By Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
Day after day, the hardworking men and women at the Rock Island Arsenal proudly get up, go to work, and manufacture the equipment our troops in harm’s way depend on. It is unconscionable that the workers who deliver for our country and support our troops are being forced to take a significant pay cut because Congress and the Administration can’t work together to replace the arbitrary cuts, better known as sequestration. While we both believe that the nation’s financial situation must be dealt with, sequestration is an illogical and irresponsible way to get our spending under control.
The across-the-board cuts that have led to these furloughs are forcing middle class families across the Quad Cities region to take a pay cut for no reason other than congressional dysfunction. We were both strongly opposed to sequestration cuts from the very beginning and have both fought to replace the sequester with a balanced approach that doesn’t hurt the middle class and lead to undeserved furloughs.
It has been nearly two years since Republicans in the House passed the Budget Control Act, over our opposition, which triggered these senseless budget cuts and led to the furloughs. This is not an anniversary that should be celebrated. It is a stark reminder that Congress has not come together in a bipartisan fashion to fix these cuts in a manner that does not cause salary cuts for the hardworking families we represent.
In a July 15 editorial (“Arsenal endures attack by Congress), the Quad-City Times stated, “Congress could have made tough decisions and compromised to enact real spending controls. It might have worked with the Defense Department to identify efficiencies.”
We could not agree more. Congress needs to immediately come back to the table and figure out a way to make targeted, efficient, and effective cuts. We’ve fought to give the Department of Defense more flexibility to avoid salary cuts while a grand deal to replace them is figured out. Congress has to put aside the partisan bickering and figure out a way to move Rock Island Arsenal, the Quad Cities and our nation forward without resorting to senseless furloughs for workers.
There are many things that go on in Washington that are baffling to both the American people and to us. The fact that congressional leaders and the White House have not yet sat down to discuss how to avert this mess is only the latest. We will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to find commonsense solutions to reverse these cuts for the men and women at the Rock Island Arsenal. These cuts are having real life effects each and every day in our region. The American people deserve better.
Obamacare Delay Signals Trouble Ahead
If you are confused about the new healthcare law, you are not alone. Even the folks in Washington who are supposed to be implementing the law are confused. It seems like every week another provision of the law is collapsing under its own weight. The latest is the delay of the employer mandate—(the provision that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to offer prescribed health benefits to their employees and dependents or potentially pay steep penalties).
Even if you are paying close attention to the latest updates on the law’s implementation, you could have easily missed this one. News of the delay was not formally announced, but quietly slipped into a blog entry of one of the President’s top advisors.
“We’re giving businesses more time to comply,” blogged advisor Valerie Jarrett, who also claimed that the White House is “listening” to small business.
It’s true that extra time to comply with one of the most convoluted parts of the law might provide marginal help to some small-business owners. But delay is not the long-term solution to rising healthcare costs that the small-business community has been asking for.
The only way to get Obamacare right is for Congress to pass a permanent fix: full repeal. In the meantime, NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) will continue to fight hard to correct its most dangerous pieces and do everything in our power to help you avoid its immediate pitfalls.
That’s why we’ve created “The Healthcare Playbook: A Small Business Guide to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” available on NFIB’s website. Unlike the act, this playbook is easy to understand, provides clear dates for action items and explains major requirements that you must meet.
I urge you to depend on the NFIB playbook and informative webinars for vital information that can help you and your small business meet the law’s demands and avoid penalties.
In addition, we are working constantly with pro-free-enterprise members of Congress to find workable solutions to other arcane pieces of the law. For example, we’re supporting bi-partisan legislation in both the House and Senate that would restore the definition of full-time employee to 40 hours; the healthcare law changed it to 30 hours, contradicting decades of labor law. Please join us in this crucial effort to minimize a major challenge to small businesses.
If the president is sincerely listening to jobs creators, he would provide the permanent relief they need so they can do what they do best. Americans have proved they are willing to forgive leaders who make major mistakes as long as they’re honest and admit their errors. Doing so would instill confidence in the nation’s economy and halt this fundamentally flawed policy before it inflicts serious damage.
It would be okay for Obama to concede that his law will not reduce the costs of healthcare or boost employment or lower the deficit. But we won’t hold our breath.
Delaying the employer mandate is a clear signal that Obamacare is showing signs of failure. Get active with NFIB now to help avoid this catastrophe.
President and CEO National Federation of Independent Business
Day of Reckoning For Religious Institutions: August 1st
An unprecedented move of the Obama Administration against religious institutions will reach its deadline this August 1st. That Health and Human Services (HHS) policy, written in its role of enforcement of ObamaCare, required faith-based employers to include in their insurance coverages procedures and drugs many churches find objectionable, including contraception, sterilization and the “morning after pill.” Only worshipping bodies are exempt.
The move affected religious schools and universities, social service agencies, charities, even church-run food banks, which previously had been considered outgrowths of the religious missions of the churches or synagogues, and therefore exempt from government regulation.
