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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  December 10, 2009 5:00pm-8:00pm EST

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so-called hidden tax. so what is this so-called hidden tax? well, the other party argues that there is a hidden health tax that families pay in increased premium costs to cover the costs of caring for the uninsured. in short, when doctors and hospitals provide treatment to the uninsured, they are forced to compensate for this uncompensated care and do so by charging more to private health insurers. the costs of this uncompensated care that is shifted to the insurers is then passed on to health care consumers in the form of higher health insurance premiums. unfortunately, this so-called hidden tax is often overstated.
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families u.s.a. as an example conducted a study attempting to quantify the cost shift associated with the uncompensated care. according to this study, about about $43 billion in uncompensated care is shifted to private health insurance, which led families u.s.a. to conclude that there is a hidden tax of about $1,100 that families pay in increased premiums. a kaiser family foundation study dissected the families u.s.a. numbers and estimated that the total amount of uncompensated care shifted to private insurers was closer to $11 billion, making the so-called hidden tax around $200 for a family, compared to the -- to the $1,100
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that family u.s.a. said. so let me give some ground to my friends on the other side of the aisle and assume that the hidden tax does equal that higher figure by families u.s.a. $1,100 as compared to the kaiser family foundation of just $200. the democrats' bill does not get rid of the hidden tax entirely. actually, this bill makes it worse. however, first, the democrats' health care reform bill still leaves a large number of americans uninsured. specifically, the reid bill leaves $23 million out of of $54 million -- leaves 23 million out of 54 million still without health insurance. at the end of this decade, remembering that this bill doesn't actually take place until 2014, so between 2014 and
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the end of the budget window, we still have 23 million people without health insurance. so at best, this reform in this 2,074-page democrat bill cut the hidden tax in half. in this case, to about $500 for a family. the reid bill adds, however, new hidden taxes. these are imposing $67 billion worth of so-called fees on health insurance companies and self-insured arrangements beginning in 2010. the congressional budget office, the joint committee on taxation, these are the nonpartisan experts and official congressional scorekeepers have testified that these fees will be passed on to health care consumers.
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the congressional budget office, the joint committee on taxation, have further testified that this will result in higher insurance premiums for all americans. the actuaries at oliver wyoming an -- oliver wyman estimate that the fees imposed on health insurers would add $488 to the cost of the average family health insurance policy. so a new hidden tax is also created as a result of the medicaid expansion and medicare cuts. the major cost shift in health care derives from the government programs medicare and medicaid, which reimburse providers at rates roughly 25% to 40% lower than what private providers pay to the same doctors and hospitals. president obama understands that
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paying doctors below market rates lead to cost shift. after all, in a town hall on health care reform, the president said this -- quote -- "if they are only collecting 80 cents on the dollar, they have got to make it up somewhere, and they end up getting it from people who have private insurance." end of quote of president obama. the medicare and medicaid cost shifts will be increased significantly under the democrats' health care reform bills. according to c.b.o.'s estimate, medicaid will be increased by more than 40% from 35 million to 50 million people by the end of the budget window 2019. additionally, the bill includes almost half a trillion dollars in medicare cuts which will
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result in lower payments to providers. the actuaries at millman consulting studied the current cost shifting resulting from medicare and medicaid underpaying providers and millman found that this cost shift for medicare and medicaid totaled almost $89 billion per year, adding $1,788 to the current family health insurance policy. increasing the current medicare and medicaid cost shifts as a result of this 2,074-page health reform bill before us would add even more costs to family health insurance policies. the easier cost shift to address would be the $1,700 cost shift from defensive medicine. the democrats do not address cost shift from defensive
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medicine, which dr. mark mcclellan, former head of -- of c.m.s. and daniel kessler estimated adds $1,700 in additional costs per average family. addressing this reform alone could save more than covering all of the uninsured. so you see the democrats say that their bill will eliminate the so-called hidden tax. well, my friends seem to come up short on that one, and also my friends add new hidden taxes that will burden middle-class americans. so i ask my friends to be transparent when they are talking about getting rid of the hidden tax. the democratic health reform bills actually make things worse. i yield the floor.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. bennett: mr. president, last night i held a telephone town hall meeting. as usual, with those we get over 10,000 people that end up on the telephone town hall talking to us. i said this is a meeting that's open to any subject you can talk about. overwhelmingly, they all wanted to talk about health care. and the -- i had one call of a fellow that said he liked this health care bill. he was a small businessman. he said this will help me as a small business man. why are you opposed it? i said i have been a small business man and i would like to point out that you that nfib, the organization that helps small business is opposed to it, and i went through some of the reasons. and then i told him of other small business or medium sized businessmen in utah who have
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said to me if this bill passes, we are out of here. we could do our manufacturing overseas. we could send our product to south america and have it made there. we have stayed in utah more out of patriotism than money, but if this bill passes, the impact on us in small business will be sufficiently great that we will leave utah, we will leave america, we will take all of these jobs and go overseas. well, that was that one discussion with the one caller. every other caller talked about the health care bill and said don't pass it. every other caller was opposed. there was only the one that made comments in favor of it, comments which i think i was able to -- to dissuade him on. every other one came up. do you want to talk about afghanistan? no, we want to talk about health care and we're opposed to this bill. do you want to talk about some
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other aspects of what's going on in washington? no, we want to talk about health care and we're opposed to this bill. over and over and over again. the only other subject that came up that i can recall with any regularity, there were several calls that talked about cap-and-trade and expressed their opposition to that. but overwhelmingly, the entire hour came from people who are saying we're opposed to this bill. i want to share with the members of the senate some aspects of the reaction of utahans to the campaigns that have been mounted by various groups in favor of this bill. let's go to the campaign that has been mounted by the aarp. aarp is one of the strongest lobbying organizations in the country. indeed, there are those who say it is the most powerful lobbying organization. and aarp, in an effort to make sure that this bill gets passed, has prepared preprinted
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petitions and sent out to their members, and here's a copy of one. it's addressed directly to me and was sent to people in the state of utah." petition to senator robert s. bennett." as one of your constituents, so on and so forth, sincerely. all the aarp member has to do is sign it and send it to me. well, this one was sent to me, but as you can see, mr. president, he didn't just sign it. instead, he wrote on it, and this is what it says in his handwriting. it says -- "absolutely not! "the" not "is underlined." please vote against legislation proposed by the current administration and endorsed by the aarp." and he signed his name. i have taken it off this facsimile here in order to protect the man's privacy, but he made it very clear that he
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was not in favor of what the aarp was saying and doing in this situation. we have others who have said the same kind of thing. here is a letter that i will quote from. "senator bennett, please do not vote to pass the health care bill that contains the public option. the present medical system is broken and surely needs fixing. however, it should be done in ways that do not bankrupt the country, close hospitals and doctors' offices." now, who is saying this? he says -- "i will probably withdraw from aarp since they support the present house health care proposals. several of my doctor friends have withdrawn from the a.m.a. due to its support of these proposals." and then he signs his name and his initials make it clear he, too, is a physician, a member of
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aarp who clearly wants to drop out of aarp and a member of a.m.a. who supports those who drop out of a.m.a. let me quote from another physician who wrote a lengthier letter, more analytical, and i will quote from parts of the letter. he starts out -- "as a practicing utah physician, i see and treat patients every day. i try to accurately diagnose what their troubles are and offer an incremental plan for their recovery. i am thorough, methodical, and exacting in my plan, purposely first doing no harm as my hippocratic oath reads, not making the situation worse, not causing more pain or suffering. the senate bill before you will make america more ill, with increased pain and suffering. i plead with you to first do no harm. please do not make the situation worse as with the current bill.
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it's beyond repair. please recognize that the senate plan will add to america's ills." then he goes on later in the letter to make this comment -- and we have it reproduced here on this chart. he says -- "patients ask me why the a.m.a. appears to support this bill. they sense that the a.m.a. is not looking out for patients or doctors. i agree that the a.m.a. is misdirected and explain that the a.m.a. represents fewer than one in five u.s. doctors and has compromised its mission." i find that interesting. i didn't realize that the a.m.a. membership had dropped so low. when i first became interested in politics, the a.m.a. represented virtually every dollar in the country, but not anymore. "i tell my patients about the multitudes of other medical organizations of which i am a
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member, state medical organizations, specialty groups, and the coalition to protect patients' rights, representing thousands of doctors who actively oppose the senate bill in its entirety and are fighting for patients and the right fixes for affordable, quality care." well, as i found out in my town hall meeting which covered the entire state and with no filtering on the part of my staff as to who could get in and who could not, this is indeed very clearly the majority opinion for members of the state seniors who presumably belong to aarp and physicians who either used to belong to a.m.a. or understand the a.m.a. here's a e-mail from a doctor, i can't pronounce the specialty he's in. he says, as a stitc constituentd
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practicing -- and then he goes on to whatever "ocologist" it is. he says, "i strongly urge you to pass the current senate mcreform legislation. although our nation would benefit from targeted health care reform, the proposed legislation is not the help and will harm, not hurt, health care delivery. as surgeon, we strive to provide the best care possible. we will support efforts to truly try to preserve access to high-quality care without jeopardjeopardizing the physician-patient relationships. as such, i oppose the patient protection and affordable health care act as it has the potential to seriously compromise the delivery of health care in the united states by creating additional pressures on an already overburdened health care system." well, i have a number of more. i won't go into all of them.
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just pick a few from the stack that i've brought with me. here's one, "i am a surgeon who's been practicing for about 30 years. i am against the total overhaul of the health care system. all entitlement programs resident cost-effective and are in danger of bankrupting the united states. here's one who is a retiree that says, "please vote against these health care reforms that will limit options, cost us all more and reduce our freedoms. we need real change, portability, tort reform and less government controls." back to the doctors, he says, "dear mr. bennett, i'm a pediatrician in utah and met you at the hospital in orem. thank you for your option to the current process happening in washington. we do not need to rush through and push the american people into government-run health care and more red tape. medicaid is already my biggest headache in my practice.
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and so on and so forth, as i say. i want to make this other point with respect to all of these people who are so concerned that we will have an immediate bad impact if this bill passes. they don't realize -- and i did my best to point this out to those who were on the telephone town hall meeting last night -- that this bill will not fully take effect, indeed, most of the aspects of this bill will not take effect until january of 2014. that's correct, mr. president, january of 2014, four years aw away. here we are meeting on weekends, coming in here on sunday, driving to get this done by christmas because it's so pressing that we have to do it. and, by the way, we're not going to start really any of these reforms for four years.
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so these people who are riding me, these doctors who are complaining about a.m.a.'s endorsement, these people that are complaining about aarp not representing them are worried about an immediate impact. let me tell you what the immediate impact of this bill will be. the immediate impact of this bill will be financial. the taxes will take place immediately upon passage. the increase in premiums will begin to start on passage as the pressure on the insurance companies, the pressure on manufacturers, the pressure on pharmaceutical companies will all begin with the passage of this bill. but all of the wonderful things we're being promised as benefits from this bill will be delayed for four years. why? there is only one reason why: in order to use smoke and mirrors
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in the budgetary process to make it look like this is cheaper than it really is. if you get the money coming in for ten years but the expenses only going out for four years and you're -- for six years, rather, in your calculation, it looks like it's a whole lot cheaper than it really is. the only honest way to score this is to say the expenses start the same day the taxes start. the expenses going out start the same day the revenue coming in starts, and then you get an accurate description of how much this costs. i can't imagine any businessman going before his board of directors and saying, "i have a new program that i want to institute in this company and it's going to cost x, and here's how i have calculated that it's going to cost x. i am calculating the revenue
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from the sales of the product over a ten-year period but the actual sales will only occur in the last six years." and his board of directors would take one look at him and say, there's no way we can make a strategic plan based on that kind of smoke and mirrors. what in the world is wrong with you to do accounting of that kind? and he'll say, "well, that's the kind of accounting i learned from the united states senate. start counting the revenues immediately but don't count the expenses until four years late later." well, let's look at the impact of that four-year gap and tie it to the messages i'm receiving from my constituents and i think we'll see something very interesting happen. between now and the time the benefits of this bill begin to take hold, there will be three or four open seasons of people
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who will look at their health care plan and be allowed to make changes in it, and they will see the costs go up and they'll say, wait a minute, what's happening here. the costs are going up but there are no changes coming from this bill that the senate passed back in 2009 or 2010 if we push it until next year. what's happening? well, your costs are going up in anticipation of the costs of this bill that will take hold in january of 2014. and at that point, the anger that we're seeing from constituents now will get worse. the anger that we're seeing in the e-mails and letters that i'm receiving now will get more intense and people will start to say, you mean that i'm being forced to pay extra premiums in 2010 because the government
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needs to accumulate cash against the time when these great changes hit us in 2014. and when they start writing me that kind of complaint, i'll say, that's exactly what i mean. the government's going to start taxing you in 2010 but they're not going to do this program until 2014. at which point the outcry from constituents will be, well, let's stop the taxes and let's kill the effective date of 2014. i'm not sure i can predict that with certainty but i can go back in history and remember the catastrophic bill that was passed with respect to medicare, and the senior citizens suddenly discovered how much it was costing them.
