Friday, July 31, 2009

Garrett's Big Day

Representative Scott Garrett is going to have a big day today. H.R. 3269 is on the floor, which is going to give shareholders a greater say in compensation packages and disclose their incentives. As by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, Garrett is on a mission to stop this from happening.

Garrett has introduced an amendment that's now being debated to basically re-write the entire bill. You can watch the proceedings on CSPAN.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

250K Cars Sold

The news tonight that the fabled Cash for Clunkers program is out of money, less than a month after being passed and three days after applications began being accepted, is a good thing.

From the New York Times:
About a quarter-million vehicles were sold under the program, which offered payments of $3,500 to $4,500 for people who traded in old cars for new ones that had higher fuel economy. The average payment worked out to about $4,000, and the total payout, about $1 billion, the amount allocated by Congress under the program, formally called the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS.

Republicans like our Representative Scott Garrett who voted against the program the first and second time should take heart: A tax incentive for real people actually worked.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Garrett's Hiring

For those looking to work for Representative Scott Garrett, or a Conservative in Washington in general, this could be your chance:
Legislative Assistant - Congressman Scott Garrett has an opening for a Legislative Assistant handling a variety of issues including Foreign Affairs, Environment and Energy. A successful candidate will have a strong conservative philosophy, be a self-starter, able to manage multiple projects at the same time and perform well under tight deadlines. Strong writing and analytical skills are a must. Please email a cover letter, writing sample and resume to

Monday, July 27, 2009

Garrett helps Corzine

Representative Scott Garrett and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a Republican) are not the closest of friends, at least in the media. I had written about one dust up two years ago between Garrett and the unapologetic moderate. Recently, they revisited their "good will" toward each other. From The Hill:
LaHood got into a heated argument over the $787 economic stimulus package Friday with Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.) while offering testimony to the House Budget Committee.

The debate was related to attempts by some Republican governors to refuse stimulus money, and ended up with LaHood offering praise to New Jersey’s Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, who faces an uphill reelection battle this year.


"Sen. Kyl is not in charge of the money, congressman," LaHood told Garrett. "The governor is. I wanted to be sure that the governor was not in the same line of thinking."

When Garrett wondered whether his state would receive a similar letter, LaHood backed Corzine, the embattled New Jersey governor, noting that he had secured millions in stimulus funding from Congress. Corzine this year is facing a tough re-election race against Republican Chris Christie.

"Your governor has been a real leader in this, by the way," LaHood said during an exchange in which the two former GOP conference members talked over one another.
Garrett and his people were so pleased by the exchange, they made a video of it and put the testimony up on Garrett's YouTube Page:

By Garrett persisting as he did, and feeling it was worth posting, Governor Corzine was able to get this nice little web video made:

Nothing like a respected moderate Republican sitting and giving sworn testimony that a Democratic Governor has created jobs during an election year. Corzine should probably call and thank Garrett.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Our Unbelievable State

We should all be embarrassed about the corruption busts yesterday.

Jason Springer of Blue Jersey did a nice job rounding up all of the video clips he could in this post.

Google has about 1,700 stories up about the busts. They also seemed to make the front page of every newspaper in the region and those with national distribution.

Garrett and the Tea Baggers

The Ridgewood Blog put up a video of Representative Scott Garrett addressing the Tea Party folks before the Fourth of July parade in Ridgewood. It was a nice chance for him to talk about his Constitutional Caucus:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garrett's Health Care Funny Numbers

Here we go again.

Representative Scott Garrett's streak of not misrepresenting numbers has officially come to an end. In this week's Garrett Gazette, the full court press to scare people out of us becoming more competitive with the world by implementing a better health insurance system stepped it up a notch on the spin cycle.
The health care plan proposed by the Democrats will cost American families more than $1,000,000,000,000, and yet will cause as many as 114 million individuals to lose their current coverage under the bill, according to non-partisan actuaries at the Lewin Group.
Sounds scary. Not only does Garrett fail to acknowledge much of the $1 trillion is already in the system, and would be shifted as opposed to being new costs; by Garrett's statement our number of uninsured would climb to 162 million. There would be no debating that would be awful, if that's actually what Lewin said.

