It has been more than three years since President Obama and Congressional Democrats passed their overhaul of our nation’s health care system. From its inception, the Affordable Care Act – commonly referred to as ObamaCare – has been fraught with unworkable mandates, impossibly complex regulations and unintended consequences.
Despite the president’s assurance that his proposal would expand Americans’ access to quality health care, in reality his law will force many who were previously insured to either pay more for their insurance or lose their coverage.
For example, the Associated Press recently reported that some individuals who purchase their own health insurance may lose it because their plans do not meet the standards imposed by ObamaCare. Specifically, younger, healthier people who buy less comprehensive plans will be forced to purchase policies they do not need, do not want and cannot afford. This seems to directly contradict the president’s pledge that “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.”
And this is just the most recent example in a long line of failed expectations and broken promises. The president promised his bill would not raise taxes on those making less than $250K, yet we have learned the law contains 12 new tax increases that will directly hit the middle class. He promised that his bill would not add a dime to the deficit, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the law will add $6.2 trillion to our debt. He promised his law would help 30 million Americans who are uninsured get coverage, yet CBO released a report showing that 31 million people would still be without coverage in 2023 despite the government spending trillions of dollars on ObamaCare.
ObamaCare’s shortcomings have grown so apparent that even some of the law’s most ardent supporters have started voicing their concerns. One of the law’s chief architects, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, warned of a “huge train wreck” regarding the law’s implementation. Labor unions, who solidly backed the law, are now saying that insurance costs for millions of workers will increase. Some union leaders have estimated that nearly 20 million people will see higher premiums under ObamaCare.
Over the last three years House Republicans have put forth and passed numerous bills that would repeal the health care law so that we can implement real, patient-centered reforms. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have blocked our efforts by preventing this legislation from reaching the Senate floor.
However, there is now an effort underfoot by Congressional Democrats and their allies in the Obama administration to postpone implementation of key provisions of ObamaCare.
What could account for this sudden change? Politics of course.
When ObamaCare was passed, its authors front-loaded the bill with provisions that enjoyed broad support, like allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until they turn 26. Most of the onerous regulations, taxes and penalties were pushed back until after the 2012 presidential election. But while the president no longer has to worry about an election, many Congressional Democrats do.
With ObamaCare now less than a year away, those who supported the bill are deeply concerned with the ramifications it will have on our economy, our seniors and our middle class. And they are extremely nervous that once voters get a taste of ObamaCare in January of 2014, they will hold them accountable at the voting booth. By postponing the law, they hope to avoid its political fallout.
In fact, just last week the Obama administration announced they will delay a major portion of the bill that establishes insurance marketplaces for small businesses. These insurance marketplaces were a major selling point for the law, but now the administration claims they are “too complicated” to implement at this time.
Republicans and those who seek to do away with ObamaCare must be careful of these tactics. Make no mistake: Delaying portions of the law is not the same as repealing it. While I wholeheartedly agree that we must prevent ObamaCare from being implemented, the only acceptable way to do that is through full repeal. In fact, simply postponing the law’s implementation on an ad hoc basis will only exacerbate concerns and uncertainty. It would be bad for the economy and bad for our nation’s health care system.
If those who previously supported ObamaCare are truly concerned about its disastrous effects, then they should join House Republicans in repealing the law and not simply try to postpone it until a more politically convenient time.
Lately, immigration has been a main focus in Washington, D.C. A group of Republican and Democratic Senators, known as the Gang of 8, have taken it upon themselves to develop a comprehensive immigration package to address the eleven million illegal immigrants living in our country. Unfortunately, I cannot support their proposal in its current form and would vote against it if it were to make its way to the House.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the Gang of 8 and one of the chief architects of the Senate immigration bill, recently told a Spanish news station that “First comes the legalization. Then comes the measures to secure the border.” I have a tremendous amount of respect for Senator Rubio, but could not disagree with him more on this issue. Granting amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants in exchange for the promise of future border security is a terribly misguided approach.
The legislation being considered in the Senate contains a series of “border triggers” that gives authority to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine when and how the border is deemed to be secured. In exchange, we would begin the process of legalizing a majority of these 11 million illegal immigrants. But these triggers lack clear and meaningful metrics to ensure adequate enforcement. Rather, we would essentially trust DHS to set up and meet their own standards. With the DHS’s track record on border security, how can we be confident in the agency’s ability to accomplish something it has been unable to achieve in the past? I agree with Senator John Cornyn of Texas when he stated these measures are really just “talking points disguised as policy.”
To simply grant amnesty without securing the border is truly putting the cart before the horse. We tried that in 1986 and it did not work. Those efforts, however well intentioned, created a moral hazard that precipitated the illegal immigration problem we find ourselves in today. Think about it. We would once again be sending the message that if a person can just cross the border and hide out long enough, eventually he or she will be granted full citizenship.
Most can agree that our immigration system is outdated and broken and that we should pursue reasonable but fair reforms. But the Senate plan would only exacerbate the problems we currently face with illegal immigration.