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the outcry was so overwhelming that the congress within a matter of six months of the passage of the bill repealed the bill. i remember the pictures that appeared in the national magazines of congressman rostenkowski who was at the time the chairman of the ways and means committee being accosted physically when he went home to chicago by seniors that would stand in front of his car and not allow him to move, would sit on the hood of the car to block his way in every conceivable way. the outcry was enormous when they saw this increased cost for something where they did not see a corresponding benefit. and congress responded to that outcry and repealed that bill. in this case, there will be a four-year period for the outcry to build before they start to see the benefits if, indeed, the
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bill does confer benefits. there will be a four-year period with that many open seasons for people to look at their programs and see their premiums go up and see their plans change and see the adjustments made in preparation for this, adjustments that they won't want, four years in which they'll see that the statement of the president of the united states that if you like your plan, you don't have to lose it prove not to be the case, and in that four-year period it's entirely possible that the outcry from constituents like the ones who are complaining now will have tremendously more impact and more force. i hope that is, indeed, the case if we pass this bill. i hope that in that four-year period before we start to see the wonderful things we're being promised from the other side of the aisle comes to pass, the increased premiums, the increased taxes and the increased costs will be with us
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and the people of this country will rise up and say, we want this bill repealed. they've got four years in which to do it, four years in which to think about it, four years in which to experience it. why are we rushing to get this done before christmas when we've got four years before the thing finally kicks in? let us take the time to do it right. let us take the time to listen to our constituents. let us take the time to listen to the american people that are examining this bill and by ever-increasing margins telling us again and again they don't like it. we've heard from many people the recollections of the polls, the quinnipiac poll made the comment it's a good thing the senate is not letting the american people vote on this bill because the american people are against it. we've seen the gallup poll show
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a tremendous swing as their people are against it. the more they know about it, the less they like it, and yet we're trying to rush it through in the holiday season to get it done before christmas even though it's four years away before all of the wonderful things that are being promised will surface. mr. president, i think my constituents have it right. i think those people who belong to aarp were saying they're going to drop out because of aarp's endorsement are right. i think those physicians who say they're either not members of the a.m.a. or they're going to drop out from the a.m.a. because of the a.m.a.'s position are right. and i think if we cram this thing through in a sense of urgency even though it's four years from implementation, we will see an outcry in the intervening four years from the
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american people that will cause members of the senate to wish they had taken more time to examine it all, to do it right, and not to panic over pressure from various special interest groups that see ways in which they can profit from this. the american people, the american physicians, the american patients all see ways in which they will be hurt. and i speak for them as they say slow this down, do this thing right, don't panic under pressure of a artificial time deadline. i yield the floor. mr. kaufman: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. kaufman: i rise to speak today about my great federal employee of the week who works at the department of education. mr. president, whenever i enthey are hallowed chamber, i never fail to notice the inspirational words written on each wall above the doors. above the east door is inscribed the latin phrase "fortune favors
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us from our beginnings." this refers to our founders' believe that providence looks kindly upon our republic during its earliest days. in that time, ours was mostly an agrarian society, town life centered on planting seeds and harvesting crops. children worked alongside their parents in the field and when it dime their education, homeschooling or learning to read and add in a one-room schoolhouse was the norm. thomas jefferson wrote some years after his presidency that -- quote -- "science is more important in a republic than in any other government." it was this belief in the importance of knowledge and reason, including political and historical literacy, that led education pioneers like horrace mann to promote universal schooling in the early part of the 19th century. shortly before the civil war, access to compulsory and free public education spread across
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the country as states passed laws inspired by this principle. the moral land grant colleges act provided for the construction of some of our nation's greatest colleges and universities in the late 1800's. in the early years of the 20th century, states increased access by expanding free compulsory education to include high scho school. the last 60 years saw dramatic advances in this area, with legal desegregation of schools and the passage of critical legislation like the elementary and secondary education act and the individuals with disabilities education act. i am proud to have been serving in the senate earlier this year when we passed the american recovery and reinvestment act. that legislation sent much-needed funding to fix schools, make student loans more readily available, and to keep teachers in the classroom. the recovery act so far saved
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over 230 teaching jobs in my home state of delaware alone. in 1980, the u.s. department of education was created and its employees have been working tirelessly to make sure that students from all 50 states, including delaware and rhode island receive the same strong support. they oversee the federal loan program that has enabled tens of millions of americans to afford college and pos postcollege stu. they develop policies to ensure that americans with physical and intellectual disabilities have educational programs in their communities and can pursue a full range of opportunities. wendy tata, who has worked for the department of education for nine years, ais one of those outstanding employees. when she arrived at the department in 2000, wendy already had a great deal of experience working to expand opportunities for rural special-needneeds students in hi
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and alaska. wendy is a lifelong lerner her servings holds a bachelor's degree from seattle university, a master's in physical therapy from stanford, and a master's in public health from san diego state. she also earned a doctorate in development psychology from the university of california in san diego. wendy's experience includes working at the state and local levels. she provided physical therapy to disabled students in washington state, developed an educational cork limb for special-needs children in hawaii and in remote pacific islands and evaluated health and education services in native alaskan villages. she has taught college and graduate course on public health he had university of washington and university of i had hivment her first job at the department of education was a research analyst in the office of special education programs. wendy's talents and experience led to her promotion within a year when she became chief of stafstavridisstaff staff to thet
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secretaries. in 2006, wendy became the chief of staff for the department deputy secretary of education. this january after a brief stint as education office for management and budget, she was asked to serve as senior advisor for policy and prassments during her years in the department, wendy has been instrumental in developing important regulations and guidance documents relating to idea and title i at esea. today her time is spent developing and putting in practice education programs funded by the recovery act. one of the central programs under the recovery act is the new race-to-the-top fund. this initiative representatives the largest represents the largest federal program in
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elementary and secondary education in our history. it will offer over $4 billion in grntses to states to develop comprehensive education reform plans. this will help all states, including delaware, save even more teaching jobs and add new resources for schools. wendy's work and that of her colleagues throughout the department of education continues to benefit american students nationwide. they ensure that all our children are favored in their beginnings so they may pursue the opportunities they deserve. education is, without a doubt, the most important investment a nation can make. for its dividends are future prosperity and global leadership. mr. president, i hope my colleagues will join me in honoring wendy tata and all the hard-working employees of the department of education for the service -- their service to this country. our future is in their hand.
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i yield the floor. mr. kyl: mr. president? the presiding officer: the distinguished senator from arizona. mr. kyl: thank you, mr. president. i want to say a few words about the legislation which is pending before us, the omnibus appropriations bill is what we call it. and it's a bill that will substantially add to our national debt and substantially increase spending, and i think it's worthwhile pointing out some of the features of this bill since presumably we will be voting on it sometime this weekend. i'd start by pointing out that our national deficit for the past fiscal year now stands at $1.4 trillion. so the fiscal year which just concluded added $1.4 trillion to the national debt. that's the largest deficit that we've ever had, by far. it's about three times as much as the largest deficit under the
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bush administration. our current unemployment level is at 10%, despite the administration's insistence earlier this year that congress pass a $1-plus trillion stimulus package that was supposed to reduce unemployment. the senate is currently in the middle after debate on a health care bill that has a ten-year implementation cost of $2.5 trillion. sometime in the next month we'll be forced to raise the nation's debt ceiling for the second time this year to a level that exceeds the current ceiling of $12.1 trillion. if all of that were not enough, we're now presented with this omnibus appropriation bill that costs nearly $500 billion more, to be exact $464.8 billion. this is simply irresponsible. when is is i is it going to end?
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we are piling spending bill on spending bill and debt on debt, at a time when many americans are being forced to get by on less. the majority has crafted a bill that uses the government's credit card to increase spending on the six appropriation bills that make up this package, by how much? 12% total. now, for perspective ring according to the bureau of labor statistics, the consumer price index, the c.p.i., the measurement of inflation, over the past 12 months was .2%. so the cost of living is going up by .2% and yet we're giving these government agencies 12% more money for next year. let me give you some examples. the transportation h.u.d. bill receives a 23% increase over last year. anybody had their income go up by 23% over last year?
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well, if you're in the federal government, you can make it happen. that's not responsible. how about the state foreign operations bill? a 33% increase, a third over last year. a 33% increase. included in that is a 24% increase for the state department's salaries and operations account. that's not responsible. the commerce, state, and justice and science bill receives a 12% increase over last year. at least that's the average of the six bills in total. how about earmarks? well, they're in here big time. according to taxpayers for common sense, this bill is loaded with 5,224 earmarks -- 5,224 earmarks that total $3.8 billion. that's not responsible. some examples.
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$600,000 for a street scape beautification in california. and $300,000 for carnegie hall music and education programs in new york city. mr. president, the current economic environment, that doesn't seem to be the most responsible use of federal taxpayer dollars. if the irresponsible levels of spending were not bad enough, the bill makes a number of significant policy changes as well. ordinarily you're not supposed to have policy changes in an appropriation bill. but when you lump them all together in a take-it-or-leave-it form, such as this omnibus, well, if you are the majority, you think you can get away with it. here are some examples. with respect to the fairness doctrine, this omnibus does not include the fiscal year 2008 ban on federal funds being used to enforce or implement the so-called fairness doctrine. so, nothing to implement or enforce the so-called fairness
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doctrine. the bill makes changes to several long-standing policy provisions contained in the financial services bill. and specifically, the district of columbia section dealing with abortion, medical marijuana, needle exchange, domestic partners and the d.c. opportunity scholarships, which have been enormously popular and successful, this bill provides only enough money -- $13.2 million -- to allow the currently enrolled students in this popular program, the d.c. opportunity scholarship program. ultimately leading to the termination of the program. mr. president, i've met with some of these students and their parents. they are doing very well because of the environment in which they're finally able to study and learn and be safe. this program is so popular that people have lined up in long queues to tak take advantage oft
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and yet we'ring about to terminate the program as a result of language in this bill. well, it is a cross between irresponsible policy and spending. the bill reduces funding for the office of labor-management standards at the department of labor by 10%. this is the office that investigates union activity and the use of membership dues. since fiscal year 1998, it's secured 1,400 convictions resulting in the return of $600 million in embezzled funds to union workers. so where are our priorities? the only place where you see cuts in this bill are in areas -- where? -- in this case, the department of labor has been enforcing labor law, getting convictions for embezzlement of workers' funds. this is not an area where you want to cut. unless, of course, you're trying to to do the bidding of the
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labor unions, who don't like to be called to account for emeses thement of -- embezzlement of trust fund moneys of their members. well, what's missing from this bill? despite spending nearly $500 billion and covering six of the ten appropriations bills, this bill is significant for what it does not include: the fiscal 2010 defense appropriations bill. arguably the most important bill yet to be acted upon. just shortly after president obama announced his surge strategy for afghanistan, the majority has decided to play politics on the backs of our troops. the majority is holding the defense bill back from this package so that it can use it as a vehicle for other purposes. for example, to increase our nation's debt ceiling and potentially push through a number of other bills that likely don't have the votes to pass on their own. that's wrong.
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while our commanders in the field and civilians at the pentagon wait, our other less urgent appropriations priorities will receive double-digit spends increases. that's not responsible and it's not right. given what i know about this bill -- and i haven't had chance to read it all yet -- i would echo my friend from the hours ago republican leader john boehner, who requested the president uphold his campaign program to go through the budget line by line and eliminate irresponsible and wasteful spending. i can assure my colleagues that we will go through this, and we will identify those earmarks, and we will bring them to the attention of our colleagues, and we will, undoubtedly, because of these spending increases and earmarks and bad policy, attempt to defeat this legislation. mr. president, finally, i wanted to make lerches to some comments that i -- make reference to some comments that i saw delivered by the chair of the white house
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council of economic advisors. as i was drinking my coffee and watching tv a couple of days ago, this was on cnn's "america morning" program. i was rather startled. she said, "getting rid of the jobs deficit and budget deficit, two big problems that we inherited and absolutely have to deal with." well, it is true, mr. president, that on january 20 of this year, when president obama took office, we had a deficit and we also had a problem of unemployment. the problem is that in inferring that they're doing something about it whereas the bush administration created the problem, i think they create a misimpression. so i asked my staff to just get two numbers: what was the national debt the last day of president bush's term and what is is it today? or actually december 7, is the date that we had the number for.
