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Jared P.
Democrat CO 2

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  • Providing for Consideration of H.R. 2279, Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013

    by Representative Jared Polis

    Posted on 2014-01-09

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    POLIS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    I thank the gentleman, Mr. Burgess, for yielding me the customary 30 minutes.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule today under which three bills are being brought to the floor: H.R. 3811, the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act; H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act; and H.R. 3362, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act. You wouldn't know by their names what those bills actually do. I discuss that, and, more importantly, I plan to discuss, Mr. Speaker, what these bills fail to accomplish.

    These misguided and superfluous bills were brought under a very restrictive process. Two of them are being brought to the floor under a completely closed rule that blocks all efforts by Members to improve the legislation. Democrats yesterday on the Rules Committee proposed an open rule for these bills allowing Members from both sides of the aisle to offer their ideas to make them better, and it was voted down in the Rules Committee in a partisan vote.

    Instead of moving forward and tackling challenges like extending unemployment, which has been talked about, or passing a jobs bill or an infrastructure bill or fixing our broken immigration system or reforming our tax system, again, we are discussing bills relating to the Affordable Care Act that don't seek to improve the act and make it work better for the American people but only add more paperwork and bureaucracy and cost to the health care system we already have by putting additional requirements on Federal workers and others that are working hard to ensure that ObamaCare works for America every day. Of the 112 legislative days we have left this year, we need to ensure that we spend them wisely, and I don't think that these three bills are a good way for us to use 2 days of our time.

    The first bill, H.R. 3362, calls on HHS to publish weekly reports on consumer interactions with healthcare.gov, including the details of all calls received by the call center. Now, much of this information is already available monthly. There are already reliable updates on enrollment numbers and numerous updates on the Web sites and issues consumers have encountered. Look, while you are fixing the Web site and getting it working is not the time to put additional requirements on those that are laboring to ensure that Americans can sign up for affordable health care. Again, it is more information about who is calling and what they are doing weekly rather than monthly will provide an additional workload for those who are trying to make sure that the Web sites are functioning for America.

    It will actually make it harder for the Web sites to function by having to divert some effort if this were to become law simply to building reporting requirements that were mandated by Congress. It is almost as if this bill was designed to make the Web site work worse, Mr. Speaker, by moving developers and others, without any additional resources, away from making the necessary improvements towards building entirely new reporting systems just so people can have information weekly instead of monthly.

    It would be great, first of all, to have information weekly. I would love to have information daily. I would love to have information realtime. I used to run an Internet company. It would be wonderful to have that information. You have to weigh the costs and benefits and say, Is it worth building into this system realtime reporting? What are we forgoing by doing that? Is it worth it to say we want the information weekly instead of monthly? Again, if you are building it from scratch and perhaps if the Republicans had offered this as an amendment into the original Affordable Care Act, maybe this could have been incorporated in 3 years ago and we could have built a system with either realtime or weekly reporting. But here where we are today, clearly the top priority needs to be that this Web site works well for the American people so they can get affordable health care for themselves and their family. That is what the American people want.

    Now, let's talk about security and safeguards for consumer information. Again, you have the germ of a good idea. Of course, when the government has our personal information, we need to make sure that there are adequate safeguards. That goes for the IRS, it goes for military personnel files, and it goes for the Affordable Care Act, just as we want to make sure that when the private sector and companies have our personal information that they institute the proper safeguards. And there are examples of failure. Mr. Burgess mentioned Target as a private-sector example of failure.

    We certainly hope that we have the infrastructure and security in place to ensure that there is not a failure of security with regard to the Affordable Care Act. But when we are talking about identity theft and how to address it, we need to look at where the real problem is. What is the leading cause of identity theft? Is it the IRS? Is it the Affordable Care Act? Is it the military? No. One of the biggest causes of breaches of personal information is our [[Page H90]] broken immigration system, the fact that many immigrants in our country are here with fake paperwork, fraudulent Social Security numbers they have purchased or stolen--and H.R. 15, the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform package, which in a very similar form has already passed the Senate, would address this.

    So if we actually want to reduce identity theft and breaches of security and safeguard, Mr. Speaker, personal information for the American people, we should address the real problem rather than one of many hypothetical problems that, again, is no doubt worthy of discussion, but let's address where immigration--where identity theft actually occurs.

    According to the Center for Immigration Studies, which has done a lot of work on identity theft from those who are here illegally, experts suggest that 75 percent of people who are here illegally and working use fraudulent Social Security cards to obtain employment. Again, Americans are the victims of this theft. Children are prime targets. Their report indicates that in Arizona it is estimated that there are thousands of children that are victims of identity theft. H.R. 15 contains mandatory E-Verify, which the Center for Immigration Studies says would curb and stop virtually 100 percent of child identity theft.

    So, I mean, if we are serious, Mr. Speaker, about doing something about the fact that drivers licenses and Social Security numbers are being stolen, well, let's pass immigration reform. Let's make sure that people who are working in our country and have a role here have some kind of provisional work permit, some prospect of a pathway to citizenship over many years or decades, and that we have a mandatory E- Verify mechanism of checking, a way of verifying at the employer level that their paperwork is authentic and it is not, in fact, stolen from an innocent American, as it is today. So that would address identity theft. That would address fraud.

    We have people today that actually, under our current laws, are incentivized to steal information--personal information--from American people. Our immigration system is clearly broken. We need to fix it. H.R. 15, the House's bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill, would create a mandatory employment eligibility verification program. Currently, only 7 percent of employers in our entire country are enrolled in E-Verify to do workplace authentication of those who work here.

    So, let's bring this bill to the floor if that is the issue we want to address rather than discuss something that is hypothetically of concern. Yes, of course, we care about secure information in the Affordable Care healthcare.gov site. We care about it in military records, and we care about it in the IRS. But, meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of identities being stolen every day, and that is going to continue because this body refuses to bring H.R. 15 to the floor of the House, which would make that number almost zero.

    Mr. Speaker, the final bill that this rule brings to the floor is H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act. It is really a package of three bills that would weaken hazardous waste laws like Superfund and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act. It would actually limit the EPA's oversight to ensure that the American people are safe and healthy.

    Do we need to remind this body that the reason Congress enacted these safeguards and Superfund is because of tragedies like Love Canal where a residential neighborhood was built on top of 22,000 tons of hazardous waste, and due to the exposure, the residents suffered very high rates of miscarriages, cancers, and birth defects? The situation was so dire that the Federal Government wound up having to evacuate the entire community. That is not the America I want to live in, Mr. Speaker. I oppose H.R. 2279 because it could lead to more situations like Love Canal rather than making sure that the American people are safe and healthy in their homes.

    Mr. Speaker, this debate is not really about reporting requirements. It is about making healthcare.gov function less effectively. It is not really about breaches of our personal information. We can solve a big chunk of that by bringing H.R. 15 to the floor of the House. It is not really about improving our competitiveness by removing unnecessary EPA regulations. It is about risking the health of our families.

    We need to focus on rebuilding our infrastructure, fixing our broken immigration system, and making sure that we can protect the health of the American people, not jeopardize it.

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