The United States has always been a haven for individuals who seek to use their skills and determination to build a better life for themselves and their families. As a result, our nation is home to the world’s most talented workforce. We are a diverse group of innovators, entrepreneurs and risk takers and our accomplishments have not only brought forth prosperity here at home, but have helped to shape the world that we live in today.
But while we have always been a country that welcomes immigrants with open arms, we have eleven million people in this country that broke the law by coming here illegally. Many of them find ways to collect food stamps, receive free health care and send their children to public schools without paying taxes. There are those that come here for criminal purposes, like selling drugs, and even others here seeking to do harm to America.
Of course many come to the United States simply looking for job opportunities. I understand these individuals want to work, pay their fair share and live out the American dream, but they have still broken the law. To simply grant them amnesty would not only show that we condone a disregard for the rule of law, but it would be unfair to the millions of folks who are trying to gain citizenship the right way.
Even if there is an argument to be made for providing a pathway to citizenship for those that can meet certain criteria like paying back taxes, holding a steady job, and not engaging in criminal activity, that cannot happen until one thing certain: Our borders are absolutely secure.
Folks across my district universally support providing their children with a good education. Educating our children strengthens our communities, creates and supports jobs, and boosts our economic competitiveness in the global market and at home. As long as parents, teachers, administrators and other state and local actors are offered the ability to hold their educational systems accountable, our schools will be robust and our children will thrive.
Unfortunately, ongoing actions by the President are threatening to take over what we teach our kids. Our schools, and the teachers and administrators that make them work, are being shut out by a program known as Common Core.
Common Core began as a vision by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2007 to bring about uniform “American standards” to schools. After pledging $60 million towards the goal, these groups worked with the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to develop and implement these standards. They found a strong ally in President Obama.
Understanding that implementation would be unattainable without the buy-in of state legislatures, President Obama and his allies saw in the economic downturn an opportunity. Using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the stimulus bill, as a vehicle, the Administration effectively tied Race to the Top (RTTT) money for schools to adoption of a specific set of standards that were functionally equivalent to Common Core. The worst part about this coercion is that the states never had a chance to see the standards before agreeing to plans that adopted them.
Now, some may argue that even if the process of implementing Common Core standards was questionable, that the standards themselves are strong and will enhance our kids’ education and better assist them in becoming college and career ready. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Common Core proponent, acknowledges that Tennessee’s previous English standards were stronger than Common Core’s. And while Tennessee’s previous math standards fell just below, Common Core’s math standards have been called into question by many renowned professors of mathematics, including one who served on Common Core’s validation board. The standards were so lacking that Common Core, instead of improving them, simply chose to describe them as “informed by” instead of being “benchmarked” to international standards.
So not only have states forfeited their academic standards to unaccountable Washington bureaucrats, they’ve accepted in return, watered down, internationally uncompetitive standards to which to hold our children.
Not only is this program bad for our kids, it may run afoul of federal statute. Several pieces of education law, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, prohibit the federal government from exercising any control over curriculum, program of instruction, administration or personnel. This puts the Administration on unsteady legal ground. Its actions have necessitated states modifying their curriculum, instructional agenda, and even textbooks to prepare their students for the assessments that will go along with Common Core.
One may wonder what can be done to fix Common Core, if not remove our kids from it. Unfortunately, since Common Core was designed – and is even owned – by Washington bureaucrats, state and local actors have little ability to amend it. This makes the possibility of fixing Common Core complicated at best and at worst, structurally impossible.
However, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which I serve, has diligently worked to bring back local control to ensure that those closest to our kids – their parents, teachers and administrators – have the biggest say in how we choose to educate them. Just this week, I was happy to vote in favor of H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, which would repeal No Child Left Behind and empower communities to fix our broken education system.
I was also happy to cosponsor H.R. 2089, introduced by Rep. Martha Roby and Rep. Todd Rokita, which would prohibit the federal government from influencing or coercing state participation in specific education programs, standards, or curriculums – effectively gutting Common Core. This provision was also included in H.R. 5.
While the goal of holding our children to high standards of education is a good one, Common Core is bad policy, implemented unfairly, that achieves mediocrity at the expense of states’ sovereignty and local control. If we are to fix our broken education system, we must do it by including, not excluding, those closest to our kids in the process and I sincerely hope that the President and the Senate will join me in this effort.
Lately, some of my conservative colleagues and I have been attacked by both the mainstream media and the Washington, DC political establishment as being obstructionists who refuse to compromise. They decry our inability to play by Washington’s rules and do not understand why this new wave of Republicans can’t just get along.
I often hear these folks talk a lot about the “good ole days” when Republicans and Democrats could negotiate with one another and pass bipartisan legislation to move our country forward.
But here is what they conveniently forget. While these legislative proposals were indeed supported by both Republicans and Democrats, it was often because they were loaded up with each party’s special interest earmarks and pork barrel spending. It was not uncommon for Members of Congress to vote in favor of legislation, not because they supported the bill, but because they supported their individual pet projects. And the legislation that party leaders said was moving our nation further? Well it turns out all it did was further was our nation’s debt.