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the 322nd day of president obama's term. in other words, dr. christina romer is saying these are big problems we inherited. we've got to deal with them. so how have they diselt with them? it turns out that the national debt, the last day of president bush's second term, was $10.6 trillion. what is it today, 322 days later? $12 trillion. that's some way to fix that problem. if they're going to complain about the national debt, then get it reduced instead of increased. and in less than a year it's gone from $10.6 trillion to $12 trillion. that's $4.5 billion in new debt every single day. these are not my numbers. these are the official statistics of the bureau of the public debt. the other statistic was
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unemployment. we inherited unemployment. that's true. i don't know what the average is. it's probably somewhere around 4% or 5% in our country. but on the last day that president bush was in office, unemployment stood at 7.6%. i thought well given the stimulus package, surely we've reduced unemployment. what is the unemployment number today? 10%. unemployment rate after nearly a year of president obama's failed $1 trillion stimulus experience. when dr. romer said we inherited this problem, my immediate reaction was the president has been in office for a year, what's he done about it? answer: it's gotten worse. we've added well over $1 trillion to the national debt and unemployment is up 10% from 7.6% under president bush. well, some fixing of the problem. i would suggest that president
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obama and his white house officials and staff stop trying to blame president bush for everything. if the president has been in office long enough to get the nobel peace prize, presumably he's been in office long enough to do something about the public debt or unemployment. he's done something about it all right. unemployment up from 7.6% to 10%, and the national debt from $10.6 trillion to $12 trillion. in view of these facts, it doesn't make sense to me to pass a nearly $500 billion omnibus appropriations bill with departments of this government receiving 26% and 30% and 33% increases in their budget when the c.p.i. has only gone up .2% this year and when americans are scrimping and saving and trying to get by with less, it makes no sense at all.
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and so i hope that my colleagues, as we consider this omnibus appropriations bill that's before us right now, will take these things into consideration before we vote to pile yet more debt on the backs of our tax-paying constituents. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: mr. president, i want to speak just for a few moments -- a few minutes on the labor, health, human services and education appropriations bill. the senator from michigan was kind enough to let me do this right now. you know, she had been on the floor. and i'd like to ask consent that at the end of my comments, that the senator from michigan be recognized to speak. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: mr. president, as chairman of the subcommittee on labor, health and human
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services, labor and related agencies, i want to take a few minutes to go over the bill that we have before us that is in the so-called mini bus. i wish at the beginning that the senate could have voted and debated the labor-h.h.s. bill individually rather than having it on this so-called minibus. unfortunately it's now december. we still have to complete the health care bill, and, quite frankly, we've run out of time. however, i want to assure my colleagues that the labor/h.h.s. bill is a bipartisan bill. we worked closely with senator cochran and his staff to reflect democratic and republican priorities alike that's the tradition in our subcommittee and one that we take very seriously. in fact, the full appropriations committee approved our bill by a vote of 29-1. you can't do much better than that to accommodate the concerns of both parties. i also want to assure senators that this is a fiscally responsible bill. overall, our bill increases
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discretionary spending by just 2% over the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill for labor, health and human services and education. with money so tight, we had to be very selective about which programs received increases. one high priority is worker protections, agencies that enforce rules protecting the health, safety, rights and workers, had been seriously shortchanged in recent years. this bill adds $121 million over last year's level and brings staffing levels at the occupational safety and health administration, the employee benefits administration and the employee standards administration. it brings the staffing levels back to where they were in 2001, quite frankly. this means that the agencies will have the resources they need to prevent wage theft and ensure safe workplaces for our nation's workers. the bill also includes a 50% increase, a total of $1.1
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billion, to reduce improper payments, fraud, and abuse from mandatory benefit programs, such as unemployment insurance, medicare, and social security. these antifraud, antiabuse measures could result in over $48 billion in savings -- in savings -- and increased revenues over the next ten years. another priority we had was getting people back to work. this bill provides an increase of $72 million, or 43% increase for nurse training programs, including a new program to train nursing home aides and home health aides. this bill also provides a major increase, $260 million for the national service programs. this will boost the number of americorps members significantly and create a new social innovation fund that will help small nonprofits tackle a host of social programs and problems.
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in the area of education, increases are targeted to programs that are designed to reform schools such as peformance-based pay for teachers and principals, charter schools, and a comprehensive new literacy program. providing increases such as the ones i've described meant making some tough choices. our bill eliminated 11 duplicative and ineffective programs and we cut several others. not everyone will be happy with all those decisions. i may not really be happy with all of them, but we did the best we could. we struck the compromises and i stand by the outcome. i also support the other five bills in this minibus, if i might say that. i've worked very closely with our colleagues on the appropriations committee. i want to particularly thank senator murray regarding her work to allow fiscal year 2009 community development block grant funds to be used as a
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match for other federal programs. the reason this is important is because many states and local governments were hard hit by both a disaster, a natural disaster, such as the floods in iowa, and the poor economy. and they would have great difficult providing a federal match requirement without this modification. so i thank senator murray for putting that in her bill. i also want to thank senator durbin for the inclusion of a provision regarding auto dealers. in my state, there are a number of decisions that were made by general motors to close down certain dealerships that met the criteria set down by general motors for staying in business. so i hope this provision that senator durbin put in will allow for needed fairness for a number of these family businesses. so, again, i believe the package of bills that we have before us are fiscally responsible. they move our country in the right direction. and i hope the senate will
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approve them as soon as possible so we can send them to the president. with that, mr. president, i yield the floor. ms. stabenow: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you, mr. president. before my good friend from iowa leaves the floor, i just want to thank him for his wonderful leadership on the health care reform bill, on the appropriations that he chairs, form early on agriculture. and it's been a real pleasure for me to partner with him on so many things. so thank you for all your work. mr. president, i would ask unanimous consent that i be allowed to speak a*s as if in morning business for up to 20 minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. stabenow: thank you very much. mr. president, i want to talk
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about health care. i have to say if 20% of what was being said by our republican friends was true about this bill, i couldn't vote for it either. i keep hearing things described that have no relationship to the reality of the bill that i helped to write in finance committee, or my friends helped to write in the "help" committee or the bill that is on the floor now. i see all kinds of comments that, frankly, concern me because i don't see them reflected in the reality of the legislation in front of us. and i encourage people to have an opportunity to read the bill or the summaries and for people from michigan, we've had it up on my web site. we've had every bill as has been introduced and passed up on the web site so people can see for themselves, have an opportunity to really look at the information available.
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but i do know this: i do know that what we have been hearing from our colleagues is just not good enough. when we think about the fact that we had a congress and a white house for six out of the last eight years controlled by the republican party, and yet nothing was done -- proposals have come forward now about all these things that should be done, but they weren't done when they were in charge. what we saw was a racking up of the debt. what we saw was a lot of tax cuts for very wealthy people. what we saw was a lot of contracts for friends of people in the administration. what we saw were a lot of things that didn't affect people in my state very positively, didn't help the working people in my great state of michigan. but now as we are trying to move forward and do something for people and for small businesses
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and large businesses and bring down costs and provide health care for people, now there are all kinds of suggestions about why we should wait and we should do it over. what i heard in committee and what i'm hearing now on the floor, as a proposal, because we don't have a republican bill in front of us. we don't have one that's been offered. we hear "wait, wait, wait. no, stop, wait. we don't need to do this. this doesn't have to be done right now. there's no sense of urgency. we should wait, wait, wait." that's what we hear. we hear business as usual for insurance companies. okay, let the insurance companies, let them decide what gets covered, if you can find insurance, how much it should cost, whether or not your doctor's going to be able to provide a test for you or an operation for you. that's okay, let the insurance company continue to be the ones between you and your doctor. and what we have seen over and over again, and we saw this in
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committee where every time we were trying to lower the cost for families and small businesses, they were on the side of helping the insurance industry, willing to take tax cuts we put in the bill in finance committee, amendment after amendment that would have had higher costs for middle-class families and small businesses in order to help the insurance industry. mr. president, i'd like to share with you a few stories from people who have become a part of what we are calling our health care people's lobby through my web site who have been willing to share their stories. and i would start with david from suttons bay, which is a very beautiful part of michigan. i'd love to have you come visit. it's a gorgeous part right on the water. and david says to us, "i'm a 61-year-old cancer survivor with diabetes and high blood pressure. i'm self-employed, and lately uninsured. i've worked all my wife to build a stake here in farm country and
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almost lost it last fall to foreclosure because of a medical emergency. this farm is all i have. the savings and cash are gone. i continue to work with no retirement in sight. i have put everything i had for retirement into my farm. please help me keep it." david, i know, is not saying wait, wait, wait. he wants us to act and to act now on something that's going to be meaningful, make sense, bring down costs, give him a chance to find affordable insurance that doesn't bankrupt him and his family. i want to share also another story from jeff in rockford, michigan. it has been over five years since death stared me down. i was diagnosed with testicular cancer, losing my job to a layoff, mortgage to pay, among other things, and my options
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were minuscule. i had no insurance then because there was none that i could afford. i thank god and the staff at grand rapids spectrum health for my life today. unfortunately, i am still $25,000 in debt because of lack of coverage.i served in the marm 1984 until 1988. one of the mottos is "we take care of our own." mr. president, "we take care of our own." imagine what this country would be like if we all thought like that. jeff's right, we are in this together. and just as we have dramatically increased our support for our veterans and their health care, we need to make sure we're taking care of our own american families, american businesses. wait, wait, wait? i don't think so. i don't think that's what jeff is asking us to do.
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jennifer from hollow, michigan. i'm married and have one beautiful little girl, but six months ago my husband's work informed us that they would not longer be able to carry health insurance for our workers. a common story, choosing between keeping people employed and paying for health care. we could have gone on cobra, but it would cost double what we're paying and we couldn't meet that cost. mr. president, as you know, we have worked throar the cost of -- worked to lower the cost of cobra and hope to be able to continue that lower cost in legislation that will be coming up shortly. but it's still very expensive. we're lucky because michigan has a program for children so we didn't have to worry about our daughter's coverage. when we went to look for insurance for my husband and me, the prices were steep or we were denied because of my preexisting condition. one of the things that we're going to change. right now going the doctor is
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next to impossible. but to see a specialist is like asking for the moon. we know that we are highly blessed. my husband has a job. but that is more -- that is more than a lot of people have. we just want affordable health insurance and we don't mind paying for it. it just doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it? no, jennifer, it's not too much to ask. and that's what we are all about. we are all about putting together a plan and that's what's in front of us, that will lower costs, that will save lives, save medicare, that will focus on making sure that each american has a health care bill of rights, that's protections that they know will allow them to make sure that their health insurance will be available if they pay for it. that they can't get dropped because of a tech cattlecy.
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that if -- technicality, that if they have a preexisting condition, they can find affordable insurance. that there will be no longer lifetime caps an insurance policies. -- on insurance policies. that we will allow young people to stay on mom and dad's insurance until age 26. we have a number of changes we're make for people in the insurance exchange for policies that take effect after the effective date of this act and it's about making sure people have affordable insurance and they're getting what they're paying for, that's what this is about. and what happens if we do nothing? mr. president, if we do nothing? if we wait, wait, wait, like the republicans are saying. every single day 14,000 americans lose their health insurance. 14,000 people got up today with health insurance and they go to bed tonight without it.
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and that happens every single day. insurance rates are going to double in the next few years by 2016. business costs are going to double. increased premiums are going to cost us, it's expected 3.5 million more jobs. i don't know about any of my colleagues, but we can't afford to lose anymore jobs in michigan. and health care is directly related to jobs in our international competitiveness. we know that incomes for families will be reduced. we know that every day 5,000 homes will be foreclosed as a result of a health crisis and 62% of the bankruptcies are as a result of a health care crisis. wait like our republican colleagues say? no. we can't wait. the families, the people i talked about in reading their stories, they can't wait. families can't wait. businesses can't wait.
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small businesses that can't find insurance, they can't wait. large businesses that are finding themselves in difficult situations considering pulling up shop and going to another country because of lower health care costs, they can't wait. people expect us to solve this problem. they expect us to be able to come together and work together without all the -- the stalling and objections and part san politics. they expect us to come together and to be able to solve what is a hug huge american problem, whh is bringing down costs and creating affordable health care where they know that the insurance company is not the one standing between them and their doctor. mr. president, this really is about saving lives, saving money, saving medicare. 45,000 people will lose their
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lives in the coming year. 45,000 families have one less chair or an empty chair at the holiday dinners that are coming up. because 45,000 people couldn't find affordable insurance in this country. americans in america saving money. this is about making sure that small businesses get the tax cuts they need to help them buy insurance, to make sure that families that -- that are buying through the new insurance pool get the tax cuts that they need to be able to afford to buy insurance. this is about making sure large businesses begin to see the cost come down over time because when they're providing insurance already, they're not going to pay the extra cost of folks walking into an emergency room uninsured who are treated and then the costs get rolled over
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on to everybody with insurance. and we, as a country, are going to save dollars, save money over time. for taxpayers, strengthen medicare, be able to bring down costs. and, yes, we are going to save medicare, mr. president. we are going to lengthen the medicare trust fund solvency. we're going to make sure that overpayments to for-profit insurance companies are reined in so that the majority of seniors don't see their premiums go up under medicare to pay for those excess profits. we're going to make sure that we are closing that gap in coverage for prescription drugs that's now been called the doughnut hole where too many seniors or people with disabilities fall into that hole, can't afford their medicine, and aren't able to get the care that they need.
