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Grassley: Congress regularly amends laws, Obamacare is not “settled” law

Senator Charles Grassley
Senator Charles Grassley
Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley, Delivered Friday, October 04, 2013

Mr. President, I come to the floor to take issue with a remark made by the President on Tuesday regarding Obamacare. He said, and I quote: The Affordable Care Act is a law that passed the House, that passed the Senate, the Supreme Court ruled constitutional. It was a central issue in last year’s election. It is settled, and it is here to stay.”

While I understand the President’s position on the law that now is referred to by his name, Obamacare, he also misses the point. On Monday night, the Senate had the opportunity to keep the government running. The Senate had a bill that funded the government and did so without delaying or defunding Obamacare. The Senate of course voted down that bill. Let me repeat, the government could have been kept open without delaying or defunding Obamacare. Anyone who says differently is simply not being accurate.

So what did the bill Monday night seek to do? The bill sought to delay implementation of the individual mandate for a year and require Executive Branch appointees to go into the Exchanges.
Those, Mr. President, are changes to Obamacare. Apparently, the President doesn’t believe we are allowed to make changes to Obamacare.

I would respect that position if the President actually enforced it over the last several years. In fact, Congress has made numerous changes to Obamacare since it was signed into law. Let me read through them, conveniently assembled by the Congressional Research Service on behalf of Senator Coburn.

In the 111th Congress, H.R. 4887 clarified that health care provided under TRICARE, TRICARE for Life, and the nonappropriated Fund Health Benefits program constitutes ‘minimal essential health care coverage.’

H.R. 5014 clarified that health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs constitutes ‘minimal essential health care coverage.’

H.R. 1586 modified the definition of average manufacturer price to include inhalation, infusion, implanted, or injectable drugs that are not generally dispensed through a retail community pharmacy.

H.R. 4994 offset the costs of the Medicare and Medicaid program extensions and the postponement of cuts in Medicare physician payments with a change in the Affordable Care Act.

H.R. 4853 extended the nonrefundable adoption tax credit through tax year 2012.

H.R. 6523 extended TRICARE coverage to dependent adult children up to age 26, to conform with the private health insurance requirements under Affordable Care Act.

In the 112th Congress, H.R. 4 repealed the requirement that businesses file an information report whenever they pay a vendor more than $600 for goods in a single year.

H.R. 674 modified the calculation of Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) to include Social Security benefits.

H.R. 3630 reduced the Prevention and Public Health Fund annual appropriations over the period FY2013-FY2021 by a total of $6.25 billion to help offset the cost of extending the payroll tax cut.

H.R. 4348 modified the Medicaid disaster-recovery FMAP adjustment by changing the adjustment factor and the effective date.

H.R. 8 transferred 10% of the remaining unobligated Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) program funds to a new CO-OP contingency fund and rescinded the other 90% of those funds and repealed the CLASS Act.

H.R. 1473 cancelled $2.2 billion of the $6 billion appropriation for the CO-OP program.

H.R. 2055 rescinded $400 million of the remaining $3.8 billion for the CO-OP program, rescinded $10 million of the $15 million FY2012 appropriation for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a website with detailed information on the allocation of monies in the Prevention and Public Health Fund and prohibited use of those funds for lobbying, publicity, or propaganda purposes.

H.R. 933 rescinded $200 million of the $500 million transfer from the Medicare Part A and Part B trust funds for the 5 year Community-Based Care Transition Program and rescinded $10 million of IPAB’s FY2013 appropriation.

These are changes made by Congress to the law the President refers to as settled law. Obviously it is not so settled that Congress cannot and has not amended it in the last several years.

But as we all know, the President, through his own actions, hasn’t considered Obamacare to be settled law either. The President has through administrative action made numerous changes to Obamacare. In February, the President delayed application of out of pocket limits. In March, The President delayed implementation of the Basic Health Plan Option. Also in March, the President delayed a requirement that small business exchanges offer a choice of plans. In July, the President delayed Exchange applicant eligibility and verification. Also in July, in perhaps the most famous of examples, the President delayed implementation of the employer mandate.

So, on Monday night, House Republicans sent the Senate a bill that did not defund or delay Obamacare. It continued funding of our government. It simply sought to amend Obamacare. There was no debate of the proposals on their merits. It was simply tabledby the Democratic Leadership. And now we hear about the farcical ‘settled’ law. I don’t know where this settled law legal theory comes from.

I would note that some of my colleagues have ignored this theory during previous health care debates.

In 2003, Congress passed a law, a bipartisan law, called the Medicare Modernization Act. This law passed with members of both parties supporting it. It was signed into law by the President. It survived any court challenges that were made against it. It was, by the same token, settled law.

That didn’t stop my colleagues from proposing legislation to amend the Medicare Modernization Act.

In fact, Democrats, including members still currently in the Senate, proposed and voted to alter the Medicare Modernization Act by striking the non-interference clause. We considered that proposal and debated it on its merits. We didn’t dismiss it as offensive because it sought to amend settled law.

Mr. President, the government could be open and fully operating today, but for the Democrats’ unwillingness to engage in a legitimate debate over proposals to amend Obamacare, not defund it or delay it.

We are where we are because the Democrats refused to give the American people relief from the individual mandate and treat President Obama and his political appointees the same as all other Americans. In the wash of words that we will hear on the floor, I hope that that simple truth can be heard.

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