Providing for Consideration of H.J. Res. 59, Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 19, 2013
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BURGESS. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, of course we are here today to discuss the rule that will allow the continuing resolution to come to the floor; and coupled with the continuing resolution is language that will forever affect the funding for what is known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Let us pause for a moment to remember how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was visited upon the United States of America.

This was not something that was a product of any House hearing. This was not something that was a product of the House in any way. This was a product of the Senate Finance Committee; developed between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2009; put on the floor of the Senate on what I like to describe as the ``darkest evening of the year'' in a cloture vote, December 21, 2009; followed by a vote by the Senate on Christmas Eve.

Many of you will remember that day. There was a snowstorm descending upon Washington, D.C. The Senators wanted to get home, they wanted to get out of town, so they simply voted one after the other until they got the 60 votes for the Affordable Care Act and then left town under the cover of darkness. They never thought that what they were voting on on Christmas Eve 2009 would ever become law.

But a funny thing happened. A dog ate my homework, and I turned in the rough draft and it accidentally got signed by the President 3 months later. That's where we are today. That's why this law has been so difficult to implement. That's why the American people have never embraced this. And now more recent polling in the past several days shows that the American people actually reject what is being visited upon them.

A headline in The Wall Street Journal yesterday, Walgreens has told their employees, well, guess what, we're not going to pay for coverage any longer; we will give you money. Good luck in the exchanges, and we'll see you on the other side. UPS dropping family coverage. The unions wrote the minority leader in the House of Representatives and the majority leader in the Senate and said: please help us. Please help us. We've helped you. We've manned your phone banks; we walked neighborhoods for you; we got you elected. The administration is not listening to us. You have broken the contract with the middle class by voiding the 40-hour work week. By redefining full-time employment as 30 hours, you have essentially broken the back of the middle class.

The American people, regardless of political persuasion, are crying out for our help. Fortunately, today and tomorrow, we are going to be able to provide them that help.

We are frequently hearing about 40 or 41 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I'll tell you what, as many as it takes. But seven of those efforts to restrict and repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act, seven of those have been passed by the Senate and signed by the President. So it's not entirely a fruitless effort.

But probably more telling is the President himself, who has, whenever it suited him, simply jettisoned a portion of the law--a law that he signed in March of 2010 that we all remember. Those of us who were in the House at that time, those of us who watched news shows during the summer of 2009 and on into 2010, the cry that went up: we've got to do something about people with preexisting conditions. There are just far too many people in the country who are frozen out of the insurance market because of an unfortunate medical diagnosis.

But the reality is the large group plans in this country have open enrollment periods. So the preexisting condition conundrum generally is a problem for people in the individual and small group market. How do I know this? How do I know that this number is much more manageable than the 8 to 12 million people that then-Speaker Pelosi and the President of the United States talked about? Because on the eve of the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, when I thought it was going to be important for this House to respond to those people who had the Federal preexisting program taken away from them by a Supreme Court action, I did an investigation: how many people had been signed up in the so-called ``Federal PCIP program.'' The number at that time was 65,000; by the end of the year, it was nearly 100,000.

Then, Mr. Speaker, something really strange happened. On February 1 of this year, less than 2 years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, people showing up at the teller's window over at the Department of Health and Human Services saying I would like to buy my insurance in the Federal preexisting pool were told, sorry, that window is closed. We will only take care of the people who are already enrolled. If you're coming in today wanting that kind of help, so sorry, program terminated. There were no headlines in that regard. There were no cries of anguish that the President had stopped providing coverage for people with preexisting conditions. You had people who were waiting the 6-month waiting period--they were required by law to wait and not have insurance--show up for this Federal preexisting pool. But what did they hear when they got to the window? Sorry, sister, window is closed. Go somewhere else. Eleven months from now you will have the full Elysian Fields of ObamaCare. And maybe if you can make it until then, you'll be fine.

Well, what else went by the wayside? Remember the discussion about: we're going to put a cap on out-of-pocket expenses so no longer will people have to pay excessive copays and deductibles. Oh, by the way, they postponed that for a year. That was supposed to start January 1, 2014. Now it's been put off until January 1, 2015.

The Small Business Health Exchange, supposed to open--we are going to get the power of competition in the small group market--was supposed to open January 1, 2014; delayed for a year, January 1, 2015.

Who can forget the Tuesday evening before the 4th of July holiday this year when on a blog post Valerie Jarrett put out that the employer mandate was in fact suspended for a year. Three days later they had to say that, oh, yeah, by the way, all of those reporting requirements that we were requiring under the employer mandate, well, we're not going to require those either. We're just going to trust people to tell us the truth when they come in to sign up for benefits, not that any Federal program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services has ever had a problem with fraud or misrepresentation.

Probably one of the most telling things is the lack of anyone within the agency to be able to answer a simple yes or no question about: Will the exchanges be open for enrollment on October 1? The head of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight was in our Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations just this morning. I asked that question; a simple yes or no, sir, is all that I require. I got a long answer that, yes, there will be Web sites; yes, you will be able to access Web sites. Yes or no, will people be able to go to register for insurance on October 1? They could not give me a yes or no answer.

Second question: What about will people be able to sign up for the insurance on January 1 as advertised, yes or no? Again, unable to give a yes or no answer to that question.

Will people be able to buy insurance cheaper as the President suggested when he was running for office? Unable to answer with a yes or no.

These are the problems we have, Mr. Speaker. We cannot get people from the agencies to come and give us a simple answer, a simple direct answer to a simple direct question. No wonder the American people are full of questions about this. No wonder they are full of fear about what is just around the corner.

This rule vote will allow the House to vote on a bill that keeps the government funded and open until December 15 of this year. But that vote, very importantly, allows people's voices to be heard that they do not trust what has been quoted in the Affordable Care Act. They feel that the investment has been a bad investment so far, and they are telling us: don't sink one more dime into this.