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we're going to make sure that preventive care does not have an extra cost for a co-pay or deduction because we know that it saves money and saves lives. and under medicare, we're going to make sure that that is there as well. so that's what this is about. it's not waiting. -- it's not about waiting. it's not about all of the other stuff that we heard, scare tact is. this is about -- tactics. this is about tackling and solving a problem for the american people that we can't afford to do to wait any longer. coming from michigan, i have to say everything i do, everything i care about is about saving jobs. and so we know that in addition that we truly are saving jobs. we are saving jobs for our large employers right now that provide insurance, have been doing right thing for years, but have seen their costs go up 10%, 20%, 30%,
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every year and can't sustain it anymore. they're cutting health care benefits, raising premiums, or laying people off because they can't afford it. our small employers, we know under our package, will save 25%. and we're going to be, i believe, even doing more for small businesses. tax credits to help companies. and, as i indicated before, our plan is going to sav save $3.5 million other jobs that would otherwise be lost kawfl the increased -- lost because of the increased health care costs that cause employees to be let go or companies to move overseas. so we are talking about saving lives, saving money, saving medicare. talking about saving jobs. what we are not talking about, mr. president, is waiting. we are not talking about stall
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tactics or politics. we are way beyond that. i understand that there's a big strategy to make sure that the president of the united states is not successful. there's a big strategy to make sure that we are not successful. -- successful here in the senate. we have seen more filibusters and more objections than ever before. the vast majority of the days we have been in session -- i believe it's 39 weeks now -- all but four of those we have seen filibusters. never done before. filibusters and objections over and over and over again. well, mr. president, we are committed to getting beyond that and focusing on the reality of what's happening in people's lives. people are waiting for us to
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step up and to solve this problem. and to give them the ability to be able to have access to affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. you know, we are not proposing something radical here. we are proposing that we fill in the gaps. so for the folks that don't have insurance today, most of whom are in a small business, most of whom are working, maybe one, two, three part-time jobs, but they are working and they don't have access to health insurance. or they're self-employed as the gentleman that i talked about earlier, david, in suttons bay. maybe a farmer, maybe a realtor, maybe the next bill gates in their garage coming up with the next great invention. and they don't have access to the same big insurance pool that a big business has to be able to
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bring down costs. and so what we're talking about is for those folks who are working or have recently been laid off, can't find insurance, giving them a way -- a competitive way to be able to buy insurance from an insurance pool. and in my mind that's -- i can't imagine a more important christmas present, mr. president, to give to american families than the ability to know going forward that when they lose their job, they're not going to lose their health insurance. that they have an opportunity, a way to get affordable insurance and that we have come together, as a senate, to focus on saving lives, saving money. and saving medicare.
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thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: thank you. i would love to interject a question to the distinguished senator from michigan at this point. we are in a situation in which the other side is repeatedly coming to the floor to ask us to delay, to stop, to slow down, to start over and i'm curious, as somebody who's watched this debate closely, what the senator from michigan thinks about where we would be if we acceded to that wish, bearing in mind that one of the sort of ideological fire brands who seems to be leading a measure of the debate on the other side has indicated that this isn't about health care and people. this is about giving president obama a waterloo, this is about
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creating a political defeat for the president of the united states on their side. nothing to do with health care. entirely about creating a defeat for this new president and when in the face of all of the obstruction that the distinguished senator from michigan described so eloquently, this recordbreaking, unprecedented in the history of the senate, obstruction that we are seeing. the person that we are seeing right now seems to characterize the leadership of the right wing, rush limbaugh is telling the other side they haven't been obstructive enough. if we were to start over and reach out our hands again to our friends on the republican side, is there reason to believe that we would be just as rebuffed going forward as we have been in the long arduous process of negotiation and hearing and public meeting and all of the work that has taken us to this point right now?
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ms. stabenow: well, i thank my friend from rhode island for the question and for your advocacy and understanding of how we bring down costs and what we should be doing in so many areas for families and for businesses in the country. i would -- i would just say that we saw -- we have, first of all, been attempting to get something done for years, and in the last couple of years, reaching out to republicans in an unprecedented way, our distinguished chairmen of the finance committee as everyone knows went to unparalleled lengths in reaching out and spending months and months and months and putting together a work group of three democrats and three republicans to work in good faith to be able to get something done. we have accepted republican ideas. i know on the health committee that there were many, many
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amendments accepted from republican colleagues. we have continued to reach out and look for ways to work together, but what we are seeing is a lack of a desire to work together and more of just a desire, as you indicated before, to simply attempt to embarrass the president of the united states, to stop him from being successful, to stop us politically, when the reality is very serious. this is not about a president. we have had 100 years of presidents trying to do this. this is not a particular senate. we have had senates for years that have been trying to do this. this is about when are we going to get beyond all this? when are we going to actually get beyond this and focus on the reality of what is going on in people's lives, what is going on in every small business, trying
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to figure out how to pay the bills and how to hold it together. or every manufacture err in my great state who is trying to figure out how they are going to hold it together. at what point the american people have every right to say to us when are you guys going to get beyond this stuff? and the good news is we have a president who has said now is when we're going to get beyond it, and we have majorities in the house and the senate who have said now is when we're going to get beyond it. and we will work in good faith with whoever wants to work with this, but we will not wait, which is what we are being asked to do, to wait until another time when 45,000 more people have died next year, when another 5,000 people a day have lost their homes to foreclosures. mr. whitehouse: and if we were to wait, do you think there is any likelihood that people on the other side would suddenly want to cooperate with president obama and not hand him a defeat? do you think that suddenly if we
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did that, rush limbaugh would say okay, republicans in the senate, go ahead, work with the democrats now. don't just be the party of obstruction and delay, but try to work cooperatively for the american people? do you think there is any likelihood of that happening? ms. stabenow: i would love to have a likelihood of that, but i can't imagine. frankly, i think it's -- unfortunately, they view it as in their self-interest, whether it's a business decision, as a radio host, whether it's a decision of the other party. i appreciate the fact that it's hard to lose elections. we have all been in those situations. i appreciate the fact that folks don't want to be in the minority. most of us have been in that situation. i appreciate that. but i think all of us were really hoping that this year, with two wars, with the deficit we have, with the challenge on health care, with the need to create jobs, with the financial crisis that we have, that this
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year somehow it would be different for a while. and i would ask my colleague if he had the same sense that maybe -- of hope coming in, that this year -- that maybe there would be a moratorium on the partisanship, that we could actually come together in the interests of the country and solve problems before going back to the elections. and i would ask my friend if he was as surprised as i was that there was not only no stopping after the election but the same folks who led things in the election are leading them right here on the floor. mr. whitehouse: i share the senator from michigan's disappointment that the promise and the outreached hands have been rejected and rebuffed, that this place has become so bitterly partisan -- this is my first time in the senate with a
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democratic president. and i have been surprised at the tone of the debate, at the lack of truth of a great many of the arguments, of the very apparent motivations, and i've spoken to members of our caucus who are, i think, probably viewed as some of the most moderate, seeking of bipartisanship, calm and respected members of the senate who have been here for a long time and asked them how this compares to their long, long years of experience in the senate, and one of them said that he has literally never seen anything like it. in all the years he has been here in the senate, he has never seen anything like it. he said they are always on message, he said, but i have never seen them so off truth. i think it is regrettable. but if your mission is to destroy a strong and important piece of legislation, not
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because it's bad legislation. because you can't stand having this new president win a political victory -- are you really going to go out and disclose that that is your motivation? no. you're going to come up with a bunch of other cockamamie arguments to try to paper that over. you will be talking about death panels and you will go through all the nonsense that we have seen. it's just regrettable. ms. stabenow: if i might interject with my friend -- i have been handed a note that, in fact, there have been over 150 amendments, 300 pages of the document -- over 150 amendments offered by republicans. and our attempts have been ongoing to reach out. but i would also -- mr. whitehouse: i think those were the republican amendments that were accepted into the "help" committee bill. ms. stabenow: i believe there were. mr. whitehouse: i think there were 161 if i remember my time sitting on that committee.
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we took republican amendment after republican amendment after republican amendment, trying to reach out to them, but -- ms. stabenow: and so we have over 300 pages of the bill that is republican amendments, and -- and that's fine. i mean, there's no -- you know, there is no ownership in the sense of who has got the better ideas. in fact, what i find interesting is the insurance exchange that we have in the bill for small businesses, which is the heart of coverage, small businesses and individuals, has been offered by republicans and democrats. i believe that the distinguished senator, former senator bob dole, i believe, offered in the form of an exchange back during the debate with president clinton. so we're not trying to claim a corner on ideas. these are, many of them, ideas that have been available and talked about for years. it's a matter of having the will, the commitment to actually do the hard work that people expect us to do to be able to get this done. i think that's really what is so
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important about this time. when the average family is finding themselves just unraveling with not knowing if the job is going to be available or it's being cut in wages or they are paying more out of pocket for everything under the sun, and then maybe it's okay, you can have your job or your health insurance, but the employer can't keep both going. and then you watch all the other costs that a family has going up, and the fact that we have lost so many middle-class jobs -- and i will spend another time talking about the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country -- but we have lost -- we have lost a lot of our middle class in terms of good-paying jobs, and so people are now saying wait a minute, you know, just being the party of no, that's not going to be enough. that is -- that's not good enough. just saying no for political reasons?
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that is not enough. we want to know what you're going to say yes to. we want to know how are you going to work together? we want to know how you are going to actually solve a problem so that when someone says that -- like joe from rockford, michigan, he served in the marines for four years. our motto is "we take care of our own." when are we going to come together and take care of our own americans? now, i don't mean literally taking care of every person. creating opportunity for people. creating the climate for people to have a job, to have health insurance, to send the kids to college, to be able to afford to keep the lights on, to be able to know that their country is on their side. that's what this is about. they don't want us to wait more. they want us to move quickly. move quickly on health care and jobs and all of the other issues
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that are so important to their family. and so i -- i thank my friend from rhode island for joining me because there is a sense of urgency that people have, and we need to have that sense of urgency to get things done, to work together to be able to get things done, and, frankly, one of the things that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have successfully done is united our caucus in the determination that we will not let this kind of stalling and objections and tactics that are slowing things down stop us from actually solving a huge problem that has gone for too long unsolved for the american people. thank you. thank you, m president. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from alabama. mr. sessions: mr. president, we are considering the omnibus
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bill, i guess it is, we call it. some call it an ominous bill. and i just have to say that once again, we are heading recklessly at a high rate of speed to the most reckless spending this nation may have ever seen. we have seen some big spending in world war ii, but nothing like it in the kind of environment we are in today, and we had the whole nation working to win that life-and-death struggle. i would just say a few things about this omnibus bill, why i don't think any of us should support it, why it's unacceptable, why it's the kind -- why it's the kind of spending that has caused the american people to be outraged, to go out in the streets. people have told me they have
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never been in a rally before in their lives have gone out because they are afraid for their country. just looking at the package of spending that's in this legislation, the commerce-justice-science bill, that's been cobbled together with the others. there is one, two, three, four, five, six of the 13 appropriations bills have all been packaged together in one, and to see if they can't ram it through here on the last days before christmas when nobody will have the gumption to really cause a fuss about it, and we can just get this done. so what is it that's contained in the legislation that causes such angst on my part and on others? i'll just explain it. these are the numbers. the commerce-justice-science appropriations bill is
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is $64 billion, and the percent of growth over last year's spending is 12%. i just recall for my colleagues and everyone, if you know the rule of seven that you learn in accounting, at a 7% growth rate, your money -- if you have an interest rate of 7%, your money will double in value in ten -- in ten years, so here we have got a 12% increase. so the expenditure line of commerce-justice-science increases at 12%, which would double that whole line item in about seven years. do you think that's what the american people want? and this does not count. the stimulus package that we passed earlier this year -- my
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wife says quit saying we passed when you voted against it. i didn't vote for it. it was $800 billion, and and $16 billion went into this in addition to that. so we go -- of $64 billion in this bill plus $15 billion on top of that that's already out there. what about this second one, the financial services? it has a 7% increase. inflation is what? 1%? the rate of inflation? and on top of that, we had about a $7 billion infliewtion in financial services from the stimulus package. so last year, the spending was was $22 billion. this year it's $24 billion and added $6.8 billion on top of
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that, $6.9 billion, and you have got about $31 billion, a massive increase. labor, h.h.s., and education, it's also increased at 7%. and it got $27 billion extra from -- $72 billion from extra the stimulus package. i am not counting that it is a 7% increase. i'm talking about the baseline budget. military construction and v.a. veterans -- well, hmmm ... oddly, that's the lowest. it only got a 5% raise. well, 5% is still a big increase when the inflation rate is below 2%, maybe below 1%, and it got $4 billion in the stimulus, not much actually. stimulus gave very, very little to military matters. and what about the state and
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foreign operations? the state department, foreign operations -- how much did that budget line increase over last year? 33%. we don't have to increase state and foreign operations 33%. that's beyond a reasonable amount, by any stretch of the imagination, and it also got increases out of the stimulus package. and what about transportation and h.u.d., housing, urban development? what kind of increase did they get in this year's budget? in a time when the american people are having to cut their budgets, who are trying to save more than they saved before, try to find work, if they're losing jobs, and family members are losing jobs. they're not having overtime like they did before, other things are tightening them up, the fear
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of unimloilt is ou unemployment. what does transportation and h.u.d. get in the baseline budget, not counting the stimulus money? 23% increase. in four years, a 23% increase, maybe less. you double the whole transportation-h.u.d. budget. this is not responsible. by the way, the baseline h.u.d. budget -- transportation-budd budge--the baseline transportation-h.u.d. budget was $54 billion. mr. president, $54 billion. the stimulus package gave $61.8 billion on top of that. so the total of the omnibus bill and all the spending lines
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amounts to an increase of 12%. this is unsustainable. and the 12% does not increase the huge amount of money that was funded through the stimulus package. i see my colleague here, one of our stalwart members of this senate, and i'll yield to him, and i just wanted to be on record as saying, i would love to vote for these bills. i voted for many of these funding bills in the years past, but i'm not going to vote for a package that increases spending of the federal government at 12% when the average american is lucky to have a job and inflation in this country is 1% or 2%. this makes no sense to me. and, remember, this is in addition to the amount of money being spent in the stimulus package. $8 billion for that.
