Dear Ms. Clark:
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Obamacare and the bipartisan legislation that reopened the government and prevented a default. Your taking time to contact me is appreciated.
After more than two weeks of the shutdown, the U.S. Senate passed H.R.2775 by a vote of 81 to 18 to reopen government and prevent default. This same legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives shortly thereafter and provides funding to operate the government until January 15, 2014 and suspends the debt ceiling until February 7, 2014. In addition, this bill has a provision that requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to verify that individuals who apply for the health care law’s subsidies to purchase health insurance are, in fact, eligible to receive them, and the historic government spending cuts enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011 were preserved. While this is certainly not the deal Republicans hoped for, it is the best deal we could negotiate under the circumstances.
While I adamantly oppose Obamacare, I disagreed with the strategy of the shutdown as a means to defund it. As recent weeks showed, the continuing resolution to fund the government only dealt with discretionary spending, and Obamacare was designed in such a way that even if congress shut down the government, the law would still largely go forward. That is why despite the shutdown, the healthcare exchanges opened on October 1, 2013, and the individual mandate requiring people to purchased health insurance remained.
As the flawed rollout of Healthcare.gov has shown, Obamacare causes more problems than it solves, and I remain committed to its repeal. I voted against passage of the bill in 2009, and I continue to pursue efforts to defund and repeal it today. I am also a cosponsor of S. 177, the “ObamaCare Repeal Act,” which would repeal the health care law entirely and S.1292, the “Defund ObamaCare Act.” These bills would allow us to start anew with reform that consists of commonsense, market based solutions that will lower health care costs for all Americans.
The shutdown delayed necessary services to many Americans seeking help from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Social Security Administration, among others, and cost $25 billion, impacting our still-fragile economy. However, the effects of the shutdown would have seemed small compared to the much-discussed and unprecedented default. Failure to raise the debt ceiling, and thus risk defaulting on payments to our lenders, would have put the credit-worthiness of the United States at risk. It would have almost certainly meant higher interest rates for home and student loans, delayed or denied social security payments and missed Medicare payments to doctors.
Given the circumstances and the consequences of voting no, I voted, along with 80 of my Senate colleagues, to reopen government and avoid default. Unfortunately, our focus on the government shutdown deprived us of a meaningful opportunity to make significant entitlement and tax reforms.
For our nation to be strong, and for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy. We will have another opportunity to address the debt ceiling in the coming months, and I hope my colleagues across-the-aisle and across-the-capitol will stop the partisan posturing and begin working together to retire our $17 trillion debt.
This is also not the final chapter in the health care reform debate. I am ready to work with my Senate colleagues to protect Americans from this burdensome law. Even President Obama has acknowledged the exchanges’ failed rollout. It simply isn’t right to require Americans to purchase something that, because of the Administration’s faulty website, they are literally unable to buy.
My desire is still a full repeal of Obamacare. However, with Democrats controlling the Senate and the President having the power of the veto pen, that is a difficult task. I am optimistic that, at a minimum, we should be able to delay the so called “individual mandate.”
If you would like to receive timely e-mail alerts regarding the latest congressional actions and my weekly e-newsletter, please sign up via my Web site at: www.chambliss.senate.gov. Please let me know whenever I may be of assistance.