However, if you look at the testimony, this is what they said:
Beginning in the third year, the newly established “Health Choices Commissioner” would be permitted to extend eligibility to include all employers. If the plan is opened to individuals and all employers, the number of people in the public plan would rise to 122.9 million people. Private coverage would decline by about 113.5 million people.
That's right. If the public option was made available to all individuals and employers 113.5 million would shift the way they're covered, not lose it. Why would so many people shift? Because they're choosing the lower cost option.

By entering a larger insurance pool without a profit motive, costs would drop for those who choose it. It's how insurance plans are supposed to work.

If people wanted Cadillac plans they could still get them. The thought of people actually having the freedom to choose to not to get ripped off is why former insurance lawyer Garrett and others who back the industry are fighting so hard to scare the hell out of people, and spending over $1.4 million a day to lobby Congress. They're terrified because they know if people have an honest choice, they will in fact choose the lower cost.

It never ceases to disgust me to see how untruthful the politics of health reform gets. The status quo advocates have a simple playbook: Misrepresent as much as possible to scare the hell out of people.

The debate over costs is being worked out in a pretty transparent and straight forward way by the Blue Dogs. Unfortunately, Garrett's type of argument doesn't serve as a productive addition to the discussion. It just stirs up misinformed rage.

Garrett should stick with the Financial Services sub-committee and leave health care to those whose voice can actually be heard and genuinely want us to stop having a competitive disadvantage to other nations.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Discharge H. Res. 554

With the health care debate raging, now is the time for Congress to implement the rules change being pushed by the good people at the Sunlight Foundation via

H. Res. 554 was reported to committee on June 17th, with no action since. Here's what the Resolution does:
Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives to require that legislation
and conference reports be available on the Internet for 72 hours
before consideration by the House, and for other purposes.
As crucial as it is that we pass health care reform, it is equally crucial that we do it right. And even if it's employed by the Blue Dog Democrats and the Republicans as a delay tactic, a discharge petition for H. Res 554 may be in order.

The discharge petition would get the bill out of the rules committee and on to the floor for a vote. I'd fully support Representative Scott Garrett if they got the petition voted on and passed, because that's how important it is that the health bill is done right and in full view of the public.

It's been clear for some time when bills are rushed is when lobbyist and special interest provisions are inserted. While the perfect can't be the enemy of the good, if we're not careful, the largest reform in many of our lifetimes could turn into something much less than good.

Although this bill seems to reverse many examples of recent history of rushed bills gone wrong (ex. Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Donut Hole), when bills come out of committee without review there's no way to guess what other things may have been inserted.

Anyone who honestly cares about making sure this reform is done right should be supporting H. Res 554. It would provide the confidence going forward, or an opportunity see issues that need amending, or the silver bullet if it deserves to fail.

Whether for or against the bill, we need to know what's in the bill.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Garrett Backer Busted

Since coming to Congress, Representative Scott Garrett has been the darling of the American Conservative Union, receiving a 100 percent rating from the group for the duration of his career. Garrett even acknowledges their stance on issues when explaining his own, most recently with regard to the Cap and Trade Bill. As it turns out, they're simply a corrupt money making proposition.

Politico delivered the bombshell:
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s support in a bitter legislative dispute, then the group’s chairman flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.
To make it even better, Politico posted the letter on-line. Here's a part of the letter from the ACU:
Through our projects and activities, we support and defend the doctrine of original intent of the framers of the Constitution, and we support America’s businesses and entrepreneurs. We are proud to promote the principles of capitalism and the pursuit of the American dream.


For the activist contact portion of the plan we will contact over 150,000 people per state multiple times at a cost of $1.39 per name or $2,147,550 to implement the entire program.


If we incorporate the targeted, Senator-personalized radio effort into the plan, you can figure an additional $125,000 on average, per state.
Adding the radio, ACU was basically shaking down Fed Ex for $3.4 million. When they didn't pony up, they went with UPS. Of course they deny that now.

One would like to believe after Conservatives got burned by Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff, when they turned out Christians against gambling while being funded by competing casinos, they wouldn't be duped by such systematic fraud. However, the ACU seemed confident they could do this.

That said, the folks over at Sean Hannity's forum are talking about this:
Yes, but the services offered actually took the price tag up to 3.5 million (charges such as $1.39 per name email contacts). The fact that a supposed advocacy group was basically selling their endorsement of a specific issue is ridiculous. What next? Another million if they keyvoted it?


