WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today voted against a budget offered by Senate Democrats that calls for a trillion dollars in new tax increases, prescribes more failed stimulus-style spending and does not rein in our alarming $16.7 trillion debt. In addition to considering the Democrats’ budget, the Senate also adopted Johanns’ amendment removing restrictions in the President’s health care law and his amendment to ensure that federal agencies do not ignore regulatory planning and transparency requirements.
"After four years of spending borrowed money, it looks like Democrats are pretty rusty at crafting anything close to a responsible budget plan,” Johanns said. “They have turned a deaf ear to the American people’s demands that we leave or our kids and grandkids with a vibrant country instead of a mountain of debt. The only way to achieve this goal is by rolling back costly regulations and strengthening programs like Social Security and Medicare – two of the main drivers of federal spending. The new taxes, spending and debt in the Democrats’ budget plan shows how oblivious they are to the reality America faces."
Johanns supported a budget resolution that would balance the budget in 10 years, repeal President Obama’s health care law and reduce spending. This resolution also started the discussion of how to put entitlement programs on a more sustainable path.
Johanns introduced, cosponsored and supported numerous amendments to balance the budget, rein in spending, lower taxes, repeal costly mandates in the President’s health care law, as well as the entire law, and help private-sector businesses by promoting regulatory transparency and accountability. Johanns also introduced an amendment banning EPA fly-overs of farms, ranches and agricultural operations.
· The Senate adopted, by voice vote, an amendment Johanns introduced to repeal restrictions placed on health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) by the President’s health care law. A $2,500 FSA contribution cap went into effect this year and a provision of the law already in effect prohibits HSA and FSA participants from using their account dollars to purchase over the counter medicines without a prescription.
· Several of Johanns’ amendments are similar to legislation he introduced earlier this year that call for common-sense EPA regulatory reforms. Specifically, the legislation would:
o Require EPA’s Inspector General to report to Congress twice a year on the agency’s progress in meeting regulatory reporting requirements in current law. Johanns’ amendment similar to this legislation was adopted by unanimous consent. Under current law, EPA must publish any updates to its regulatory agenda in April and October. EPA totally ignored this requirement in 2012, publishing just one update last year. This update came in December, hiding EPA’s agenda until after the election.
o Bring EPA guidance documents under the scope of the Congressional Review Act. Currently, only rules are covered under this clause. This has allowed EPA to use guidance documents to expand the agency’s regulatory reach without being subjected to Congressional oversight. Johanns’ legislation would close this loophole.
o Promote transparency and cooperation with state governments by requiring EPA to provide timely information and technical assistance to states working to comply with EPA mandates. Environmental statutes firmly establish states as equal partners with EPA. Unfortunately, EPA’s actions show that it believes federal agencies should dictate implementation actions, rather than allowing states to develop their own plans.
o Restrict EPA from conducting aerial surveillance to inspect or to record images of agricultural operations. The amendment recognizes the importance of the Clean Water Act and does not affect the use of traditional on-site inspections to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. A similar amendment offered to last year’s farm bill drew the support of 56 Senators, including 10 Democrats.
Johanns-Supported and -Cosponsored Amendments:
· Johanns cosponsored an amendment to allow the complete and permanent elimination of the federal estate tax, better known as the “death tax.” The amendment would ensure that the higher levels of spending and debt under the Senate Democratic Budget are not financed in part by a second layer of taxation imposed on successful family businesses and farms upon the death of an owner.
· Johanns cosponsored an amendment requiring that any budget resolution considered in the Senate must be balanced in ten years. A three-fifths vote would be required to approve any budget resolution that does not balance within that period.
· Johanns supported an amendment to repeal a costly new tax in the President’s health care law. Under the law, manufacturers of medical devices must pay a 2.3 percent excise tax – an additional $30 billion – that will be added to the cost of care for Americans, hinder industry innovation and stifle job creation and the overall delivery of quality patient care. The tax, which took effect in January, is expected to put 43,000 American jobs at risk, according to the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed).
· Johanns cosponsored an amendment protecting Americans’ conscience rights while ensuring access to primary and preventive care. The amendment would have overturned a requirement in the President’s health care law forcing religious employers to offer birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans. This violates Constitutional rights by requiring individuals and employers to provide services that go against their religious beliefs.
· Johanns supported an amendment calling for investment and job growth in domestic manufacturing and oil and gas production through the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment received broad, bipartisan support.