When objection was made by religious institutions, President Obama offered first an “accommodation” whereby the insurer would swallow the cost of those medical procedures, as if that would meet the moral objections of the faith-based employer (many of whom self-insure). Then Obama, on January 20, 2012, gave the institutions an additional year to comply with the insurance coverages, which period ends Aug. 1, 2013.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty explained in an amicus brief to a Supreme Court June 20, 2013 ruling limiting the conditions the government can attach to federal grants,
“Unfortunately, though the Aug. 1 deadline for ObamaCare’s implementation is just five weeks away, there has been no evidence that the White House cares about the religious liberty concerns raised since the draft regulations were first announced and later reissued.
“Already the Department of Health and Human Services faces a number of lawsuits, and many institutions like mine are ready to go to federal court to litigate if the final regulations continue to employ accounting gimmicks and sleight-of-hand maneuvers to force compliance with a policy we find unconscionable.” (1)
U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), was sponsor ofHR 1179, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, a bill to ensure religious health care providers, such as Catholic hospitals, are able to practice both their professions and their faith simultaneously. The bill died in committee.(4) Fortenberry said in a statement.
“Under this [Health and Human Services] rule, within a year, religiously affiliated medical providers would have to fire and refuse to treat persons of other faiths in order to uphold their own deeply held beliefs - or be forced . . . to close their doors rather than violate tenets of their religion. This is forced discrimination. This is wrong. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job . . . (2)
According to the Catholic Health Association of the U.S., Catholic hospitals account for 15.6 percent of all admissions, and treat persons of all religions or no religion. (3) Similarly, they employ persons of any faith. The religious practices of employment seekers are not an issue in hiring. If Catholic hospitals did so discriminate, the HHS regulations would leave the faith-based employer free to refuse objectionable insurance coverages. In essence, government is now determining what constitutes a church, and limiting it to actual worshiping communities.
Northern IL Tea Party board member, Sharon Larson said, “The Founding Fathers would be spinning in their graves! This is a profound violation of the First Amendment right of religious freedom.” NITP is based in the Roscoe, Rockton, South Beloit, Illinois communities.
“Freedom of conscience is a sacred gift from God, not a grant from the state,” said Galen Carey, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals.
“No government has the right to compel its citizens to violate their conscience. The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent . . . If this narrow definition of ‘religious employer’ is adopted in other areas of law, it may lead to further erosion of the conscience protections Americans have historically held. (2)
Chicago Archbishop Francis Cardinal George sent a message to parishioners in the archdiocese that the Catholic Church would shut down its various institutions in the community before violating the core doctrine of Humanae Vitae by providing contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients to its employees, free or otherwise.
A threatened closing of Catholic health care systems across the country “would create a disaster for the delivery of health care in the country, and rapidly escalate the public costs of health care,” wrote Edward Morrissey in a March 1, 2012 article in The Fiscal Times, titled “Obama Risks $100 Billion If Catholic Hospitals Close.” (3)
“Richard Land, who leads the largest Southern Baptist organization in the U.S., proclaimed solidarity with Catholics and pledged to go to jail before submitting to the HHS mandate.” (3)
(1) http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/supremes quiet hit on obamac are jFB6jP4RhHDWbMje7ni84L
“An arbitrator ruled that using a third party vendor to review eligibility violates the public employee union contract negotiated with AFSCME”.
I’m usually quite calm but that quote “screwed me into the roof”. It is the response the General Assembly received when we learned that the third party vendor, Virginia based Maximus Health Services, could not continue to root out the fraud in Illinois Medicaid System. You will recall in my article of April 11, 2013, I shared how our Medicaid System is overrun with fraud and that Maximus had determined that 13,709 recipients of 20,500 screened were deemed “ineligible”.
You see folks - that means that they are taking money out of your pocket. As always I add my comment that anyone deserving Medicaid should receive it. The way it is administered and policed is a complete joke in my opinion.
Representative Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale), who I consider one of the hardest working, most thoughtful legislators in the entire General Assembly, wrote to Governor Quinn on June 26, 2013 and co-signed with Senator Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) as follows – “The contract with Maximus is intended to insure only those eligible for taxpayer funded healthcare are receiving those services. Initial results indicate that this contract is proving to be highly successful in helping the state discover and remove as many as 80,000 ineligible individuals from the rolls to date because they live outside of Illinois, make too much money or otherwise are not eligible. By the end of the year as many as 300,000 individuals could be removed from the program that costs Illinois taxpayers more than $10 billion a year”.
It’s bad enough that AFSCME says no outside provider. What absolutely infuriates me is when we do discover the fraud we simply say “quit it” after God knows how much money that they bilked of your tax dollars.
Did I spend too much of my life in law enforcement? What about prosecuting every one of them? This is just about the most ludicrous issue in Illinois government. We slap their hand and they figure another way to get their hand out again.
I remind you again as I did on April 11 – since 2000 Illinois Medicaid rolls have more than doubled from 1.4 million to 2.8 million. Guess what? When Obama Care kicks in we add another 500,000 to the rolls.
This is a runaway train folks. I think the world of Julie Hamos, the Medicaid Director in Illinois. She needs to get her house in order and we the General Assembly needs to demand prosecution and repayment of ill gained money.