Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley Calls Out Democrats on Social Security and Medicare

Sep 30, 2020
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
 
It’s typical during an election season to hear Democrats try to scare people into believing that Republicans want to destroy programs that Americans rely on for health and security.
 
We’ve recently heard this on Medicare and Social Security.
 
Now, we’re hearing it on health insurance.
 
The programs are different, but the scenario is the same.
 
The Democrats concoct a story, attribute it to the President and Republicans in Congress, and turn to allies to amplify the false narrative.
 
What really stands out this election season is how those all-too-familiar scare tactics directly contradict the message coming from their Presidential nominee.
 
Vice President Biden says he’s for hope, not fear.
 
His actions, and those of his party, show just the opposite.
 
Let start with Democrats’ effort to pin Medicare’s financial struggles on Republicans.
 
The facts tell a much different story.
 
Republicans have fought for decades, often in the face of Democrat resistance, to keep Medicare strong not only for current enrollees, but for their children and grandchildren.
 
For instance, in 1995, President Clinton vetoed Republican efforts to keep Medicare on sound financial footing.
 
Faced with the prospect that the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund was going broke in just a few years, Republicans pressed on.
 
It was the work of a Republican House of Representatives and a Republican Senate that ultimately convinced President Clinton to sign the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
 
The BBA of 1997 extended the life of the HI trust fund, but it was not a silver bullet to solve the Medicare program’s long-term financial challenges.
 
For many years, spanning both Democrat and Republican administrations, the Medicare Trustees have cautioned that the program’s financial shortfalls require further legislative action.
 
The Trustees repeatedly advise Congress to enact such legislation sooner rather than later to minimize the impact on beneficiaries, health care providers, and taxpayers.
 
Republicans know how important Medicare is to the over 60 million Americans who rely on the program for their health care.
 
But we also realize that Medicare is on an unsustainable course.
 
I have always said that we need to work in a bipartisan way to protect Medicare.
 
That work requires an honest assessment and a serious discussion. 
 
Sadly, it seems that Democrats are only willing to take their heads out of the sand long enough to point fingers.
 
So let’s set the record straight.
 
Earlier this year, the Trustees projected that Medicare would be bankrupt in 2026.
 
Then an unprecedented public health emergency dealt a crippling blow to our nation.
 
The sacrifices and efforts made to stop the spread of the coronavirus effectively shut down the U.S. economy and altered life as we know it.
 
Congress stepped in to provide federal relief.
 
The COVID response bills were passed on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis.
 
Specifically, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed the House by a vote of 419 to 6.
 
The Senate approved the CARES Act by a vote of 96 to 0.
 
CARES gives extra Medicare funding to hospitals and other health care providers to keep them in business in the face an unexpected drop in demand for medical services.
 
Additionally, because Medicare Part A is financed by payroll taxes that are split between employers and employees, unemployment caused by the pandemic has resulted in less money coming into the trust fund.
 
So, it’s not surprising that the Congressional Budget Office estimated earlier this month that the Medicare trust fund could run out of money in 2024, two years earlier than the Medicare Trustees had projected without taking into account the impact of COVID.
 
It’s important to note that during the Trump presidency, and prior to the pandemic, the projected insolvency date for the Medicare HI trust fund remained steady.
 
No one could have anticipated the current crisis.
 
Instead of taking it as reminder of the need to shore up Medicare for the long-haul, Democrats have opted to create a false narrative that the current Administration is the problem.
 
Every recent President, Republican and Democrat, has offered Medicare reform ideas in budget requests submitted to Congress.
 
Many of those budgets contained identical policy ideas.
 
Putting aside that Congress, and not the President, makes laws, the notion that proposals aimed at making Medicare more efficient is equivalent to sabotaging the program is absurd.
 
Yet, whenever a Republican occupies the White House, we repeatedly hear from Democrats that proposals for program integrity represent cuts or efforts to weaken or destroy Medicare, even when some of those same proposals were also put forward by a Democrat administration.
 
Because Medicare is on a path to bankruptcy, the greatest threat is inaction.
 
Over the past decade, Democrats not only stood firmly in the way of meaningful Medicare reform, they actually made the problem worse.
 
Rather than confront the looming crisis, in 2009, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Washington Democrats raided more than $700 billion from the Medicare program.
 
They didn’t do it to save Medicare.
 
They cut money from a financially strapped Medicare program, and they spent it on a brand new entitlement program called Obamacare.
 
It was the Democrats who pushed Obamacare through Congress without a single Republican vote.
 
And what do the Democrats want to do if they find their way back into power?
 
