to change the health care system in this country and they knew what they wanted. They wanted the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower cost. They didn't get that in this health care law. Many Americans have seen their costs go up--their initial out-of-pocket costs--to buy the insurance on the exchange. They have seen their copays go up. They have seen their deductibles go up. And they can't keep the doctor of their choice. So they know what they wanted, and this is not what they wanted, but it is what they have gotten instead. People understand that.

    That is why this health care law is still so very unpopular across the country. People see how bad this health care law is in terms of their own lives and how bad it is for the American economy. They see how 5 years of this administration and the policies have held back our economic recovery.

    Tax day, April 15, coming next week, will be another opportunity for Americans to reflect on how much of their money Washington has been taking from them and what they have gotten in return. I would say, as they reflect upon that, they will continue to say they are not getting value for their money. They are not getting value for their money.

    Polling shows that--and I hear this at home in Wyoming--for every dollar people send to the government, they think they are getting less than 50 cents on the dollar in value. They don't like it because it means when the government takes more, they have less to spend.

    The government is deciding where the money is spent, not families. And it is families who want to make decisions for themselves about their freedoms, about their health care, about their financial choices--what they want, what they need, and what works best for them.

    Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Maryland.

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