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March 29, 2011

TRANSCRIPT: Johanns Urges Senate to Pass 1099 Repeal

Mr. Johanns: Madam President, it feels a bit like déjà vu standing here again discussing the ongoing saga of the 1099 repeal. Two weeks ago, I offered amendment number 161 to this small business bill. If you read all the press releases and the public statement, while it appears that absolutely nobody could possibly oppose the repeal of the 1099 requirement in section 9006 of the health care bill. Yet once again, the other side is attempting to delay or derail the 1099 repeal by offering a second-degree amendment. Now, I might have been open to a second-degree amendment when we started this process many long months ago, but now we're approaching the one-year anniversary since we began fighting to repeal this unnecessary mandate. It has no place in the health care bill in the first place.

I can't help but question why on earth we are still swinging and missing at this one. Is it a lack of support in my caucus? Well, the answer to that, madam president, is no. The support amongst republicans is absolutely unanimous. Lack of republican support certainly has not held this up. I ask myself if there is a lack of bipartisan support that is holding the effort up. Well, the answer to that is also no. My colleague, the junior senator from West Virginia, has cosponsored the last several versions of this repeal legislation here in the senate. Together, senator Manchin and I have secured dozens of democrats who very strongly support the repeal. And 76 democrats voted for this identical 1099 repeal in the House of Representatives. So bipartisan support is enormously if not unusually strong.

So might our problem be a lack of support from the White House? Well, the answer to that is also no. The President has publicly called for repeal of this 1099 mandate on several occasions in press conferences, and he even referenced it in his state of the Union Address.

Well, is it possible that there is still confusion about how our small businesses feel about the mandate? Well, that's not the case. The chorus of job creators opposing this mandate is almost deafening. The Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and i could go on and on and on listing organizations that are arguing for its repeal.

Has it been a controversial pay-for that has slowed down our progress? Well, interestingly enough, an almost identical budgetary offset passed this chamber, the United States Senate, unanimously just four months ago. Requiring someone to repay what was given to them erroneously, well, that's just plain and simple good government. Even Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius noted that repayment of improper subsidies is -- quote -- “fair for recipients and all taxpayers ." So arguments about the pay-for simply are hollow excuses to justify inaction. And our job creators are seeing it for what it really is. It's more nonsense. It astounds me that we can seemingly pass benchmark after benchmark without going over the finish line. How can we make so much important progress only to be stymied again and again by some silent opposition? My friends across the aisle have often complained about the slow pace of the senate. It blamed the other side of the aisle for preventing progress. Well, madam President, my side of the aisle has been ready for a long, long time to repeal this job-killing mandate. I want you to know we stand ready to vote.

Considering the high unemployment rates plaguing our country, it seems absolutely incomprehensible that we would go even another day without addressing this mandate in the health care bill. Our job creators have watched dueling amendments and proposals and counterproposals. Well, that's gone on for a year. I first circulated a "dear colleague" letter asking for cosponsors of this 1099 repeal in June of last year. And when we introduced it in July with 25 cosponsors, well, small businesses cheered. It gave them hope that common sense would prevail in congress and that partisanship is sometimes set aside to just simply do the right thing. But now they see that there is yet again a delay tactic in the form of a second-degree amendment to the 1099 repeal. They have been frustrated time and time again. When it failed to advance in September or November, it appeared stalled well into the New Year. Well, today we have a simple choice. We can pass my amendment with strong bipartisan support and democrat support that we have demonstrated that we have the 60 votes necessary for the house version. Or, we can pass the second-degree amendment and push this repeal off into limbo, into never-never land yet again. We can actually fix the problem in a bipartisan way, or we can continue to kick this can down the road. If we pass the second-degree amendment, quite simply, what we have voted yes to do is delay the repeal of the 1099 amendment, and eventually we are going to flirt with disaster on this and it won't get done.

We need to focus all of our energy on helping our job creators grow and create more jobs, not force them into worrying about hiring more accountants. Pardon my boldness here, but there is no reason to delay. An identical version of my amendment passed the house with large bipartisan support, 314-112. I urge my colleagues with all i have to oppose the second-degree amendment that my friend from New Jersey is proposing. Let's be clear here, this latest distraction from 1099 repeal is just that. It's distraction. We all know that it isn't really about a study to look at health care costs. If you want to do a study, put the amendment on some other piece of legislation. This is about derailing and delaying the 1099 repeal. Because if the second-degree amendment passes, it says instead of sending this to the president to become law, we need to go back to the drawing board.

While the proponents of the second-degree amendment will claim that it's innocuous, make no mistake, it's designed to obliterate this amendment because of a budgetary offset that, again I remind us a similar offset was passed unanimously recently by the senate. Just like a "Politico" article from yesterday noted -- and I quote -- "Senate democrats are working on an amendment that would kill the republicans paid for in the future." unquote. If the second-degree passes, then we are essentially adding nearly $25 billion to our debt over the next ten years. While some may preach the virtues of pay-as-you-go rules, when it comes right down to it, they will undermine virtually any fiscal responsible pay-for. So here we are again crossing the same bridge that we have crossed so many times before. In fact, the senate refused this idea when we rejected the Baucus Amendment that repealed 1099 but was not paid for.

That amendment fell 23 votes short of passage because it just fiscally didn't make sense. So why are we still here aimlessly walking around in circles when we ought to be marching straight ahead? why are we proposing to send this bipartisan legislation back to the house? because that's what will have to happen when it ought to go directly to the president's desk for signature. Our vote today can send a message that we have all the votes necessary to get this done and get it on the president's desk, and everybody can celebrate: our job creators, democrats, republicans, independents. The logic of the second-degree amendment is absolutely baffling. Here we are in the ninth inning and somehow our pay-for has become magically unacceptable even though a similar pay-for was used unanimously by the senate before. Where were all the objections? Where was the demand for further study when we unanimously approved a similar offset for the doc fix legislation? let me be very clear. A vote in favor of the second-degree is a vote against our business and job creators.

My amendment has been waiting for a vote for 14 days now, and the repeal has been pending for nearly a year. Isn't enough enough? the time for delay and further study must be over. Let's pass my amendment today by an overwhelming vote of the senate. Let's reject the second-degree. Let's get this piece of legislation to the president for his signature, and we can all celebrate. small businesses, our job creators, deserve no less.

Madam President, thank you. I yield the floor.

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