Health care, energy legislation frustrate Wyoming’s D.C. delegation
Washington, D.C. – It’s no secret there are some weighty issues in this month’s lame duck session of the 111th Congress.
According to Wyoming Senator Barrasso, those include the death tax and several other tax issues, as well as energy rules and regulation and health care.
“I think the President has taken his eye off the ball of the economy in focusing so much on the health care law and its mandate,” says Barrasso of another national concern. “At a time of 9.6 percent unemployment, and the $800 billion spent on the so-called ‘stimulus package’ that just added to our debt with very little to show for it, I’m encouraged by the fact that we now have 61 new members of the House and six new members of the Senate who will be focused on smaller government, less spending, fewer regulations, secure borders and a strong defense. If we get the fundamentals right, that matters.”
Of Wyoming’s state elections, Barrasso says, “I think we’re in good hands in Wyoming, but I’m very concerned about Washington.”
Barrasso explains there are four tax issues before Congress this month. “One is the alternative minimum tax, which we hope to get patched, and we want to deal with the death tax. The third relates to investments and what is done with capital gains, and the last is the income tax, where they want to raise the top rate from 35 to 39.6 percent, and they’ll all happen automatically unless Congress acts,” he says. “The President has said he sees they have to do something. I don’t know if it’ll be temporary or permanent, but I don’t think they should raise taxes on anybody in the middle of an economic downturn.”
Of health care, and whether or not it can be fixed, Barrasso says, “The whole issue is this 2,700-page health care bill, and we know that’s too big. We’ve got to make incremental steps in the right direction, and Mike Enzi has a great 10-point plan that would work. This is so intertwined that it doesn’t seem fixable.”
Barrasso says he thinks the fundamental flaws in the health care legislation have to do with how it will be paid for.
“There are some horrible parts, like the 1099 forms you’ll all have to fill out for any business you do over $600,” he says, adding that the requirement is in the bill to pay for it. “They’re trying to pay for this health care bill, and they figure there’s a lot of money on which people aren’t paying taxes, and it’s probably when they buy things, so they score this as $17 billion in unpaid taxes. By making everybody fill out all these forms they claim they will raise $17 billion more dollars, which they’ve already spent.”
Barrasso says the bill’s opponents are trying to remove the employer mandate, which says every citizen has to have health insurance.
“Every week on the Senate floor I give a doctor’s second opinion on the health care law – on why it’s bad for patients, providers, nurses, doctors and taxpayers,” he comments. “President Obama will still be in office for two years. If we pass something that says repeal it, he’ll veto it and we don’t have the votes to overcome the veto. We’ll try to starve it, and rip it apart limb by limb.”
Barrasso says there’s no money in the law for doctors, but there’s money for 13,500 more IRS agents to make sure U.S. citizens comply with the law. He says it also includes $10 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to write rules and regulations, because, supposedly, nobody read the law.
“The President says it will be better than what they have. Well, that’s his opinion that it’s better, and it’s certainly much more expensive.”
Regarding increasing regulation on emissions and the U.S. energy industry, Barrasso says more control by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is designed to drive up the cost of energy.
“We have been able to stop Congress from putting those laws in effect, so the Obama administration has said, ‘If you won’t do it, we’ll do it ourselves.’ Governor Freudenthal says we won’t comply as a state, and I expect the new governor will have equal fortitude,” he says.
“Senator Enzi has always told me to watch out for the ‘weasel words,’” adds Barrasso. “When the President says he wants to make renewable energy the cheapest form of energy, that sounds good, but he knows how much it costs for wind and solar energy, which are more expensive than oil and gas and nuclear power and coal, which is the most affordable, reliable, secure and available source of energy. So, he wants to make all other energy more expensive by implementing the taxes and EPA regulations.”
“If you look at what’s happening around the world, if we turned off the United States tomorrow, emissions around the world would continue to go up, because of what’s happening in China, India and Australia.
“It is foolish for us to handicap ourselves, and tie our hands behind our back, and increase the cost of doing business for the sake of what may be lowering the temperature of the planet by a half degree 75 years from now,” says Barrasso. “It’s ludicrous, and that’s what I’ll continue to argue and vote for in both of those committees.”
He adds that one of the biggest challenges of the current administration are the ‘czars’ who control federal agencies.
“The head of EPA, Lisa Jackson, at least had to be confirmed in the U.S. Senate,” explains Barrasso. “But this President has put a whole new level of czars in there, like Carole Browner, who pulls the strings for the secretaries of the Interior, Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation. They’re like the puppet masters in the White House, and we can’t subpoena them or ask them to testify, and Carole Browner tells Lisa Jackson what to do.”
Barrasso says many EPA efforts will help the environment a little bit, while costing a lot. “There’s no balance, in terms of what we get for the expense,” he says. “That’s why they’re looking at spending all this money, and having our energy costs go up, which puts businesses at risk. It makes no sense.”
Senator John Barrasso spoke to the annual convention of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation in mid-November. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.