They are (were) a pretty damned big deal as far as congressional rankings went especially. If the ACU keyvotes a subject, a lot of people jump.
Key votes are the ones that Garrett's reputation as a 100% voter are based on. As mentioned earlier, Garrett mentions them in his official communications. He also mentions them in his fund raising appeals. If it ever comes to light they've been selling key vote status, there will be even more hell to pay for Garrett and the others that place this organization so highly in their own communications.

If Garrett releases a statement on any of this I'll post it in full.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Full Text of Obama's Speech

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It is good to see you. Hello, New Jersey! (Applause.) All right, everybody have a seat. Everybody have a seat. I want to begin by just making a few acknowledgements. First of all, I'm going to have a lot to say about this guy, but I just want everybody to know that one of my earliest supporters, somebody who had faith and confidence in me before I was a United States senator was the man standing next to me right here -- Jon Corzine. (Applause.) And so it is a special honor to be with him.

I've got a couple other friends I want to quickly acknowledge. Larry Cohen is around here somewhere. CWA -- right here. We appreciate you, Larry. (Applause.) President of the Communication Workers. We've got a couple of outstanding mayors -- the Pride of Newark, Cory Booker is here. (Applause.) There's Cory in the back. And we've also got the Pride of Jersey City, Jeremiah Healy. (Applause.)

I want to just say a little something at the top. As many of you may have heard, five officers were shot in the line of duty in Jersey City. Jeremiah -- I just saw him; we just discussed it. He may already be on his way back. Obviously we are watching this closely. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of all the officers who have been hurt. And we are confident they are going to end up coming back strong as ever. But it's a reminder for all of us of the incredible sacrifice that our law enforcement officials engage in, and their families are part of, each and every day. So I hope everybody keeps them in their thoughts and prayers in the days to come. (Applause.)

It is great to be back in New Jersey. I'm proud to stand with a man who wakes up every single day thinking about your future and the future of this state -- and that's your governor, Jon Corzine. (Applause.)

Like many of us in public life today, Jon is a leader who's been called to govern at some extraordinary times. He's been tested by the worst recession in half a century -- a recession that was caused by years of recklessness and irresponsibility, and obviously had a disproportionate impact here in New Jersey, given the closeness of the financial sector to the state.

Part of the crisis was caused by the same small thinking that's plagued our politics for decades -- the kind of thinking that says we can afford to tinker around with big problems, put off tough decisions, defer the big challenges, tell people only what they want to hear.

That's not the kind of leader Jon Corzine is. He didn't run for this office on the promise that change would be easy, and he certainly has not avoided what is hard. This isn't somebody who's here because of some special interest or political machine -- he's here because he cares about what happens to the people of New Jersey.

This is a man who has provided more property tax relief than any other governor in New Jersey's history. (Applause.) This is the first governor in 60 years who has reduced the size of government. At the same time, this is also a leader who has stood up against those who wanted to cut what matters, like education. Jon Corzine has not only protected funding for New Jersey's schools, he's reformed them with higher standards, and now students in this state rank at the top of the country in reading and math. That's a testimony to Jon Corzine's leadership. (Applause.)

Since Jon Corzine became governor, the Children's Health Insurance Program has been expanded to reach 80,000 more children -- 80,000 who got health insurance who did not have it before. New Jersey has become a leader in clean energy. And Jon Corzine wasn't just the first governor to pass an economic recovery plan for his state; he was an ally in helping the federal government, my administration, develop the national recovery plan.

And because of these recovery plans, jobs have been saved and created throughout the state of New Jersey -- jobs of cops and teachers; jobs in small businesses and clean energy companies. Unemployment insurance and health insurance has been extended to those who have felt the brunt of this recession, who lost their jobs. Tax relief has been delivered to families and small businesses. Ninety-five percent of working families have already received tax relief as a consequence of our recovery plan. And I can promise you that more help is on the way in the weeks and months to come.

Now, I realize this is little comfort to those who have lost a job in this recession. Some of you know people who've lost jobs, or maybe you're -- worried about losing their home or can't afford their health insurance anymore. I realize that some of the progress that's been made doesn't help some folks who need to pay their bills and have fallen deeply behind. And I'll be honest with you -- even though jobs have always been one of the last things that come back in a recession, some of the jobs that have been lost may not come back.

