Hatch on debt ceiling suspension, deficit reduction claims, protection of employers’ religious beliefs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Orrin Hatch has taken a stance on three pressing legislative issues: A proposed suspension of the debt ceiling, what his office’s statement calls “dubious deficit reduction claims” by Democrats and the protection of employers’ religious beliefs.

  • Debt ceiling suspension

Citing a lack of action to reduce national debt and reform the country’s entitlement program, Hatch, a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, opposed legislation that would suspend the debt ceiling for three months.

“Our debt is closing in on $16.5 trillion. Over the next 10 years, Medicare and Medicaid alone will cost taxpayers $12 trillion. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the entire economies of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain combined,” Hatch said in a statement Jan. 31. “Yet here we are, passing a debt ceiling increase while refusing to make the tough choices to get our debt under control and reform government in a meaningful way to ensure a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. It’s time we get serious; it’s time we act on a serious deficit reduction effort that reforms our entitlement programs once and for all.”

On Jan. 24, Hatch released five common sense, bipartisan Medicare and Medicaid reform proposals that he believes should be included in any deficit reduction effort.

  • Deficit reduction claims

In a speech on the Senate floor Jan. 31, Hatch refuted Senate Democrats’ dubious deficit reduction claims, likening their data to “Enron accounting.”

“I have heard bold claims that we have somehow legislated deficit reduction totaling as much as $3.6 trillion; I have heard that deficit reduction that has been promised can be broken down to an 80-to-20 ratio of spending cuts to tax hikes,” Hatch said. “While I often applaud creativity, I have to say that these deficit reduction claims and the ratio of spending reductions to tax hikes is more than creative. It is more like Enron accounting and, if you were running a company in the private sector and made such claims, you would probably end up in jail.”

The full text of Hatch’s speech can be found here.

  • Religious belief protection for employers

On Friday, Hatch said in a statement that the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to require employers to provide health care services in violation of their beliefs should be overturned, because it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“This is a sad day. Freedom of religion and the right of peoples of faith to be protected against government intrusion must be sacrosanct,” Hatch said. “Unfortunately, the White House doesn’t seem to believe in that Constitutional guarantee; forcing private companies to provide health care services in violation of their beliefs. I’m confident, however, that this misguided policy will be overturned by the courts as I believe it is in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed unanimously by the House and by a 93-7 vote in the Senate in 1993 and signed into law by President Clinton. It states that the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless its action is “the least restrictive means of furthering compelling governmental interest.”

Hatch is leading a group of senators who support the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a friend of the court brief to be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services mandate violates the act, a lawsuit that is being brought by the owners of a private company.

Submitted by: The Office of Sen. Orrin Hatch

Ed. Note: Correction made Feb. 5: Under “Debt Ceiling Suspension,” Hatch said Medicare and Medicaid alone will cost taxpayers $12 trillion, not $12 million.

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