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-- $800 billion for that. if you'd like to know how much money $800 billion amounts to the general fund budget in my state of alabama -- we're an average-sized state -- is $2 billion. the entire total spending of these six bills in this omnibus package is $445 billion. and we spent in january/february, this congress approved, without my support, $800 billion extra to try to stimulate the economy. and, unfortunately, it has been frittered away with not the kind of impact that we certainly need. so i'm worried about what we're doing. i appreciate having this opportunity to share those comments and will speak more about it. i thank the chair and will yield the floor. mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: mr. president, i appreciate my colleague and his great remarks, but i rise today to discuss an important aspect
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of this multifaceted health care reform bill that is now pending on the senate floor. it's tax increases and who will bear the burden of those tax increases. i've actually heard some get on the floor and say there are tax reductions hovment are they kidding? the gargantuan piece of legislation contains plenty of fodder for debate and discussion. i hope this debate and discussion is taking place all over the country, over the family breakfast table, during breaks at work warned the water coolerrerercooler, and of coursn in the united states we've already had many hours of debate about the health care bill with many more likely to come. as one proves, this is a 2,074 pages that comprise the patient protection and affordable care act. this bill. it quickly becomes obvious that this bill encompasses many topics and touches on a
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comprehensive array of issues dealing with our health care system. however, it is not until near the very end of the bill, starting on page 1979, that we find title 9 which deals with revenue offset provisions. perhaps it is because this title is near the end of this seemingly endless bill that we have heard relatively little discussion about the new taxes that it creates. or perhaps it is because the tax title is relatively short, a mere 67 pages. no matter the reason, i believe it is vital that the american people understand something about these new taxes before we are asked to vote on this legislation. this gar gant with us legislation. before i get into the specifics of the new taxes and the tax increases in this bill, i need to inform my fellow utahans and americans everywhere that they are being sold a bill of goods when it comes to these taxes. based on what president obama
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promised during his campaign last year, every individual american taxpayer earning less than $200,000 per year and every family making less than $250,000 per year is justified in believing that this health care, which has been endorsed by the president, would not raise their taxes. here's the direct quote from the candidate -- then-candidate barack obama in new hampshire on september 12, 2008. "i can make a firm pledge. under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase." well, unfortunately, this bill places the cost of health care reform squarely on the backs of the taxpayers and mostly on the 98% of the americans that the president promised to protect from new taxes. that's what it says. president obama's exact words were, "i can make a firm pledge
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under my plan, no family makings less than $250 a year will see any form of tax increase." now, the president went on to promise quoafort nosay that not. however, when one looks at the list of revenue offsets beginning on page 1979, we see that all but five of the 14 revenue raisers included there would hit families making less than $250,000. there is a cornucopia of new taxes on middle-income america americans. in this legislation. a limitation on itemized deductions -- itemized deductions for medical expenses. an excise tax on the high cost of -- on high-cost health
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insurance plans. a new tax on medical devices such as wheelchairs, breast pumps, and syringes used by diabetics for insulin injections. a limit on contributions to flexible spending arptions. an increase on the penalty for unqualified distributions from a health savings account. an increase of the payroll tax and on and on. just look at all those taxes. itemized medical expense deduction, fees on drug manufacturers, high-cost plan tax -- by the way, those fees on drug manufacturers are passes on to you and me and every other consumer most of whom are less than $250,000 a year earners. fees on health insurers, nonqualified health savings account distribution from 10% to 20%. fees on medical device manufacturers. fees on f.s.a.'s, a $2,500 cap on f.s.a.'s. people are suffered from disabilities and other problems. they can't live with that kind of a cap.
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individual mandate penalty excise tax. all of those -- that's just mention ago few of them -- and on and on. some of these tax increases would directly hit many taxpayers making less than $200,000, sthawches 5% excise tax on cosmetic surgery. while others would come in the form of higher fees and penalties that would be passed alo along to the consumer. this is certainly the case with the new called "industry fees" that would be assessed on seferlg sectors of the health industry. who do they think is going to pay for them? you and me and everybody else. look at this chart, chart 3. the biggest single tax increase in this health care bill is also one of the most insidious. this is the 40% excise tax on high-cost snurches. by 2019, 88% or $30.5 billion will be borne by individual taxpayers.
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84% of those will be individuals who make less than $200,000 or families who make less than $250,000. that's according to the joint committee on taxation, upon which i sit. it's a nonpartisan committee. this is the 40% excise tax on health insurance coverage that saves $8,500 for families. the unions are going crazy over there and with good rfnlt the proponents of this idea tell us that it is necessary in order to -- quote -- "bend the cost curve" downward and get the cost of health care under control. however, in reality, this is simply a bastardized version of a concept that might have been effective in discouraging employees for bargaining for too much insurance because it is a tax-free benefit. that is, for corporations that provide t a cap on the value of tax-free employer-provided
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health insurance. the original concept which was discussed at length in the finance committee in early in the process of developing health care legislation this year has merit, if done correctly. by prying direct disincentive to the very individuals who would suffer the tax increase, this original idea would have discouraged purchasing or bargaining for higher-cost insurance simply because of the tax benefit. however, this bill and the one approved by the finance committee does not take this route. instead, it takes the cowardly approach and applies the tax increase at the insurer level. why is this a bad idea? for one thing, the tax increase occurs at a level two steps removed from the individual employee, which is where the decision to buy a less costly plan is made. rather, the tax is assessed on the insurance company, which has no choice but to pass the cost of the tax on to the employer and the employee, who together
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pay the cost of the policy. instead of providing a disincentive for purchasing more health insurance than it necessary, applying the tax at the insurer level simply increases the cost of insurance without the employer and employee necessarily even knowing why the cost has gone up. you wonder why insurance costs go up? so for the sake of avoiding what appears to be a direct tax increase on workers, this approach loses the benefit of the original identified bending down the cost curve by providing a disincentive. but make no mistake, this increased cost of these insurance plans will be passed on to the employees. 40% excise tax on high-cost insurance which most people will have -- and this isn't even -- well -- by 2019, 88% or $30.5 billion will be borne by individual taxpayers.
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84% of those will be individuals who make less than $200,000 or families who make less than $250,000. the joint tax committee. i mean, my gosh, when does it end? moreover, this tax burden will not be on just those the president says he wants to target or tax increases, those making over $200,000 ages individuals or $250,000 per year as a family. far from it. data from the staff of the joint committee on taxation show that only 16% of the $30.5 billion borne by individual taxpayers in 2019 would be paid by those making over $200,000 per year. now, this means that 84% or almost $26 billion for this one year only would be paid by those whom the president promised to protect against tax increases. unfortunately, the excise tax on high-cost insurance policies is not the only way the health care bill would increase the cost of health insurance. to add insult to injury, the
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bill also includes a $6 billion annual fee assessed on providers of health insurance. i've heard this other side just condemn health insurers day in, day out. yet they're adding awful these costs to the health insurance who have to pass them on to the individual citizens. or insure yeas. as i understand it, the ration nail -- the rationale behind this idea is that health insurance companies will be enjoying a windfall and that millions of new customers will become insured for the first time. therefore, the reasoning go the health insurance industry will be earning billions of dollars that they would not have otherwise made, all because of the beneficial aspects of this health reform bill. therefore, since these companies will be reaping all of this -- all this extra profit, why should we not tax them on this windfall in the form of this annual fee? as though those costs aren't
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going to be passed on. this is a bad idea on so many levels. first, it assumes that the insurance companies will actually be gaining all of these new customers. secondly, it astiewms that the insurance companies will be making money from these new customers if they indeed gain them. keep in mind, they're talking now in the back rooms, nobody really knows what they've concluded here. they're talking about -- about putting people into medicare from 55 years old, where today you have to be 65 years of age to be able to qualify for medicare. now they want to do that to 55. what does that mean? well, that means that the sickest of the sick are going to go into medicare. people are going to push them out of the regular policies and get them into medicare and others will go in to medicare so these insurance companies are going to make all the money that the democrats say they are. well, the third assumption is the most troubling and that is that it would be the insurance
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companies themselves who would bear the burden of these fees. these aall dangerous assumptions and the third is downright fallacious. it assumes that corporations suffer the incidence of taxati taxation. as anyone with a modicum of economics training knows, corporations do not bear the burden of taxes. people do. and specifically, it is the people who work for the corporation who own the corporation and who are the customers of the corporation who ultimately pay the tax. they're passed right on to the people. now, let me -- and this is not the only dangerous new excise naks this bill -- tax in this bill. oh, no. we have a whole passel of them. a new excise tax on health insurance providers -- look at this -- excise taxes in the health care bill. excise tax on health insurance providers. new tax on pharmaceuticals. a new tax on medical devices. a new tax on high-cost insurance plans, as we just discussed.
