The Business Council of Alabama’s Federal Affairs Committee hosted Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in a conference call for BCA members today. Sessions, a strong supporter of Alabama’s business community, was a recipient of the BCA Chairman’s Award for 2013, along with U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.
Sessions spoke for more than 30 minutes about President Obama’s failed signature program, the Affordable Care Act and its effect on Alabama’s businesses, on the economy, out-of-control federal spending, the defense budget, Russia’s aggression, and fishing on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, a significant economic issue for Baldwin and Mobile counties.
Sessions, a Republican from Mobile, said Alabamians are “not happy with Obamacare.” The only way to change it is to elect a U.S. Senate Republican majority in November, he said.
“They tell me every day some new horror story,” Sessions said. “We believe it is the responsibility if Republicans are given the majority to reform and remove if possible this unhealthy imposition of government power.”
Terry Kellogg, president and CEO of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Alabama and the BCA’s chairman in 2012, said 22,000 small businesses in Alabama face mandatory conversion to the “horrible Affordable Care Act” and cannot plan due to Obama unilaterally changing ACA deadlines that were written into the law.
Kellogg said that of the 22,000, 18,000 are being forced to change coverage. He said some premiums will increase by 7 percent and some by as much as 40 percent to 60 percent, while some may see a reduction of 20 percent.
“This is a middle-class tax increase embedded in it,” Kellogg said. “It’s a tax and it comes in the form of my invoice to you, not the Internal Revenue Service.”
Sessions said prominent Democrats have stated that the goal of Obamacare is a single-payer, government insurance system.
“The government is less able to manage health care than the postal service,” Sessions said. “We do not need to preside over the socialization of American medicine. This bill has reduced economic growth at a time we desperately need economic growth.”
The BCA seeks repeal of the ACA.
Sessions said the enormous federal debt caused by President Obama’s spending is “already a cloud over the economy,” growth has not occurred and two-thirds of the jobs created last year were part time. He said Obama continues to block American energy efforts and the proposed Canadian oil pipeline, and is overregulating in energy and environmental areas.
He said if Republicans can gain the Senate in November, the House and Senate will be able to pass a budget that will balance in 10 years. Sessions said Obama’s budget spent almost $1 trillion more last year than the “budget act agreed to,” while adding $1.3 trillion in taxes.
“Tax more and spend more and invest more as he calls it,” Sessions said. “That is the big fight politically.”
Sessions said Obama and the Democrat-led Senate refuse to strengthen America’s defense unless there is the same amount of spending on non-defense items, violating the budget agreement.
“Do we want to tax more, spend more, invest more in the government or get this under control and be smarter managers of your money?” he said.
Among his committee assignments, Sessions is the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, which guides and formulates fiscal policy, and the Senate Committee on the Armed Services. He advocates a strong national defense.
He said Russia’s invasion of the Crimea was “tragic” and he’s concerned about Russian advances in the Ukraine, an independent nation once part of the Soviet Bloc. Obama’s “signaling” to Russia has not been good and has emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sessions said.
Sessions said Secretary of State John Kerry made “unfortunate” comments about Israel when he said that Israel faces becoming an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t reach a peace deal with Palestinians, which doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the Israeli state and is intent on destroying the Jewish nation.
“Clarity in foreign policy is so important,” Sessions said. “We need to get really serious leaders. I’m afraid Ukraine is a product of our unsound foreign policy.”
Sessions said reducing the recreational 40-day red snapper fishing season to an 11-day season this year as proposed by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is “unthinkable,” especially since he believes red snapper stocks are increasing. “Why we have draconian reductions at this time is hard to understand,” he said.
Sessions said the interest on the nation’s debt is $230 billion, just under half of the $500 billion defense budget. Without change, by 2018 or 2019, the interest will be larger than the defense budget. In 10 years, the interest will be $880 billion each year, he said.
“It is the fastest growing item in our $4 trillion budget,” Sessions said. “Debt threatens our economic future.”
Sessions said the mid-term November general elections are crucial for Republicans. A Republican Senate will be a mandate from people driven by anger over Obamacare.
“After this election we’re going to have to do what we can to replace or reform this health care bill,” Sessions said. “A victory this fall will be critical to that. If there’s no victory, if no seats are picked up, Democrats will interpret that as an affirmation of what they’re doing.”