The fact is, even before this crisis hit, we had an economy that was creating a good deal of wealth for the folks at the very top, but not a lot of good-paying jobs for the rest of America. It's an economy that wasn't built to compete in the 21st century. It was one where we spend more on health care than any other nation but aren't any healthier; where we've been slow to invest in clean energy technologies that have created new jobs and new industries in other countries because we've been slow to take up the call of clean energy. We had an economy where we've watched our graduation rates lag behind too much of the world. We used to be at the very top, number one, in college graduation rates. We aren't anymore; we're in the middle of the pack.

But that was the America of yesterday. That doesn't have to be the America of tomorrow. That must not be the America our children inherit. (Applause.) You see, what we're facing right now is more than a passing crisis. It's a transformative moment that's led this nation to an unmistakable crossroads. We've got some choices and decisions we've got to make -- right here in Washington -- in Washington and right here in Trenton.

Now, there are some in New Jersey, some in Washington, some all across the country, who want us to go down the path we've already traveled for most of the last decade -- the path where we just throw up our hands and say, "We can't do anything about health care. It's too tough. We can't do anything about energy -- too hard" -- where we do nothing but hand out more tax breaks to the wealthiest few that make the rich richer and the deficit even larger, and leave ordinary people in the lurch. That's one path. It's a path where our health care costs keep rising and our oil dependency keeps on growing, where our financial markets remain an unregulated crapshoot, and our workers lose out on the jobs of tomorrow.

But that's not the future I accept for the United States of America. That's not the future that Jon Corzine accepts for the United States of America. That's not the future you accept for the United States of America. (Applause.) We are going to set a new course for this nation, and it's going to start right here in New Jersey. (Applause.)

We did not come as far as a country as we have because we've spent all our time looking backwards, or because we stood still in the face of great challenges and said "No, we can't." We didn't get here by lowering our sights or diminishing our dreams. We are a forward-looking people -- a people who have always faced the future not with fear, but with determination; not with doubt, but with hope. We've always taken great chances, and reached for new horizons, and remade the world around us.

And that's what we must do again. I am absolutely confident that we will weather this economic storm. But once we clear away the wreckage, the real question is: What are we going to build in its place?

Even as we rescue this economy from this crisis, I believe we have to rebuild an even better economy than we had before. We're going to have to lay a new foundation that will allow this country to thrive and compete in the global economy. And that means investing in the clean energy jobs of the future. That means educating and training our workers for those jobs. That means finally controlling the health care costs that are driving this nation into debt. (Applause.)

When it comes to these issues, the naysayers seem to think that we can somehow just keep on doing what we've been doing and expect a different outcome. We can't. And everywhere we go, I meet Americans who know that we can't. They know change isn't easy. They know there will be setbacks and false starts. And I love some of our opponents who stand up and say, "Look, it's been six months and you haven't solved the economy yet." (Laughter.) The American people know better than that.

Here is what they also know: We're at a rare moment where we've been given the opportunity to remake our world; a chance to seize our future. And as difficult as it sometimes is, what is inherent about the American spirit is the fact that we don't cling to the past in this country. We always move forward. And that movement doesn't begin in Washington -- it begins with you. It happens because the American people decide it's time to move forward; because you decide it's time for change; because you're willing to face the future without fear. And if you do that now, then we will not only reelect Jon Corzine so he can keep on fighting for families here in New Jersey, but we will do what earlier generations have done and build something better to leave to our children and secure our future in the 21st century.

We are counting on you. And I'm absolutely confident that the American people are going to meet the test.

Thank you, everybody. God bless you.

Obama for Corzine

Update: And it's a wrap. The man is ridiculously gifted at imparting his passion on the crowds he's speaking to. However, it's passion like that we're going to need to get health reform passed.

Longer post coming.

Update: Obama to cynics: What's your plan? What do you plan to do?

Update: Paraphrase: At least half the money of the plan is already in the system but being spent badly.

Update: "We are at a point where inaction is not an option." Obama just got the crowd got jumping. "It's not going to be easy". And Obama brings out the "no one's talking about taking your health insurance away."