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and the new tax on cosmetic surgery. in the case of competitive markets, an excise tax is generally borne by consumers in the form of higher prices in the long term. at least this is what the staff of the joint committee on taxation said to me in a letter on these insurance industry fees dated october 28, 2009. so why in the world would we want to add a fee to the health insurance industry when we know that it would be passed right on to the consumers of the health insurance in the form of higher insurance costs? that means you and me. that means the employee. that means the person who bears the burden. i thought the purpose of this health reform bill was to rein in health care costs. how much does this so-called health care reform bill cause taxpayers and violate president obama's promise to not raise taxes on the middle displas well, let me tell you -- taxes on the middle class? well, let me tell you about one of the most egregious taxes in this bill. i've always thought one of the major purposes of health care reform was to lower the cost of
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health care expenses to american families and especially to vulnerable american families. therefore, it makes no sense to me that this bill should include this next tax increase, which would largely hit the sickest americans. now, the proposal would increase the threshold from deducting medical expenses from today's level of 7.5% to 10% of the adjusted gross income. now, this seemingly small change is projected by the joint committee on taxation to cost taxpayers over $15 billion over ten years. which taxpayers would suffer this tax increase? the ones earning more than $250,000 per year that president obama pledged would be the only one -- the only americans to be saddled with a tax hike under his administration? hardly. of the many millions of families affected by this change, only a few thousand have incomes over $200,000. now, think about that. the vast majority of the victims of this tax hit would be below
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that figure with many of them being far from wealthy. in fact, a high percentage of the taxpayers affected by this change make less than $75,000 per year. look at this. if income equals $100,000, then you need to incur $10,000 worth of medical expenses before you become eligible for the deduction. millions of taxpayers making less than $200,000 are going to be affected. mr. president, the deduction for medical expenses has been in the tax code for decades. its spurp to provide re -- its purpose is to provide relief to americans who face catastrophic medical expenses in relation to the size of their income. it is designed so that an average or usual amount of health care costs will not trigger the relief. like i say, a family earning $100,000 this year would have to have medical expenses exceeding $7,500 before the deduction kicks in. this does not count what insurance pays but only what the company -- what the family would fork over in out-of-pocket costs. now, even for those with the most basic health insurance,
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7.5% of family mcspent for medical expenses is -- family medical expenses is a large amount. in many cases, this much medical cost relative to income is caused by chronic medical expenses or serious accident or injuries. and this is exactly the point. the current tax law rightly says that if a family has to pay catastrophic or near catastrophic amounts for health care during this year -- or during the year, relief is available. by design, this deduction is there only for those who really need it. so the big question is: why -- why we would want to increase taxes on those with already high medical expenses by making it tougher for them to get relief from catastrophic medical expenses? but the real co- nunn drum is why would -- conundrum is why would we do that this as part of a bill that is supposed to rein in health care costs? it's no wonder that my fellow utahans and americans everywhere are questioning the wisdom of this bill. as so many other features of
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this so-called health care reform plan, this just doesn't make sense. mr. president, there is much, much more that i want to say about the tax increases in this bill. the american taxpayers need to know the truth about what is about to hit them if the majority has its way. i've not yet even mentioned the new industry fee on medical device companies because my home state of utah has many such companies. i plan to address this new fee in a separate floor statement as this debate progresses. let me summarize by reminding my colleagues that the tax increases in this bill fly in the face of the promises made by the president of the united states, the leader of the majority party in congress, who has explicitly endorsed this legislation. the staff of the joint committee on taxation recently conducted a distributional analysis of how four of these tax increase provisions affect american taxpayers. under that analysis, in 2019, individuals making over $75,000 and families making over $75,000 will see their taxes increase
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under this bill. that is equal to 42 million middle-income americans. think about that. 42 million middle-income taxpayers all making less than $200,000 per year and all of whom were told by the president that they would be protected from tax increases to be hit and hit hard by this bill. and this is after taking into account the tax effects of the advanced refundable tax credit for health insurance. and, mr. president, think about this. millions more middle-income taxpayers would be hit by indirect tax increases from the health industry segment fees included in this bill. there is no question that these fees and other excise taxes will be passed through to the individuals who are consumers of the health care products that are being taxed. as we debate this health care bill, it's imperative that the american people know what is in the legislation and how it will affect them. it would be a travesty for us to
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vote on this before these things are fully understood and debated. this is one of the few bills -- of those few bills that come along only once in a generation or so. it is one of those bills that has the potential to really change our country forever, for good or bad. in this case, it is not for good. the tax increases in this bill are unprecedented in many ways. they're not well thought out and they will have a devastating effect on the people that the president has promised to protect. the tax increase aspect alone of this leviathon is enough to demand its defeat here in the united states senate. but there are so many more ill-advised provisions in the other 2,007 pages as well. now, i urge my colleagues to take a good and honest look at these tax increases to make sure they're ready to face that vast majority of their unsuspecting constituents once they discover what they have done to them when this bill -- with this bill, should it pass. mr. president, i'm very concerned about this bill. the american people are very concerned about this bill.
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the polls show that they don't support this bill. i can't believe that my colleagues on the other side are trying to present it as though it's a tax deduction bill when, in fact, it raises taxes in the billions and billions of dolla dollars, most of which go to the middle-class people or lower in transferred payments, other problems that are added to their woes in health care and their very lives as we go through the -- through the -- through this -- all of our lives here in the united states. i'm very concerned about it and i think everybody ought to be concerned about it. this is one-sixth of the american economy, and if we can't get 75 to 80 votes in a bipartisan way, you know it's a lousy bill, and this is a lousy bill. and from what i've heard of the one that even democrats don't know what form it's going to be in, it's going to be even more lousy. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from illinois.
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mr. durbin: mr. president, pending before us now is an omnibus bill which contains six different appropriation bills. it was not our intention to call this omnibus bill but to call each one of the appropriation bills. unfortunately, it's been impossible to reach that goal because of a strategy that has been employed by the republican side of the aisle to slow down any debate on any topic as much as possible, to challenge us with filibusters and force cloture votes and make the senate go into interminable quorum calls. so many times we've called bills that came out of the appropriations committee with overwhelmingly positive votes tom run into roadblocks on the floor, and then after weeks and weeks and weeks of procedural problems tossed our way by the republican side of the aisle, the bill finally called and it passes by an overwhelming margin. the stray give is clear and it's -- the strategy is clear and it's clear on the health care bill as it is on the appropriation bills, that the republican side of the aisle didn't want us to
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complete our business. and so we're attempting to do our best by consolidating into one appropriations bill six different appropriations bills that passed with overwhelmingly positive margins out of the senate appropriations bill -- pardon me, senate appropriations committee. there were three bills that received 30-0 votes in the senate appropriations committee and three others that were reported out 29-1, to give you an idea of the kind of support that we had. we brought up the commerce-, justice, and science appropriation bill on october 6. it took us a month to finish that bill on the floor because of the delay tactics of the other side. that's just the reality of what we face. and we'd run ourselves into the ground day after day, week after week with amendments relating to things of little or no consequence. i cannot count how many acorns -- amendments that we voted on. it would be a forest of oak trees if those acorns were
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planted. but we voted on them regularly, religiously. we made sure we took care of acorn but we didn't take care of the people's business because those amendments just wasted our time. i have a statement here relative to the omnibus bill and my particular appropriation bill, and without objection, i would like to ask that it be entered into the record after my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: and i yield the floor. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask -- we're not in a quorum call. the presiding officer: that is correct. mr. reid: mr. president, we're here today, it's 7:00. my friend -- and i want to make sure the record reflects that he
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is my friend, the republican leader. we scuffle and argue out here but we've done a lot of things together over the years. but i do have to look at this, this direct quote from my friend just this afternoon. "i'm anxious to have health care votes since tuesday. we've had the crapo amendment pending since tuesday. we'd like to vote on amendments. all we're asking is an opportunity to offer amendments and get votes." mr. president, that's what we've been trying to do now for the last several hours. so first of all, i have a cloture motion at the desk with respect to the conference report to accompany h.r. 3288. the presiding officer: the clerk will report. the clerk: cloture motion. we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close the debate on the conference report to accompany h.r. 3288, the
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transportation, h.u.d., related agencies appropriations act for fiscal year 2010. signed by 17 senators as follows -- mr. reid: mr. president, i would ask consent that the reading of the names be waived. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: i ask consent the mandatory quorum be waived. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, i now ask unanimous consent the senate resume consideration of h.r. 3590, the health care bill. , for the purposes of considering the pending crapo motion to commit and the dorgan amendment 2793, as modified, that senator baucus be recognized to call up his side-by-side amendment to the crapo motion, that once that amendment has been reported by number, senator lautenberg be recognized to call up his side-by-side amendment to the dorgan amendment, as modified. that prior to each of the votes specified in this agreement there, be five minutes of debate equally divided and controlled in the usual form, upon the use or yielding back of the time, the senate proceed to vote in relation to the lautenberg amendment. upon disposition of the lautenberg amendment, senate
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then proceed to vote in relation to the darg an amendment. upon disposition of that amendment, the senate proceed to vote in the relation to the baucus amendment that. upon disposition of that amendment, the senate proceed to vote in relation to the crapo motion to commit. that no other amendments be in order during the pendency of this agreement, that the above-referenced amendments and the motion to commit be subject to the affirmative 60-vote threshold and that if they achieve that threshold they be agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon the table that. if they don't achieve that threshold, then they be withdrawn. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. mcconnell: mr. president, reserving the right to object. as i stated earlier today, as the majority leader indicated, we waited until tuesday to vote on additional health care amendments, including the pending crapo amendment to commit on taxes. the other side gave us language to the alternative -- the alternative to senator crapo's motion. it would ensure that the -- crapo's motion would ensure that the taxes would not be raised to
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the middle class. this consent now has us voting on two drug reimportation amendments on the other side. not one, but two on the democratic side. one of which we just received an hour ago and is 100 pages long. we're prepared to return to the health care bill and proceed to two tax-related votes tonight. after those votes, i would suggest we continue to work on the bill and other amendments. i assume there could be votes on the drug reimportation issue and a whole host of other amendments that we've all been anxious to offer at a later time. but at this stage, regretfully, i need to -- would object and propound the following alternative -- is my objection registered? the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. mcconnell: i would say to my friend, the majority leader, could we just get in the cue the
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crapo amendment and the, i believe, baucus side-by side to the crapo amendment. and i would ask consent that we do that, which would give us a way to go forward on two measures that both sides seem to want to vote on? the presiding officer: is there objection? the majority leader. mr. reid: just this afternoon, my friend, the republican leader said, and i quote -- "it is hard to argue with a straight face, we, meaning the republicans, are trying to proceed and amend to have votes on this bill. that's when we desire to do. mr. president, it's obvious that the republicans have said privately, to their friends, and publicly here and to the media that this is a bill they want to kill. to think that they're interested in doing something that's positive about this is -- stretches the imagination.
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and also, let me just say this, i didn't come to this body yesterday. i'm not the expert with procedures here in the senate, but i'm pretty good. and i want everyone to understand that this is a ploy to stop us from proceeding on this bill. we're not going to have a bunch of amendments stacked up. amendments are offered. we know that the drug importation is a difficult vote for the republicans. it's a difficult vote for the democrats. that's what we do around here. every amendment that we've had so far is a 06-vote -- 60-vote margin. this shouldn't be any different. i want the record to reflect that we're ready to vote. he keeps talking about since tuesday. you know, it there have been quite a few things going on around here since tuesday and it's not as if we've been sitting around staring in space. there is good debate here on the floor. it's just that we have amendments that would -- if we move off the motion that they
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have filed, it creates a procedural issue that would -- we would have difficulty getting out of and that's why they're wanting to do that. we have to clear the deck, continue offering amendments as we have. i think that's the right way to do it. so, mr. president, i object. the presiding officer: objection is heard. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: could i say, at the risk of being redundant, and i don't want to get into a spirited debate with my friend and colleague over this, but the facts are we were just handed a 100-page lautenberg amendment an hour ago, i have 39 members interested in that, it is impossible for me to clear voting on an amendment 100 pages in duration i just got an hour ago. i was hopeful that it may be a good way forward that we vote on the crapo amendment which everybody understand, that has been out there since tuesday and the sense of the senate resolution that is fairly brief,
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i assume, a very brief sense of the senate that the senate baucus was going to measure. both sides fully understand those two measures. they're not 100 pages long and enormously complicated and we didn't just receive them. so i don't want to get into -- an extensive back and forth with the majority leader. but i would say to him, through the chair sincerely, it strikes me a good way to just get started would be to vote on these two amendments, the crapo and baucus amendment that both sides fully understand. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: this is no sucker punch that the democrats leveled to the republicans. this amendment was previously offered by senator cochran, a republican. this something that people have known for a long time. i understand people may have forgotten what was in that. they can have the evening to looking to it over. but i will renew my request tomorrow. we're ready to legislate. mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i just learned
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something from the majority leader, that, in fact, this is an amendment that has been around before. we just learned that from his comment having just received it shortly ago. nevertheless, we'll continue to talk and see if we can't move forward and make progress and give both sides the votes that they're clearly interested in having. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i appreciate the attitude of the republican leader. i think it's fair that they have a chance to look at that amendment. we'll be here in the morning to try to work through this. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new jersey. a senator: what is the pending business before the senate? the presiding officer: the pending business is the conference report. mr. menendez: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise to speak about the omnibus conference bill before the senate and specifically about provisions on cuba that have not passed the senate and have not been
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subjected to debate by this body. these provisions would undo current law where the castro regime would have to pay in advance of shipment for goods being sold to them because of their terrible credit history. yes, cuba's credit history is horrible. the par is club of taris club -- the paris club has reported that they have not paid $30 million in debt, that's the worst credit record in the world. if the cuban government has put off paying those who it owes dz 30dz billion to, why does anyone think that it would meet new obligation to american farmers? considering the economic crisis we're facing right now, we need to focus on collusions for
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hard-working americans, not subsidies for a brutal dictatorship. we should evaluate how to encourage the regime to allow a legitimate opening. not in terms of cell phones and hotel rooms that cubans can't afford, but in terms of right to organize, right to think and speak what they believe. however, what we're doing with this omnibus bill, mr. president, is far from that resaevaluation and the process y which the changes have been forced upon this body is so deeply offensive to me and so deeply undemocratic, that i have no intention -- no intention of continuing to vote for omnibus appropriation bills if they're going to jam foreign policy changes down throats of members in what some consider must-pass bills. and i'm putting my colleagues on notice. you may have the wherewithal to do that, you know, because you have a committee purnl purge or
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opportunity to stick something in on the floor of the senate in what you think is a muss-pass bill -- must-pass bill, but don't expect me to cast a vote in that bill. by change the definition of what is being changed in this omnibus bill of what we call cash in advance is exhibited by a europa press report. i want to quote from that press report -- quote --"during a trade fair this month in havana, germany's ambassador to cuba, claude robert elner, told german businessmen that cuba's debt to the german government had been forgiven -- forgiven in hopes that cuba will meet its debt obligation to them." meaning to the businessmen. in other words, german taxpayers will now be responsible for bailing out its private sector
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and by implication the castro regime. thanks to the u.s. policy we've had up to now of requiring the castro regime to pay cash in advance for its purchase of agricultural products, u.s. taxpayers could be rest assured that the same wouldn't happen to them. that we wouldn't have to forgive any debt or obligations in order to make sure that private business people got paid by the regime because otherwise they would be left defaulted. the castro regime has mastered the art of making some european governments acquiesce to its every whim even if it means a free pass for its daunting repression. how do they do it? it's rather simple. they give european countries a choice, either you do what we say or we will freeze your national bank account and default on any debt. to me that -- that's also known as blackmail.