They want to enact something called “Medicare for All”.
  
Moving the 180 million Americans with private, employer-based insurance to the Medicare rolls would cause federal spending to balloon to unthinkable levels.
 
An analysis conducted by the Mercatus Center in 2018 found that “Medicare for All” would increase federal spending by $32 trillion over a 10-year period.
 
This Democrat plan would also give the federal government more control over health care, impose massive tax increases on the middle-class, and disrupt access to services.
 
That’s why Democrats would rather mischaracterize the unavoidable impact of COVID and demonize Medicare budget proposals that are often bipartisan in nature.
 
Democrats used the same dirty tricks related to Social Security.
 
Some across the aisle recently concocted a hypothetical proposal that eliminates the funding source for Social Security and asked the program’s Chief Actuary to assess its impact.
 
This was an obvious attempt to alarm seniors and disabled Americans, with the ultimate intent of smearing Republicans and feeding false talking points to a Democrat candidate for President.
 
Even when their schemes and false talking points earn four Pinocchio’s from even the Washington Post, Democrats proceed full speed ahead with their misinformation campaign.
 
And even though Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Brady and I got the Social Security Actuary to affirm that the Democrats’ recent scheme is just a bunch of malarkey, the Democrats and candidate Biden continue with their misinformation.
 
Again, Democrats use scare tactics in the run-up to an election.
 
While they accuse Republicans of wanting to destroy Social Security, Senate Democrats do little or nothing to work in a bipartisan way to help the program.
 
Remember in 2015 when the disability insurance trust fund was going to run dry. Senate Democrats demanded that the only thing to do would be to take from the retirement trust fund and kick the can.
 
Senate Democrats had no interest in working with us to at least try to make the disability insurance program better for beneficiaries.
 
Instead, Senate Republicans worked with the House and the Obama administration to prevent the disability insurance trust fund exhaustion and improve the program.
 
There was no privatization of anything, and the only thing that could be construed as a benefit cut came directly from President Obama.
 
You won’t hear anything about that from Senate Democrats.
 
Instead, they just bring out their stale talking points and scare tactics about Republicans trying to destroy programs.
 
Now, they’re applying these same worn-out, baseless scare tactics to the Supreme Court confirmation process.
 
Democrats want to make the President’s nomination to fill the vacancy all about Obamacare and the case the Court will consider this fall.
 
In the Minority Leader’s own words: When it comes to Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings, “We must focus like a laser on health care.”
 
The Left is misrepresenting an article by then-Professor Barrett in hopes of finding something –anything – to gum up this confirmation process.
 
It seems to me they’re just frustrated this nominee had the audacity to suggest that judges interpret the law as written.
 
Now, there’s an old saying in the legal profession. If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the facts. If the facts aren’t on your side, pound on the law. If neither is on your side, just pound on the table.
 
That’s what we see yet again from our Democrat colleagues.
 
It’s ludicrous to pick one pending case and predict how every member of the court, including one just starting the confirmation process, would vote on it. Especially when entirely different legal issues are at stake.
 
Frankly, it’s a disservice to the American people.
 
The Democrats know this but that won’t stop them from trying to mislead hardworking Americans into believing that their health care coverage could disappear tomorrow.
 
It’s also just the latest example of how many Democrats in Congress view the Supreme Court:  just another means to a policy end.
 
That’s not the role of the Court, and I’m sure Judge Barrett will reiterate that point before the Judiciary Committee.
 
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case in mid-November, and there are countless scenarios on the potential outcome.
 
So it’s useless to speculate.
 
The bottom line is – no matter the decision – no one will lose health care coverage on the day the Supreme Court issues its ruling.
 
In the meantime, Republicans will continue to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions and fight to give Americans more affordable health care options.
 
The President reaffirmed that commitment in the Executive Order he signed last week.
 
That Executive Order states that it has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.
 
The Democrats don’t want to stop at Obamacare. What they really want is to impose their government-run “Medicare for All” program, and take away people’s private insurance plans that they like.
 
As I mentioned earlier, this one-size-fits-all approach would take away people’s private insurance, result in worse care, and bankrupt the country.
 
Republicans want to strengthen Medicare, preserve Social Security and ensure affordable private coverage options now and in the future.
 
Democrats want to mislead now in the hope of future political gain.
 
Americans deserve better.
 
We can do better.
 
Vice President Biden and his party should stop their shameful election-year scare tactics. They should end the malarkey.
 
It’s time to have the courage to engage in an honest, civil conversation about bipartisan ideas to improve these health and security programs for the millions of people who depend them.
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