WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered remarks during today’s markup of partisan labor bills. This is the HELP Committee’s first partisan markup since the Affordable Care Act in 2009.
Click here to watch the markup live.
Cassidy’s speech as prepared for delivery can be found below:
Thank you, Chair Sanders.
For almost a decade and a half, this Committee has committed to work past partisanship to produce meaningful legislation. Chairs and Ranking Members have set aside the 20 percent of things they disagreed on to focus on the 80 percent where they did agree. For every single markup, this has involved securing a fundamental agreement between the Chair and Ranking Member on each piece of legislation considered. No Senator got everything they wanted all of the time, but they secured the key legislative victories with bipartisan support, and in so doing made lasting change.
Today, the Chair is changing things. He’s holding the Committee’s first partisan markup since the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Abandoning the bipartisan approach that has defined our committee and made it so productive at addressing issues facing our fellow Americans.
For what? For controversial and deeply partisan bills that will not pass the Senate and will never be signed into law.
We could be using this time to fulfill the responsibilities of this committee. I want our committee to be aware that there are two legislative days left before the July recess and we do not have agreements in principle, agreements on key issues, or draft text for many important bipartisan programs that are expiring in September.
We do not have an agreement on text for the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act reauthorization that supports our nation’s response to global pandemics. Negotiations are being held up because of drug policy demands that are completely out of the purview of PAHPA.
We do not even have an agreed upon process for addressing the SUPPORT Act, by which we address the nation’s opioid crisis.
We do not have text or even basic agreement on funding levels for the reauthorization of Community Health Centers or the National Health Service Corps that would help address troubling shortages in our nation’s health workforce.
As an example, the Chair announced to Politico that he is requesting $130.8 BILLION on CHCs over 5 years. Current funding is $20 Billion over 5 years. We don’t have offsets, the CBO has not scored. If offsets are to be found, we should have been working on that since January.
The likelihood of successfully vetting and operationalizing such policies to justify or pay for an over 5 times increase in funding, in addition to finding agreements on the other reauthorizations I mentioned, in the 16 legislative days between now and what should be our deadline, the beginning of the August recess, is, shall we say, slim.
Instead, we are having a partisan hearing on labor bills which will never be signed into law.
If the majority wants to hold partisan hearings and markups that have zero chance of advancing beyond this markup, that is their prerogative. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the bipartisan work we are responsible to complete.
We could also be using this time for other potentially bipartisan things like expanding the Pell Grant for use in short-term programs of at least 8 weeks. We could be reauthorizing the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to modernize and improve federal workforce programs. We could also be using this time to hold hearings to fulfill our constitutional duty to advise and consent President Biden on his nominations to fill vacancies at critical agencies like the National Institutes of Health.
I am ready to work with the Chair or anyone in the majority who agrees with me that there are issues where we can reach agreement, get 60 Senate votes, and have a signing ceremony at the White House once the bill is passed into law.
One piece of legislation under consideration today is the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. It is not pro-worker. The PRO Act is not pro-worker, it is just pro-big union. Being pro-worker means defending the rights of all workers, including those who decide they don’t want to join a union.
It eliminates secret ballot elections for unionization, the gold standard to keep somebody from being put into a corner and intimidated until they vote the way the intimidator wishes them to vote. Secret ballot elections also protect workers from retaliation if they choose a different way.
The PRO Act would eliminate Right-to-Work in my home state of Louisiana and 25 other states, forcing workers against their will to unionize. By the way, if somebody wants to join a union more power to them. I support the right to choose what is best for their career. But if the benefits of joining a union are so good, then there is no reason unions should have to coerce and strong-arm people to join. And they certainly don’t need government to help them coerce and strong-arm.
This legislation is part of a disturbing trend by President Biden and Congressional Democrats to erode workers’ individual rights.
That is why I and other Republican members of this committee introduced the Employee Rights Act with our colleagues Senators Tim Scott, Mitch McConnell, and John Thune. The Employee Rights Act upholds the rights of workers to choose what is best for their career, whether to join a union or not. It also protects the right to secret ballot elections among other things.
I urge all of my colleagues to join in supporting this commonsense legislation protecting the rights of all Americans and is truly pro-worker.
I repeat: the bills being offered by the majority today have no chance of becoming law. The Chair has decided to prioritize the 20 percent of things we disagree on over the 80 percent of things where we do agree. We have real responsibilities that Americans are depending on us to complete, and this Committee should rise to the occasion.
I am sorry that my remarks are so disagreeable. But we have 16 legislative days left before the August recess. We reasonably have to complete these reauthorizations by then for them to be included in an end of the fiscal year package. And we have not agreed on basic frameworks and funding amounts.
My hope is that the time lost preparing for this markup will be compensated for by greater productivity in the next 16 legislative days.