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let's take spain, for example. recently european news services reported that spain has begun a diplomatic offensive to convince the castro regime to unblock nearly $266 million euros or the regive lent of -- equivalent o of $408 million to -- these are spanish companies doing business in cuba and now can't get access to their money. so what does the spanish government do? not coincidentally, the spanish government announced upon assuming the presidency of the european union in 2010, it would enter into a new bilateral agreement with the castro regime that would replace the current kiewrpian union policy which contains diplomatic sanctions for human rights violations.
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the castro regime made it clear to spain that the current european policy was an insurmountable obstacle. and i might add for spanish nationals and companies to get their money back. therefore, the spanish government immediately responded to what i consider to be blackmail. and on a recent visit to cuba, spain's foreign minister, met three hours with raoul castro, he didn't get one concession, not one, on human rights. but he did get $300 million that cuba owed to spanish companies that do business inside of cuba. is that what the united states of america intends to do? so the lesson for dictators is, go ahead and freeze the bank accounts of other countries' companies and create debt that you don't intend to pay for and you get a free pass.
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look at another article, a recent reuters article indicates that cuba blocks access to foreign business bank accounts. let me quote from that article, many foreign suppliers an investors in cuba are still unable to repatriate hundreds of millions of dollars from local accounts almost a year after cuban authority block them because of the financial crisis foreign diplomats and businessmen say. it says in the article -- quote -- "the businessman who asked not to be identified because they are fearful, if they are, said they were increasingly frustrated because the communist authorities refuse to offer explanations or solutions for the situation which stems from a cash crunch in the cuban economy triggered by the global downturn and hurricane damage last year."
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this is a quote, i have repeatedly e-mailed, visited the offices and sent my representative to the offices of a company i did business with for years and which owes me money and they simply refuse to talk to me, a canadian businessman told reuters. the article goes on -- "delegations from foreign banks and investment funds holding commercial paper from cuba state banks have repeatedly traveled to cuba this year, seeking answers from the central bank or other authorities without success. representatives of some companies with investment of joint ventures on the island say they were bracing for the possibility of not being able to repatriate year-end dividends paid to their accounts in cuba. "now, let's remember that some 90% of the country's economic activity is in the regime's hands, in the state's hands. attaches and representatives in cuba say most of their nationals
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doing business with the caribbean islands still face payment problems. that's all from that article. these are all those doing business with cuba now finding themselves and their money trapped. last week, the russian federation's audit chamber revealed the cuban regime failed on three occasions to pay installments on the equivalent of $355 million in a credit deal it signed with russia in september of 2006. and that's just the latest episode nasa georgia that in 2009 -- episode in a saga that in 2009 alone reports first from mexico and spain's newspapers, that hundreds of foreign companies that transacramento business with the cuban regime's authorities have had their accounts frozen, frozen since january of 2009. by the regime-owned bank that is solely empowered to conduct commercial banking operations in that country.
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secondly, a june 9, 2009, reuters article said, and i quote -- "cuba has rolled over 200 million euros in bond issues that were due this may as the country's central bank asked for another year to repay for and holders of the debt, financial sources in london and havana said this week." those are direct quotes from those articles. as a reminder, in castro's cuba, you can only do business with the regime because private business activity is strictly restricted. so the real reason why so many whose work is often subsidized by business interests advocate cuba policy changes is about money and commerce, not about freedom and democracy. and it makes me wonder why those who spent hours and hours in havana listening to castro's soliloquies cannot find minutes, minutes for human rights and
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democracy activists. it make me wonder why those who go and enjoy the son of cuba will not -- the sun of cuba will not shine the light of freedom on its jails full of political prisoners. they advocate for labor rights in the united states but they are willing to accept forced labor inside of cuba. they talk about democracy in burma but they are willing to sip the rum with cuba's dictators. which takes me to a place in cuba called placentas. placentas is a city in the villa glada province in the center of cuba, in the heart of the island, the center of cuba. in other words, it's not a beachside resort frequented by canadian and european tourists. placentas is also the home of this couple, the home of cuban political prisoner and
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pro-democracy leader jorge luis garcia antunas, generally known as antunas. on march 15, 1990, a then-25-year-old antunas stood at the center square of placentas, listening to the government's official radio transmission, calling for the fourth congress of the communist party. he spontaneously began to shout shout -- quote -- "what we want and what we need are like the ones performed in eastern europe." immediately, he was beaten by state security agents, charged with oral enemy propaganda and imprisoned. mr. president, that would begin a 17-year prison term which is about half of his current life that he has spent in prison. his crime: saying we need the
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type of changes that took place in eastern europe. for that, 17 years in prison. he was not released until 2007. he is now 45 years old. hopefully with an entire life ahead of him. the castro regime would love for mr. antunas and his wife, who is also a pro-democracy activist -- this says in spanish, "we are all the resistors." and "long live human rights." they would love for him to leave the island permanently, but he refuse toss do so. he has decided to stay in cuba and demand the human and civil rights of the cuban people be respected. for this, he has been re-arrested over 30 times since 2007. last week, at that same center
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in that small town of placentas where he had been originally arrested simply for saying that what we need is a change as we saw in eastern europe, antunas and other local pro-democracy leaders gathered to honor cuba's current political prisoners, people who simply through peaceful means tried to create changes for democracy and human rights inside of their country and get arrested and languish in jail. antunas and his colleagues were not educated on the importance of human rights and civil disobedience by foreign tourists, as some of my colleagues suggest would happen, and we need to send foreign tourists to educate the humans about human rights and civil disobedience. he and all of those link wishing in castro's jails understand about human rights and civil
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disobedience in a way to try to capture your rights. unwittingly, though, foreign tourists finance their repression. they give money to the regime that ultimately gives them the state security forces that throw people like antunas in jail. so let me read an open letter that just came out boy mr. antunas that was sent to cuba's dictator raul castro, and i'm going to quote from an english translation, although i would ask unanimous consent to put his spanish version in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. menendez: it says, "mr. raul castro" -- this is mr. antunas speaking now -- "my name is luis antunas, a former political prisoner. something far from alien that is common due to the nature of politics in your government. for several months now, my
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spouse and i find ourselves under forced house arrest by your political police. the week before the wanas concert, a high-ranking state security official, upon arresting me, informed me that there had been an order for my arrest throughout the island of cuba, wherever i might be found. he emphasized that they were going to be watching every step i take. and since that date, i have lost count of how many times i have been arrested. the majority of times with violence. mr. dictator, allow me a few questions that may help you clarify some doubts among those compatriots of mine who were hopeful that your government would diminish repression or that even democratic openings could be made." he poses this question, "with
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what right do the authorities, without a prior crime being committed, detain and impede the free movement of their citizens in violation of a universally recognized right? what feelings could move a man like captain elil gonzalez to beat my wife, a defenseless woman so brutally, causing lasting effect to her bones for the sole act of arriving at a radio station to denounce with evidence the torture that her brother received in a cuban prison? or is it that for you there are only five families that exist in our country that have the right to protest and demand justice for their jailed relatives? should you not be ashamed that your corporal and police officers remain stationed for days at the corner of my home to impede us from leaving our house and monitoring our movements in
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our own city? where is the professionalism and ethics of your subordinates that with their ridiculous operations provoke the mockery of the populist towards these persons on almost a daily basis? how do you feel when you encourage or allow these persons who call themselves men to beat and drag women through the streets, such as the maris portias, annaortiaga, edith sparas, and most recently the well-noan blogger -- well-known blogger johann hispanis." i added that, she is a well-known blogger, internationally known, recently beaten as she was trying to go to a place of civil
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disobedience. "how can you and your subordinates sleep calmly after deliberately and maliciously physically knocking down on more than one occasion idonis contreras who is several months pregnant? how can you and your government speak about the battle of ideas when you are constantly repressing ideas through beatings, arrests, and years of incarceration? maybe your followers cannot find or even attempt to find a response. however, i find myself in the long list of persons that are not afraid to respond. you act this way because you are a cruel man, and insensible to the pain and suffering of others. you act this way because you are faithful to your antidemocratic and dictatorial volkswagen, because you are convinced that dictatorships like the -- dictatorial vocation, because you are convinced that the dictators like the ones you preside over can be only maintained through terror and
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because a minute left open can lead to the loss of the one thing you are interested in, which is maintaining yourself in power." this is him speaking now, mr. antunas." referring to my case in particular, i will respond to you beforehand the concrete motives of your continued repression against my person. your government and your servants in the repressive corps cannot forgive my two biggest and only crimes. first, that despite almost two decades of torture and cruel and inhuman punishment during my unjust and severe sanction, you could not break my dignity and my position as a political prisoner. and second, because even though i am accosted and brutalized and above all risk returning to prison, i have taken the decision not to leave my country in which i will continue struggling for a change that i
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believe is both necessary and inevitable." and the letter is signed from placentas jorge luis antunas, december, 2009. mr. president, this is the voice of those who languish under castro's brutal dictatorship. as you can see, mr. antunas is an afro-cuban, not part of the white elite of the regime's dictatorship, not what the regime tells the world about that, you know, cubans who are all white are -- seek to oppose the dictatorship. most of the movement for democracy inside of cuba are afro-cubans. inside of cuba, they are subjected to a citizenship status that is less than any human being should be subjected to.
