WASHINGTON D.C.—On Friday, February 17, 2012, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives on the extension of the Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Insurance and Medicare doctor’s payment fix. The bill will continue vital programs that provide tax cuts averaging $1,000 for more that 160 millions Americans, extend unemployment insurance payments for those who are out of work through no fault of their own and ensure that doctors can continue to treat Medicare patients. While the extensions of the programs are critical, Congressman Pallone expressed his disappointment that the programs have been saved by cutting benefits to federal workers and payments to hospitals and nursing facilities.
The following is the statement Congressman Pallone delivered on the House Floor:
Thank you, M. Speaker. Today’s payroll tax conference agreement will provide $1,000 in the pockets of more than 160 million Americans and ensure that approximately 3.5 million Americans will continue to benefit from much needed unemployment insurance. We have also protected seniors’ ability to see their doctors with an SGR fix through the end of the year.
Despite these critical provisions, this is a difficult vote to take. I am greatly disappointed over how these extensions are offset. First, the unemployment extension is paid for on the backs of middle class Federal workers. These hardworking men and women continue to be targeted in this Congress – but yet they are not the reason for our nation’s deficits. Meanwhile, my Republican colleagues refuse to require the wealthiest few to pay their fair share.
Secondly, the SGR fix is being paid for with critical health care dollars. In fact, the bill slashes one of the most important investments this country has ever made in preventive health. That is extremely short-sighted. We cannot continue down that path or we will never address the real cost concerns of our health care system.
Sadly, the bill also manages to cut from one provider – hospitals and nursing homes – to help pay for another – physicians. We cannot rob Peter to pay Paul and our health care system cannot sustain further provider cuts. Meanwhile, there is still no permanent solution to an ongoing SGR problem that cannot continue to be kicked down the road again.
I will vote in favor of this bill, but I do so with grave reservations. Thank you.