Sen. Mike Lee Takes Budget Deal Concerns to Senate Floor [UPH Wire]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

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*Lee Takes Budget Deal Concerns to Senate Floor*

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) spoke on the Senate Floor
regarding concerns about the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Senator Lee’s remarks can be viewed here
, and the text as prepared for
delivery is available below.

*Mr./Madam President,*

*The budget deal before the Senate today is not just a horrible piece of
legislation undeserving of this chamber’s support. It also represents the
last gasping breath of a disgraced bipartisan beltway establishment on the
verge of collapse. *

*The bill is the product of an unfair, dysfunctional, and undemocratic
process – a process that is virtually indistinguishable from what we
promised the American people a G.O.P.-controlled Congress would bring to an
end. *

*We made that promise because negotiating legislation behind closed doors,
without input from the majority of members, and then rushing it through to
final passage, without debate or opportunity for amendments, violates of
our party’s core principles.*

*It also inevitably leads to bad policy. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015
is a case in point. *

*This bill would suspend the debt limit for 17 months and increase
government spending beyond its already unsustainable levels. And it would
do so while failing to make any reforms that would put us on a path toward
fiscal sustainability.*

*Many proponents of the budget deal challenge this claim. They say, while
the bill isn’t perfect, it does include some meaningful entitlement
reforms. *

*The sales pitch we hear most often alleges that this budget deal will save
the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund from insolvency. But
we’re never told exactly how the bill would do this. *

*That’s because, as always, the devil is in the details. *

*Mr./Madam President, I rise today to discuss these very details – details
that prove this budget deal’s so-called “entitlement reforms” are nothing
of the sort. *

*At best, they are well-intentioned but ineffectual tweaks to a program
that desperately needs a fundamental, structural overhaul. *

*At worst, they are accounting gimmicks unbecoming of the United States

*According to the Social Security Trustees, the Social Security Disability
Insurance program – or SSDI – is scheduled to run out of money in 2016.
Which means that, without serious reform, disability benefits would be
slashed, across the board, by nearly 20 percent. *

*Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, the bankruptcy deadline of SSDI
would be pushed off for an additional 6 years, until 2022. *

*But here’s the kicker: it would do so by raiding the Social Security Trust
Fund, to the tune of $150 billion.*

*That’s right: our grand, bipartisan solution to the impending insolvency
of our nation’s largest disability insurance program amounts to stealing
$150 billion from our nation’s largest retirement insurance program. *

*And this isn’t the only phony pay-for in this budget deal. There are
others that simply move around money from elsewhere in the federal budget,
like the Crime Victims Fund and the Asset Forfeiture Fund. *

*There are also new heavy-handed, bureaucratic instruments that purport to
implement cost-savings in Medicaid reimbursements, but really only impose
misguided price controls on the generic drug industry.*

*Only in Washington, D.C. could something so deceptive and ineffectual –
something so unfair to America’s seniors and future generations – be
considered a “reform.”*

*Now, to be fair, there are a couple of sound entitlement reforms in this
budget deal that deserve to be commended. *

*First, there is a provision that would correct a design error in the
Social Security program that amounts to an unfair and wasteful loophole.
Fixing this would save a significant amount of money over a 75-year window.

*There are also measures that would increase the penalties for fraud,
create new pilot programs, and prohibit doctors with felonies from
submitting medical evidence. *

*But these minor changes don’t even come close to putting SSDI on a path
toward fiscal sustainability and sanity. And they represent only a tiny
fraction of the sensible reform proposals put forth by our conference. *

*Many of my colleagues – like Senator Lankford and Senator Cotton – have
already spoken, or will soon speak, on this floor about the long list of
structural reform ideas that are still sitting on the sidelines of this
debate. I’d like to take a moment to touch on just a few of them.*

*Senator Coats has a proposal that would protect the SSDI Trust Fund from
being drawn down by fugitive felons illegally receiving disability
benefits. *

*Senator Hatch has put forth a plan that would prevent an individual from
receiving both unemployment insurance and disability insurance
simultaneously, ensuring that SSDI funds remain focused on their intended

*I also have a proposal that would expand the footprint of private
disability insurance, which I intend to file as an amendment to this bill.

*And that’s not all. My friends Senator Cotton and Senator Lankford have
their own proposals. And there has been an equal amount of policy
innovation by our colleagues in the House of Representatives. *

*They’re all commonsense ideas that would bring us much closer to real SSDI
reform than what’s found in this budget deal. *

*But you won’t hear much about them in this debate – because there won’t be
any real debate on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015… no amendments; a
fast-approaching deadline; and, in the end, a take-it-or-leave-it choice,
forced upon us with our backs up against a cliff. *

*This isn’t how Congress is supposed to operate. *

*This isn’t how we promised the country we would conduct the American
people’s business if given control of the House and Senate. *

*We should be the party of ideas. But we won’t be, so long as we continue
to tolerate a legislative process that stifles our most innovative
proposals from getting a fair hearing. *

*We should be the party of reform. But we won’t be, so long as individual
senators are blocked from offering amendments to legislation. *

*We should be the party of fiscal sanity and responsible governance. But we
won’t be, so long as we continue to govern by crisis and cliff, delaying
the inevitable, while working only three days a week. *

*We should be the party that looks out for the most vulnerable among us.
But we won’t be, so long as we lack the courage to enact the structural
reforms that our retirement and disability insurance programs need to
survive for generations to come.*

*Mr./Madam President, we can be all of these things. I know we can. *

*But it’s going to take hard work; a fair, open, and inclusive legislative
process; and all the policy innovation we can muster. *

*It’s going to take something more – something better – than this budget
deal. *

*I yield the floor.*

*Communications Director*
Conn Carroll

*Press Secretary*
Emily Long


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