Update: Obama talking health care. "The health care issue is starting to heat up".

Update: Paraphrase: We need to give every child. A better future.

Update: We did not come this far as a country by looking backward.

Update: Obama is ripping into those like Representative Scott Garrett.

Update: Obama: We're going forward.

Update: Obama talking about Corzine. 80,000 kids have health insurance thanks to expanding Family Care.

Update: Obama is on the stage. He has asked us to keep the Jersey City officers shot this morning in our thoughts and prayers.

Update: Corzine ripping lack of specifics in Republican proposals. Corzine: The same people who failed so miserably in the White House wants you to hand them the keys to the State House.

Update: Corzine: With a partner in the White House there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

Update: Corzine: Health care is a right not a privilege.

Update: Long introduction of Obama. Corzine is making the Abe Lincoln comparison.

Health care is the first issue Corzine mentions, now the economy,

Leaders don't choose their time in history, but they have a responsibility to seize it.

Update: Corzine introducing Obama now. Paraphrase: Obama is challenging us to discover the best in ourselves. The elected officials are being introduced. Corzine is thanking us for believing in America. And Corzine just teased the crowd.

Update: The regular press corps was just walked in and the seal has just been attached. Here we go.

Update: Now we have a jamming gospel choir. Uplifting. A large group of folks are singing along.

Update: Corzine 09. It rhymes. Next speaker is Jim Mooney (sp?). Correction: He sang the National Anthem.

Update: And here we go. Missed our first speaker's name, but straight out of the gate, tying Chris Christie to George Bush. Maybe had Christie not given the multi-million dollar no-bid contracts to Ashcroft or raised all the money for Bush it wouldn't be so easy.

Update: So I've had some interesting conversations with national reports, attempting to explain to them what's been cooking here in NJ.

Update: The crowd is getting pumped up. The DJ really is a nice touch. It appears some speakers are getting ready to take the stage as the signers are getting set up.

Update: Heavy Bruce Springsteen being played. Charles Stile of the Record is typing away.

Update: Inside and sitting in the press section. The DJ's been good. The crowd just erupted. The helicopters are coming in.

Update: Oh man. It's hot. Although, we just found out Obama had an all female crew flying Marine One to Andrews. Doesn't change the fact it's hot with no water.

Update: They are having us gather. Out of the shade.

Update: Mainstream press, elected officials, and a band have shown up. Also, Joey Novick of Politics Unusual has just arrived.

Well, I succeeded in making to the Gov. Corzine rally with President Obama. So far so good, except for two sets of dead batteries for my good camera.

A huge crowd is already here and we're at least an hour from having the doors open.

I'm standing outside the press entrance waiting for it to open. Updates will be coming as I have them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Health Politics of Fear

Well, at some point we had to expect our Representative Scott Garrett to weigh in on the health care debate. In this week's Garrett Gazette he did, and his message is to be terrified of choice.

That's literally what the health care debate is over. Cut out all of the horror stories from other nations that don't apply, because that's not what we're talking about, and it comes down to choice. Even though Garrett and his fellow Republicans scream about rationing, most honest brokers acknowledge it already happens. We're talking about having an extra choice in our insurance options.

At about $100 billion a year, citizens are going to have to get health insurance, providers are going to have to become efficient, and citizens can shop for the same sort of plan Garrett and other Federal employees get.

Obviously, this scares the hell out of those spending $1.4 million a day to lobby against the effort. See, if insurance actually works as the market should dictate, instead of as a scam, the more people in an insurance pool the broader the risk is spread and the lower the cost.

Unfortunately, that's not how the system has worked. While Republicans have dusted off the early 90's playbook against health care, and are rehashing some of the misrepresentations of truth from the SCHIP debate; there are as many if not more horror stories generated by our current health care system. From hospitals dumping patients in alleys to insurance companies arbitrarily deciding people's access to care, we're living in a rationed system now.

Everyone knows at least one person who has had an issue with an insurance provider. And lets not forget that all of us who have insurance have to pay more for critical treatment of what could have been preventable when the 47 million uninsured need something.

