Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

A Second Opinion

Sen. John Barrasso

legislator photo

Madam President, I come to the floor because of a new report that has come out by the chief economist of Gallup, the polling organization, dated today, February 15, 2012. The headline is: ``Health Costs, Gov't Regulations Curb Small Business Hiring.''

As a Member of the Senate as well as a physician who has taken care of families across the State of Wyoming for about a quarter of a century, I am concerned about jobs in this country, the economy in this country, and also the health care needs of the American people, which is why week after week I come to the Senate floor with a doctor's second opinion about a health care law that was supposed to give people what they were looking for, which was the care they need, from the doctor they want, at a cost they can afford.

Regrettably, what this President and this Senate and this House--at the time controlled by the Democrats--gave them is something very different. So the result of this report today--first line: U.S. small business owners who aren't hiring, that is 85 percent of the 600 who were surveyed, those small business owners who are not hiring are being asked: Why not?

Nearly half the small business owners point to the potential health care costs and government regulations as two big reasons. Those worried about the potential cost of health care: 48 percent. Those worried about new government regulations: 46 percent.

But yet when the President addressed the Nation about health care, what he promised was that if people liked the care they had, they could keep it, and they would see their premiums drop by $2,500 a year a family.

When I have townhall meetings, I ask how many people believe the health care costs are going to go up as a result of the health care law. Every hand goes up in the room. So the President has misled the American people both in terms of the cost of the health care law as well as he misled the people in regard to regulations. He stood in front of us in the House of Representatives as he gave his State of the Union Address and talked about removing expensive regulations. But that is not what the small business owners, those who create the jobs in this country, that is not what they are finding.

Then the President came out with his budget on Monday. It is his fiscal year 2013 budget. As I have said before, it is ``debt on arrival.'' The Obama budget spends $3.8 trillion. It runs a deficit of nearly $1 trillion. It raises taxes by nearly $1.9 trillion. It is the largest tax increase in the history of our country, and it is the fourth year in a row to run a deficit of over $1 trillion.

Yet the President goes on. To me, this is another clear example of President Obama's lack of leadership and his bad habit of saying one thing and doing the exact opposite. Instead of saving money, which he promises, he just spends more. Instead of leveling with the American people about our fiscal future, he misleads them.

So I would like to focus on one specific part of this budget. It is the part referring to and regarding the President's health care law. As we all remember, the President promised the American people repeatedly, not just once but repeatedly, that his health care reform would not add a dime to the deficit. Two years later, the American people know that is just not true. In fact, the President's new budget asks for almost $1 billion--$1 billion, that is 1,000 million--$1 billion to fund his health care exchange.

As The Hill newspaper recently reported, ``The health reform law did not set aside any money specifically for the creation of the Federal exchanges.'' Let me repeat that. The health care law did not set aside any money specifically for the creation of the Federal exchanges.

Two years ago, did the President and my friends on the other side of the aisle seriously believe Washington would be able to implement an unprecedented health care exchange for free, that it would just be free? Of course not. But the fact is, they knowingly--knowingly--ignored the costs of the President's major new entitlement program. Why?

To try to score a political victory. What do we know about that victory? We know it is going to be bad for patients, bad for the providers, the nurses and doctors who take care of those patients, and bad for the American taxpayers. The health care law, when it was crammed down the throats of the American people and forced through Congress, we knew it was unpopular then, and we know it is even more unpopular today.

The whole time the Democrats were drafting the bill behind closed doors, right outside this Senate Chamber, they knew it would cost American taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. But they did not want to admit it. They did not admit it. They refused to admit it. So they shaded the numbers. They punted this down the road. Here we are 2 years later and now they are finally trying to pay for it--listed in the President's budget.

To make matters worse, the 2013 Obama budget wants to spend $290 million for ``consumer beneficiary education and outreach'' within the exchanges. What does this mean? It basically means they want to educate Americans about the exchanges in the health care law to the tune of 290 million of taxpayer dollars.

I think it is important to keep the American people informed. But my question is: Why are President Obama and the Democrats in Congress focused on educating people about the health care law now? Why? Why didn't they take the time 2 years ago to educate the American people about the exchanges and the costs of doing this?

We know the reason. The reason is because they knew the American people would never support the new law, would never give up their freedoms. Instead, the White House and Democrats in Congress covered up the costs, drafted the bill behind closed doors, and jammed it through Congress.

Now the financial bills are coming due, but the checks are not in the mail. The United States is running out of money and running out of money fast. Instead of proposing a serious budget that would get our country back on the right track, the President has put forward not a serious budget but a campaign document. No matter what he says, he is much more interested in winning votes now than in winning what he calls the future.

Earlier this week, the President spoke to students at a community college. He said his budget would make their futures brighter. I watched on television as he said that. His words could not have been further from the truth. The fact is, the President and his budget will make these students have to work even harder to pay off the Nation's increasingly growing debt. These students and all future generations of Americans will pay for the choices they never made and programs they do not want.

The new $800 million pricetag on the exchanges is bad, and that is just the beginning. In fact, the cost of the President's health care law is going to continue to skyrocket each and every year. When we are already $15 trillion in debt, we cannot allow this health care law to move forward. When we look at trillion-dollar deficits for each of the 4 years of the Obama Presidency, we say this cannot continue. Yet when we look at this budget, it adds $11 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years.

We need to repeal this health care law. We need to replace it with something that will not make it harder for future generations to get out of debt, and we need to pass a law that will allow Americans to get what they wanted in the first place; the care they need, from a doctor they want, at a price they can afford.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. Jeff Merkley

legislator photo

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

Without objection, it is so ordered.