WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today raised a budget point of order against the Reid health care bill, arguing the legislation's unfunded federal mandates violate existing law.
Specifically, the Reid bill requires state governments to expand their Medicaid programs in order to cover people who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which could cost the state of Tennessee $750 million from 2014-2019. In addition the bill requires public and private sector employers with 50 or more employees to provide a specified level of health care coverage or face significant penalties. These mandates will raise the cost of providing health care, placing huge burdens on already cash-strapped state and local governments and small businesses struggling to recover in a tough economy.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have determined the employer coverage requirements constitute intergovernmental and private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) of 1995. UMRA was created in order to curb the practice of imposing unfunded federal mandates on state and local governments that would displace funding for other essential government priorities. The cumulative costs of the Reid bill's mandates greatly exceed the allowable thresholds established under UMRA.
"There is no question that the unfunded mandates in this bill violate current law," Corker said. "As commissioner of finance for the state of Tennessee and mayor of Chattanooga, there was nothing more offensive to me than for the federal government to send down a mandate to our state or city and not send the money to pay for it. A number of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, including the majority leader and the chairmen of the Budget, Finance and HELP Committees, voted in 1995 to bar the federal government from imposing these excessive costs on states, local governments and businesses. So one might ask why would they support the unfunded mandates in this bill?
"The fundamental building blocks of the Reid bill are flawed and will have serious consequences for all Americans and future generations. In addition to expanding Medicaid by imposing $25 billion in unfunded mandates on states, the bill takes $466 billion away from Medicare and leverages it to create a new entitlement, uses budget gimmickry to hide its true cost, increases federal costs and actually causes Americans to face increased taxes and premiums.
"Governor Phil Bredesen referred to this bill as 'the mother of all unfunded mandates' and noted the Medicaid expansion alone could cost Tennessee $750 million from 2014 through 2019. Offsetting these costs will require higher taxes or reductions in services, such as public safety and higher education. Either way, Tennesseans will pay for the consequences of this legislation."
Corker voted to sustain the budget point of order, which failed on a motion to waive by a roll call vote of 55 to 44.