However, we know that Garrett will vote against this based on "principle." However, as with his opposition to SCHIP, Garrett's belief that states should get to decide things for themselves, as he often cites the 10th Amendment, goes straight out the window:
Removing burdensome state coverage mandates and opening up the health care marketplace to competition across state lines could dramatically reduce health care costs in New Jersey and across the country.
So, the mandated coverage that states have decided their citizens should have needs to be removed by the Federal government. But isn't Garrett the one that argues states should be allowed to set their own standards for, well, everything else but health care?

To his credit, Garrett does address some of the things in the mammoth 1,000 page bill as being good ideas. From the Gazette:
Effectiveness: The current health care system reimburses the number of procedures rather than the quality and efficacy of the care. While doctors are compensated for extra tests and hospitals visits, they are not paid for offering telephone consultations or implementing health care IT. By encouraging quality over quantity of care, we can down on over testing and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship
This is part of what Mike Huckabee talked about when he said we have to go from a treatment of the sick mentality to a prevention and well-care mentality. It's a good idea, which is probably why steps are taken in the bill in this direction. Good ideas are good ideas regardless of party.

With Garrett being the only member of our Congressional delegation to oppose the SCHIP expansion, it makes sense that President Obama would come to our state tomorrow in support of Jon Corzine. Our program works, and reading what I have of the bill, it seems to be a further expansion of the good practices we have here. Every Republican except for Garrett believed enough in what we do here to vote for it to continue. We're a model for once. While Obama can boost Corzine, having an example that works boosts Obama.

Is the bill perfect? No. Will the Dem leadership have to capitulate to the Blue Dogs demands for some fiscal sanity? Absolutely. But while the fiscal conservative Democrats and the socialist Democrats find middle ground to move our nation forward, the fear mongering of Garrett and his Republican brethren mean once again our District doesn't have a seat at the table. They're not willing to honestly talk about the debate to their counterparts on the other side of the aisle or their constituents. So, we're going to be left out. Is that representation?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blue Dogs Step Up on Health Care

Even though they have been drowned out this weekend by an interestingly timed explosion of stories about the CIA, the Blue Dog Coalition put out a comprehensive letter about why they couldn't support the current Health Care reform package as written. Without the Blue Dogs, a reform package cannot get through the House.

Although some on the left may see this as obstructionist, the reality is the program's price tag needs to give us all pause. We're talking about a trillion dollars here, and as our last trillion dollar mistake should have taught us, if we don't plan well now, we'll be paying more later.

Fiscally conservative in the true sense, readers have to remember that it was the Blue Dogs that called out our own Representative Scott Garrett for refusing to support pay as you go reform and certain balanced budget initiatives. I'm glad they had the courage to put this out there. It was needed.

Here's the letter in it's entirety, as they raise some excellent concerns:

July 9, 2009

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:

As members of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, we write today to express our strong reservations about the process and direction of the draft tri-committee health care reform proposal. We share President Obama’s deep commitment to passing comprehensive, deficit-neutral health care reform that lowers costs for American families and businesses, increases the quality of care provided, and expands access for every American. We also believe that the process by which we get there is critically important if we hope to develop responsible health care reform legislation that accomplishes all of these goals.

After reviewing the draft tri-committee health care reform proposal, we believe it lacks a number of elements essential to preserving what works and fixing what is broken. Following are our initial thoughts, and we hope to see a draft at some point that substantially addresses each key item:

Deficit Neutrality – President Obama has repeatedly called for a health care bill that “must and will be paid for.” We do not support health care reform that is not deficit neutral. We have to take steps to control the cost of health care if we ever hope to put our country back on a fiscally sustainable path. As the Senate has done, this may require us to pare back some of the cost-drivers in order to produce a bill that we can afford. We also firmly believe that paying for health care reform must start with finding savings within the current delivery system and maximizing the value of our health care dollar before we ask the public to pay more.

Delivery System Reform – We must be much more aggressive in bending the cost curve. The discussion draft fails to include adequate structural changes that will succeed in lowering costs and increasing value. We cannot simply “add” new consumers to a broken system. The inclusion of pilot programs on Accountable Care Organizations and Medical Homes are good first steps, but innovative delivery system reforms, such as value-based purchasing and the value index, would properly realign incentives to promote high quality, efficient care.