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antunas' voice rings in my head, mr. president. it tugs at my conscience. his words -- "despite almost two decades of torture and cruel and inhuman punishment during my unjust, you can not break my dignity and my position as a political prisoner, because even though i am accosted and brutalized and above all risk returning to prison, i have taken the decision not to leave my country in which i will continue struggling for a change i believe is both necessary and inevitable." antunas is right: change in cuba is inevitable, but the united states needs to be a catalyst of that change. it does not need to be a sustainer of that dictatorship. it does not need to create an
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infusion of money that only goes to a regime that ultimately uses it, not to put more food on the plates of cuban families but to brutalize people like mr. antunas. these are the human right activists that some would turn their back on for the sake of doing business. i guess the only thing that they can see is the color of money. well, not me, not now, and not ever. thank you, mr. president. with that, i yield the floor. mr. grassley: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: i don't rise to add to what the senator from new jersey said but i'd like to take an opportunity to tell him i agree with him and i appreciate his leadership over several years, even years before he came to the united states senate, on that issue. and often i'm asked in my state, because we're -- we can export so much agricultural stuff, if i would vote to open up trade wi
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with -- with cuba. and i said, i'm willing to open up trade for cuba when they give political freedom and economic freedom to the people of that country because this dictator has run cuba into the most impoverished country in the world from a time before his taking over, they had a very viable middle class and were a very prosperous country. so i want you to know that i stand ready to help you on some of the things that you're trying to do in that area. mr. menendez: if the senator would yield, i just want to thank the distinguished senator from iowa for his comments and for the position that he has taken over a long period of ti time. maybe not the easiest but i believe the one that is morally correct and that, most importantly, on that day, which i believe is sooner rather than later, in which cubans are free, they will remember who stood with them in the midst of their
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tyranny and who did not. and that will make all the difference in the world. so thank you very much. mr. grassley: thank you. mr. president, i come to the floor at this point to give some breadth to a statement that was made on the floor earlier today and it was made by my friend, senator baucus. and i don't take offense to what he said because i sense a great deal of frustration in his statement. and i'm going to read what he said so you know what i'm reacting to. and the reason i don't take offense to what he said is because he and i have worked so closely together over ten years as one or the other of us being chairman of the senate finance committee, that we have such an understanding of each other. and just prior to the remarks
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i'm going to read, he had spoken positively about senator enzi and me. so i want my colleagues to know that this statement is not made out of anger, that i'm going to give a rebuttal to. quote -- "well, we kept working bipartisan, working together for days and days, hours and hours and then fortunately, mr. president, it got to the point where i'm just calling it as i see it, i can't -- i -- one of my feelings is i'm too honest about things and it's the republicans started to walk aw away. they pulled away from the table. they had to leave. i ask you why, why did that happen? and the answer is, to be totally fair and above board, is -- and
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above board is because their leadership asked them to. their leadership asked them to become disengaged from the process. i know that to be a fact. why did their leadership ask republicans to leave and become disengaged from the process? to be totally candid, they wanted to score political points by just attacking this bill. they were not here to help, help be constructive, to find bipartisan solutions. they were for awhile. then when the rubber started to meet the road, it came time to try to make some decisions. they left and began to attack and began to attack." i'd like to take a few minutes, then, to respond to these remarks that i just read. it was asserted through these remarks on the floor that some
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republicans in the so-called group of six were directed by the senate republican leadership to cease participating in partisan talks. the group of six referred to the six bipartisan members of the senate finance committee. on the democratic side, the members were my friends, three chairmen, including the finance committee chairman, senator baucus, budget committee chairman, senator conrad, and energy committee chairman, senator bingaman. all are senior members of the democratic caucus. on the republican side, the three members included senator snowe, ranking member of the small business committee; senator enzi, ranking member of the health, education, labor, and pension committee; and this senator. senator snowe and enzi are senior members of the republican
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conference. chairman baucus convened this working group with the singular goal of a bipartisan health care reform bill. we met for several weeks up in the machine monday room of chairman baucus' office. i'd agree with the way participating members have described these discussions. they were well-informed, thoughtful, provocative, challenging, and frustrating all at the same time. but i would say that the months that we negotiated, there was never once anyone walked away from the table, there was never once that there were any harsh words. while we were engaged in those discussions, there was constant pressure from folks outside the room for us to reach a quick deal. that pressure came from the white house, it came from the democratic leadership, it came from advocacy groups outside,
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and it came from many media folks covering the day-by-day meetings. to be fair, the senate republican leadership was very concerned that some of the direction the policy -- in some of the directions that the policy discussions were taking in the group of six. that concern grew, particularly after the very partisan "help" committee markup occurred. senator hatch left the original group of seven because of the character and result of the "help" committee markup. most importantly, the senate republican leadership were concerned that a bipartisan finance committee bill would be could opted into a -- would be co-opted into a partisan bill when the democratic leadership merged the bill. senator snowe, enzi and i anticipated that concern. to be fair to senator baucus, as he was negotiating with us, he tried to convince us that it would be -- we'd be very much a
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part of those merging of the bills, but i -- i would -- and he offered that in good faith and i believe him, would even believe him today saying that. but seeing how neither the "help" committee or the finance committee was as involved as they should have been and what senator reid put together in this 2,074-page bill, i wonder whether senator baucus could have, if we had a bipartisan agreement, actually carry out that guarantee. so from the get-go, we republican members of the group of six, to make sure that we were a part of that process that i just described that senator baucus told us we would be, we asked for assurances from the white house and from the senate democratic leadership on the next step in the legislative process if we, in fact, did
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arrive at a bipartisan agreement. i also found that many in the broader group of republicans that provided the bipartisan glue for the "chip" bill of 2008 had similar concerns. all republicans had process concerns, like where would it go once it left the senate finance committee. we wanted assurances and here's what we wanted. the assurances requested boiled down to a good-faith promise that the bipartisan finance committee health care bill would not morph into a partisan health care reform bill when majority leader reid merged the two committee bills. we wanted to make sure the bipartisan character of a bipartisan finance committee bill was going to be retained through these next steps.
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to do otherwise would be like getting on a bus and not knowing where the bus was going or how much the bus ticket would cost. the assurances were also requested with respect to a conference between the house and senate. the assurances were similar to assurances requested by senator reid and made by then-majority republican leadership during the period of 2005 and 2006. the democratic minority leader at that time made these assurances a condition to letting major regular order finance committee bills even go to conference. as an example, take a look at the "congressional record" and you'll see the assurances made by then-majority leader frist to then-minority leader reid. these requests were made repeatedly to the democratic
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leadership, publicly and privately, about how the post-committee action of the bipartisan group would be handled in the merger with the "help" committee bill. it was the focus of a july 8 lunchtime face-to-face meeting at the majority leader's offices with senators reid, baucus, conrad, bingaman, snowe, enzi and myself. the bottom-line response from senator reid at that meeting that was he needed 60 votes. i guess the implication was that despite the fact that the democratic caucus contained 60 members then and now, senator reid didn't think it was possible to secure the votes of all the members of his caucus. a restatement of the reality of the senate rules was not the assurances that the three republican senators, this one included, sought from senator reid. senator reid himself recognized the validity of this request in
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an august 8 washingto "washingt" article, and so i would ask unanimous consent to insert it in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. grassley: and i'm going to quote in part from the article. quote -- "the closer these negotiations move to striking a deal, the more fraught the discussion become by issues of trust and political will. among republicans, the pressure is especially acute. all three g.o.p. senators fear they will be sidelined once the bill is approved at the committee level. with their names invoked to demonstrate bipartisanship, even as they're left with no say over the final product as it is meshed with the senate health panel's version and ultimately with the house bill." republicans were also worried that the bipartisan product could be lifted into a partisan
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reconciliation bill, so i quote further from that same "post" article. "reid said he already provided the republicans with some assurances and added 'i'll do more, if necessary.'." and i'm continuing to quote now from the "post" article. he said of g.o.p.'s concerns -- quote -- "i don't blame them." and he added that considering the political realities of the senate, with its large number of moderate democrats, health care reform would have to gain significant bipartisan support to cross the finish line. president obama and senate democratic leadership set a deadline of september 15 for the bipartisan group of six to produce a proposal. if the proposal were not available by then, the president and senate democratic leadership made it clear that the plug
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would be pulled on further bipartisan talks. i point that out because that's very significant. a powerful member of the senate democratic leadership, the senior senator from new york, made it crystal clear that the senate democratic leadership would pull the plug. that member, who is very smart and articulate, made it as transparent as possible that the september 15 deadline was more important than a bipartisan deal. and i ask you to go back and look at media reports. the group of six were unable to reach a deal on contentious issues, like abortion, the individual mandate, and financing issues by white house democratic leadership deadline. chairman baucus had to move forward and i respect the pressure my friend from montana was under. i've been there myself. but the record needs to be
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correctly made here. that september 15 deadline was not a republican deadline. it was a deadline imposed by the white house, and the senate democratic leadership. i might say, it wasn't just the g.o.p. deadline, it was a -- it was not a deadline for the group of six either. i didn't sense that from the three democratic members, that they agreed with that. so the democratic leadership pulled the plug on the talks. again, check the press reports, they pulled the plug. senator enzi and i could not agree to the product at that point because of substantive issues that were resolved against us and the failure of the white house or the senate democratic leadership to deliver on those process assurances that we asked for. senator snowe did have substantive issues -- senator
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snowe had -- did have substantive issues resolved sufficiently at the finance committee markup so that she could support the bill. i might note today that i heard senator snowe caution the democrats as she gave them the boost from her vote in the finance committee. and that was right after the bill passed. she made it clear that her vote for later stages would depend in part, on data, on the question whether the product makes health care more affordable. her letter to c.b.o. dated december 3, lays out the decision. the bill merge stage all of the senate republicans' worst fears were confirmed, but it was
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especially telling to senator enzi and me. my sense is that senator snowe appreciated it more than any other member of our conference. the bottom line was that the majority leader's merged bill was constructed in such a partisan way that senator snowe's input was cast aside. so let's be clear, the senate republicans did not set deadlines. the senate republicans did not threaten to go their own way if the deadlines weren't met. even today the pending motion from this side of the aisle puts the question to the senate this way: take the bill back to the finance committee. mr. president, as the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. as i look back on the process, i'd make these object observati,
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there was an uncanny disconnect between those inside and outside of the room, many in the political spectrum seemed to want a reform deal just to have a deep they didn't seem to be that curious about the contents. perhaps for some of those folks it was a bit of an imperative to draw on the goodwill to draw on any president -- that any president has in the first few months of office. for those of us in the room, meaning the room where the negotiations were going on, there was a realization that we were tackling, as chairman baucus as described it, an extremely complex set of issues. we learned very quickly that closing the loop on the policy issues, let alone finding political consensus, was not easy. the pressure to close a deal by
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july 4th recess was overwhelming. my friend, the chairman, wisely pushed back and said we get a deal when we reach a bipartisan deal. the group of six were unable to reach a deal on contentious issues like abortion, individual mandate, and financing issues faced by the white house democratic leadership deadline. chairman baucus had to move. in my heart i feel he'd rather not have that sort of pressure or make that decision. but that was not our deadline. it was a deadline imposed by the white house. the senate democratic leadership, they pulled the plug on the talks. go check the public comments and the press reports -- in the press reports. they pulled the plug, senator kennedy and senator enzi and i could not agree to a product at
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that point because of the substantive issues that were very much involved. i want to make it very clear for this are senator of the three republicans that were negotiating, kind of in summary, that republican leadership, i think, had questions about a lot of things that were going on in those negotiations. but never once did senator mcconnell, my leader, say to me, get out of there. that's the impression that was left this morning. and i can only say that i think i've established a -- a reputation in the united states senate, particularly while i was chairman of the senate finance committee, that i didn't listen to either the white house or
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people enemy -- in -- in leadership necessarily when i thought a bipartisan compromise was the only way to get things done. and i suppose there's a whole long list of things that i ought to write down before i make this statement, but i can only think of two or three right now that i can be sure of that i can say in an intellectually honest way that i stood up to the bush white house when i was chairman of the committee. they came out immediately for -- a little bit more than a 1.7 billion tax cut in 2001. i made a decision early on it wasn't good for the economy and it wasn't possible. so we passed much smaller -- in a bipartisan way a much smaller tax bill in that year. and yet it was the biggest tax cut in the history of the
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country. and in 2003 when the white house and house republican in the majority at that time said that we had to have a $700 billion tax cut in addition to the tax cut that was passed in 2001, there weren't votes here in the united states senate, among just republicans, to get it done. and so to secure the votes to get it done, we had to limit it to half that amount of money, or just a little bit more than half that amount of money. and in order to get those votes, contrary to the $700 billion tax cut that the bush white house wanted and the house republicans wanted that we couldn't get through here, i said i will not come out of conference with a tax cut more than that amount of
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roughly $300 billion. and we got that done by just the bare majority to get it done. i stood up to the white house and the house republican leadership that thought we shouldn't do anything that was short of that full $700 billion. and there's been other health care bills here very recently where i stood up against the white house and against our -- our republican leadership. so i think that i have developed a reputation where i think i'm going to do what's right for state of iowa and for our country and i'm going to try to represent a republican point of view as best i can considering, first, the country and my own constituency. and then when it comes to whether or not people in this
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body or outside of this body might think that for their whole -- for the whole months of may, june, and july and through august, with a couple of meetings we had during the month of august, that we were just dragging our feet to kill a health care reform bill. i want to ask people if they would think that i wouldn't have better things to do with my time than to have 24 different meetings, just one-on-one with chairman baucus or that i wouldn't have more than something else to do than just have 31 meetings with the group of six. and these are not just short meetings. these were meetings that lasted hours. and there was another group of people, grassley, baucus, and others. sometimes that included people from the "help" committee and
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the budget committee. but we had 25 meetings like that. and -- and i just wonder if people think we would just be meeting and spending all those hours just to make sure that nothing happened around here. no. every one of the 100 senators in this body, if you were to ask them, would suggest changes in health care that need to be made. and even in that 2,074-page bill, there are some things that the most conservative people in this country would think ought to be done. but we wouldn't be -- so we all know to some extent something's got to be done about this system. and we really worked for a long period of time thinking we'd
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have a -- could have something bipartisan. but it just didn't work out that way and now we're at a point where we have a partisan bill. and that's not the way that you should handle an issue like health care reform. you know, just think of the word health. health care. it deals with the life and death of 306 million americans. just think you're restrucking one-sixth of the -- restructuring one-sixth of the economy. and senator baucus and i started out in january and february saying to everybody we met and every group we talked to that something this momentous ought to be passing with 75 or 80 votes, not just 60 votes. and maybe one of the times that the white house decided to pull the plug on september the 15th, may have come on august the 5th when we -- the group of six had our last meeting with president obama.
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he was the only one from the white house there, the six of us, very casual discussion. i've said this before, so i'm not saying something that hasn't been said, but senator -- or president obama made one request to me and i asked him a question. i said for my part i said, you know it would make it a heck of a lot easier to get a bipartisan agreement if you could say you would sign a bill without a public option in it. that's no different than what i said to him on march the 5th when i was at the white house that the public option was a major impediment to getting a bipartisan agreement. and then he asked me if i would be willing to be one of three republicans, along with the rest of the democrats, to provide 60 votes? and my answer was, up front, no. and as i told him, you can clarify with senator baucus, sitting right here beside you,
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that four or five months before that, i told senator baucus that don't plan on three republicans providing the margin. that we were here to help get a broad base consensus. as senator baucus and i said earlier on this year, that something this massive ought to pass with a bipartisan -- wide bipartisan majority. i -- mr. president, i'm going to yield the floor at this point and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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