Unfortunately, both parties were complicit in this scheme. In fact, there came a point in time where it was nearly impossible to distinguish the two parties from one another. The policies being put forth by Republicans frequently did not live up to our party’s fundamental tenets of responsible spending and limited government. As a result, the American people removed Republicans from power in the House, Senate and White House.
Of course under President Obama and the Democratic Congress, we saw government go from a level that accurately could be described as excessive to a level completely beyond what the framers of our constitution could have ever imagined. In fact, the level of government created by the Obama Administration along with Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid threatens the future of our democracy.
But who could voters trust to restore government back to its proper role when both parties were complicit in creating the problem?
In 2010 Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives. But many of us elected that year could certainly not be classified as your typical Republicans. The class of 2010 was given a clear message by the voters who sent us to Congress: the status quo is no longer acceptable from either party. The American people expected us to go to Washington and work for them – not special interest groups, not party leadership and not political election organizations. And that is exactly what we did.
We said no more to the automatic debt limit increases. We eliminated special interest earmarks. We required Members of Congress to cite constitutional authority before introducing legislation. And now we are saying no more funding for ObamaCare.
Our hardline stance on these issues has certainly frustrated many career politicians on both sides of the aisle. They found they no longer have the carrots or the sticks to get these new lawmakers to fall in line. That is because we care little about the prizes that were once bestowed by party leaders to loyal Members of Congress. Rather, the only thing we truly care about is representing our constituents and doing what is right.
And we have found that listening to and acting on behalf of voters in our districts leads to rewards that are much more intrinsically valuable than anything that could be given here in Washington. I am talking about respect, trust and the ability to go home after a week in our nation’s capital and look our friends, families and constituents in the eyes and say, “I did what I thought was right.”
So when the political talking heads go on television and ask why this new breed of conservatives will not abandon their effort to strip funding for the president’s health care law, the answer is really simple: We believe it is the right thing to do because our constituents believe it is the right thing to do. They are our guide.
I am not in Washington to win a popularity contest or make friends. I am here to put our country back on the right track. Believe me; I do not like always having to say no. No more than a parent enjoys disciplining a child. But someone has to be the adult in Washington.
Tennessee voters recognize the perils we find ourselves in as a nation. They understand that tough decisions are required and we need leaders who are more interested in getting things right than just getting along. This logic may confuse some of those who make politics their profession, but I promise it makes perfect sense to the folks that truly matter – my constituents.
From the beginning I made it clear I would not support any government spending bill that provided funding for ObamaCare. I stuck to that promise throughout the entire government shutdown because I believed it was the right thing to do for both our country and our community.
But while I am certainly disheartened the people of Tennessee are now going to be subjected to a law that is a complete and total train wreck, there is something else that is equally concerning.
Politicians in Washington will consume themselves over the next few weeks fretting over who the media perceives as the winners and losers of the government shutdown. The spin doctors will be deployed and the battle will continue to rage on the cable news shows.
But what will be lost in this back and forth is a very simple fact: we are still without a plan to prevent our nation from falling off the fiscal cliff.
In my opinion, the debt limit compromise that passed the House and Senate represents the biggest missed opportunity I have seen since arriving in Washington. And it shows the American people that the Washington establishment is still more concerned about poll numbers and elections than the American people.
We have accrued more than $17 trillion in debt. It is such a large number I imagine some find it incomprehensible. Often times I get the feeling that the media and my Democratic colleagues dismiss it as merely another GOP talking point. However, despite Washington’s eagerness to ignore our debt, it is very real; it grows every single day; and we have no credible plan to stop it from consuming our economy.
In ten years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that our debt will be around $26 trillion and roughly 77 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2038 debt held by the public will hit 100% of GDP. CBO made it clear in a recent report that this level of debt will lead to investors questioning our government’s ability to pay its debt obligation and make it more difficult and expensive for our nation to borrow money. Further, CBO states that our debt will have significant negative consequences for both the economy and the federal budget. That is why I felt it was critical for Republicans to stand their ground in defunding ObamaCare. The president’s health care law is projected to add another $2.6 trillion to our debt in just the next ten years.
As Republicans we have a responsibility to fight for limited government, balanced budgets and a return to our constitutional principles. Last week’s debt limit compromise did none of these things. I think it is very telling that the only way that this bill raising the debt limit could pass the House was that all 198 Democrats voted for it. What is the point of having a Republican majority if we are going to let Democrats dictate what will and will not pass?
I promised my constituents that I would go to Washington and fight for what is right – not simply for what is easy. I do not care if that means I am at odds with my party’s leadership. I do not care if that means I get attacked in the press. This bill was not good for the American people, it was not good for my constituents and I know I did the right thing by voting against it.
I truly hope that this event will serve as a learning opportunity. And in three months, when the debt limit must be raised again, I expect my party to do the job the American people sent us here to Washington to do. If Republicans do not force this administration to stop the spending madness, who will?