Small Business Protections – Any additional requirements for employers must be carefully considered and done so within the context of what is currently offered. Small business owners and their employees lack coverage because of high and unstable costs – not because of an unwillingness to provide or purchase it. We cannot support a bill that further exacerbates the challenges faced by small businesses.

Rural Health Equity – Rural communities face unique challenges in delivering health care, and our reform efforts must not overlook them. The short-term extensions of rural provisions included in the discussion draft are critical, but we must not fail to address the underlying problems and inequities that plague rural providers. A strong rural package is critical to our support.

Bipartisanship – It is imperative that comprehensive health care include the ideas of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. The American public is looking for us to work together, regardless of party affiliation, to pass comprehensive health care reform.

We also wish to reiterate our support for the recommendations previously made by our Coalition regarding how to appropriately structure a public option. In order to establish a level playing field, providers must be fairly reimbursed at negotiated rates and their participation must be voluntary. A “Medicare-like” public option would negatively impact hospitals, doctors and patients. Medicare reimbursement is on average 20 to 30 percent lower than private plans and this inequity is even greater in some parts of the country. Using Medicare’s below-market rates would seriously weaken the financial stability of our local hospitals and doctors.

Finally, any health care reform legislation that comes to the floor must be available to all Members and the public for a sufficient amount of time before we are asked to vote for it. This includes any amendments or changes to the bill included as part of the rule. We need time to review it and discuss it with our constituents. Too short of a review period is unacceptable and only undermines Congress’ ability to pass responsible health care reform that works for all Americans.

From where we are today, significant progress on the draft tri-committee health care reform proposal needs to be made in order to address each of these concerns. We cannot support a final product that fails to do so. We stand ready to work with you to fulfill President Obama’s goal and lower the cost of health care for American families and businesses.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Garrett to Obama: No New Fed Powers

Well, Representative Scott Garrett has sent a letter to President Obama requesting an investigation of the Federal Reserve. Garrett's been very vocal over the last couple of weeks about not giving the Fed new regulatory powers. Now, he's been joined by a few other Republicans and a couple of Democrats in calling for an investigation into the Fed's role in the Bank of America takeover of Merrill Lynch.

While I'm not certain Obama will look at it today, being that he met the Pope, Garrett and his guys raise some interesting points. No harm in looking into this before regulations are implemented.

Here's the complete letter:

July 10, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform recently held a hearing at which Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, testified regarding his alleged involvement in threats made to the management and board of Bank of America regarding its merger with Merrill Lynch.

While Chairman Bernanke testified that he made no such threats in relation to the merger, there is a considerable amount of other testimony and evidence that calls into question those claims.

As you of course know, the financial services regulatory reform proposal that your Administration put forward two weeks ago contains within it provisions that would grant the Federal Reserve considerable new powers and oversight over a broad swath of industry in this country in order to monitor and take action to reduce “systemic risk” in our economy. Before Congress, working with the Administration, moves forward on granting the Federal Reserve any additional power, however, the actions of the Federal Reserve related to the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch deal need to be fully investigated.

If a thorough investigation of these events brings to light conclusive evidence that the Federal Reserve has overstepped its authority and abused its power under current law (where it already wields considerable regulatory strength and broad authority), it would be inappropriate to grant it sweeping new powers. Even if an investigation does not yield conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, the allegations should give the Administration, Congress, and most importantly, the American people, pause before concentrating extensive new power in the hands of one regulatory entity with little to no direct accountability to the public.

Furthermore, there is additional evidence that the Federal Reserve withheld information from other regulators regarding its interaction with Bank of America. Again, with efforts underway to increase cooperation among regulatory entities, this evidence raises serious questions about the Federal Reserve’s commitment to collaboration with other regulators and about the wisdom of concentrating even more power in this entity.

Given the events of the last few years and the resulting financial and economic turmoil in which our country now finds itself, it is appropriate that your administration, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and many other public and private entities, engage in a wide-ranging debate about what reforms are needed for our financial regulatory system. Momentum is now beginning to form to enact legislation to implement reforms. No additional powers should be contemplated for the Federal Reserve, however, until this issue is thoroughly investigated and the Federal Reserve is cleared of any wrongdoing. As mentioned above, even if it is cleared, we must ask ourselves, and we believe the American people are asking themselves, do we really want to centralize even more power in this entity?


Scott Garrett
Member of Congress