Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Budget and Finance Committees, released the following remarks after the Senate passed three measures funding the government through Fiscal Year 2012, extending the payroll tax holiday for two additional months and temporarily preventing severe cuts to payments for Medicare physicians and other providers.
“As we near the heart of the holiday season, Congress has finally come together to provide the American people with a measure of financial stability and confidence for our nation’s and each family’s economic well-being. We sent to the President a series of bills that will protect middle-income Americans, including the federal workforce. We are continuing for two months a payroll tax holiday that will save the average Maryland family nearly $100 a month without adding to our federal deficit. We have approved a budget for 2012 that cuts federal spending overall, but still protects our key investments in the American people and job-creating programs ranging from small business to health care to education. Finally, we are giving FEMA the financial resources it needs to pay for the unprecedented series of disasters that caused such devastation in 2011, including massive floods in the Midwest, the Joplin tornado, and Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, which struck Maryland and the entire East Coast with such destructive force.
“Congress’ actions will continue unemployment benefits for Marylanders who are still struggling to find jobs through no fault of their own. The measures just adopted continue critical job training programs and expand special efforts to help unemployed veterans find work after having so bravely served our nation. Efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland’s most important natural and economic resource, saw a small increase in funding. The bills passed today help assure that students going to Maryland’s world-class colleges and universities will continue to receive full scholarship help through the Pell Grant program. The National Institutes of Health also will see a modest increase in funding to continue its extraordinary work in advancing health care breakthroughs on the diseases and illnesses that all of us face. We were able to accomplish all of this without putting additional, unfair burden on the federal workforce, which is already operating under a two-year pay freeze.
“A series of devastating anti-environmental riders were rejected as were attacks on our landmark health care reform, the Affordable Care Act. The bills we enacted today are not perfect, but the final bills are ones that earned broad, bipartisan support and reflect the values that Marylanders and all Americans embrace.
“While Congress continues to work on a permanent solution for two pressing Medicare reimbursement issues – the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula for physician payment and caps on outpatient rehabilitation services – passage of today’s temporary payroll tax measure will prevent for two month implementation of an across-the-board cut of 27.4% to physicians and other providers, and it will ensure that the current exceptions process for therapy caps – which has worked well to guarantee seniors with complex conditions the rehabilitation services they need – can continue through February 29, 2011. I will continue to work for a permanent solution to these two important issues, which are necessary to ensure access and quality for Maryland’s 775,000 Medicare beneficiaries.”