(Senate - June 07, 2012)

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[Pages S3840-S3843]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mr. KERRY:
  S. 3271. A bill to provide all Medicare beneficiaries with the right 
to guaranteed issue of a Medicare supplemental policy; to the Committee 
on Finance.
  Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, approximately one in five Medicare 
beneficiaries--or 9 million people--purchase a Medigap supplemental 
insurance policy to protect against high out-of-pocket costs and to 
make health care costs more predictable. Current law includes a 
`guaranteed issue right' to Medigap for beneficiaries age 65 or older, 
which means they cannot be denied Medigap coverage or charged a higher 
Medigap premium because of their medical condition.
  Unfortunately, current law discriminates against Medicare 
beneficiaries with disabilities who are under age 65, as well as 
beneficiaries with kidney failure, End Stage Renal Disease or ``ESRD'' 
by denying them the same right that seniors have to guaranteed issuance 
of Medigap policies. This exposes individuals with disabilities and 
kidney failure to substantial out-of-pocket costs and poses a 
significant barrier to health care services. In the absence of equal 
opportunity and access to Medigap policies at the Federal level, 29 
States have enacted guaranteed issue rights to disabled and ESRD 
  Individuals with kidney failure are subject to an additional 
discriminatory provision in federal law that prohibits Medicare ESRD 
beneficiaries from joining Medicare Advantage plans. They are the only 
group of Medicare beneficiaries currently denied the same Medicare 
choices as other Medicare beneficiaries.
  Today I am introducing the Equal Access to Medicare Options Act, a 
bill that improves coverage options to Medicare beneficiaries. My 
legislation would eliminate discriminatory treatment in the 
supplemental insurance market, bring more financial stability to 
Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities and ESRD with high out-of-
pocket health care costs, and reduce reliance on Medicaid as the payer 
of last resort. Specifically, it would extend guaranteed issue of 
Medigap policies to all Medicare beneficiaries, including beneficiaries 
with disabilities and ESRD. It would ensure equal access to 
supplemental insurance for all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of 
age, disability or ESRD status.
  Additionally, my legislation recognizes that Medicare beneficiaries 
need flexibility to adjust their coverage as changes to their plans are 
made. It would give guaranteed issue rights to Medicare Advantage 
enrollees if they decide to switch to traditional Medicare during an 
enrollment period. Today, if a Medicare Advantage enrollee learns of 
premium increases or benefit reduction in their plan, they have the 
option of returning to traditional Medicare but they have no assurance 
they can buy Medigap coverage if they do so.
  The Equal Access to Medicare Options Act would provide guaranteed

[[Page S3841]]

issue to dual-eligibles who lose their Medicaid coverage and find 
themselves in traditional Medicare without the cost protections of 
Medicaid and without supplemental coverage options. Finally, this 
legislation would--for the first time--give beneficiaries with end-
stage renal disease the option of enrolling in Medicare Advantage 
  I would like to thank the nearly 50 organizations who have been 
integral to the development of the Equal Access to Medicare Options Act 
and who have endorsed it today, including the California Health 
Advocates, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Dialysis Patient Citizens, 
Fresenius Medical Care, Medicare Rights Center, and the National Kidney 
  The Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination based on health 
status in the private health insurance market, beginning in 2014. It is 
inconsistent and unconscionable for federal law to allow insurers to 
discriminate based on health status in the Medigap market. All 
individuals, regardless of their health status, deserve the same access 
to comprehensive and affordable coverage options.
  The reforms included in this legislation would finally end 
discriminatory Medicare policies in Federal law and would ensure that 
all Medicare beneficiaries regardless of their disability or age have 
equal opportunity and access to affordable Medicare options. I look 
forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to achieve these 
goals in the context of health care reform.
      By Mr. COONS (for himself, Mr. Moran, Mr. Tester, Mr. Franken, 
        Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Whitehouse, and Mrs. Shaheen):
  S. 3275. A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend 
the publicly traded partnership ownership structure to energy power 
generation projects and transportation fuels, and for other purposes; 
to the Committee on Finance.
  Mr. COONS. Mr. President, when it comes to America's energy policy, 
Republicans and Democrats alike have made it clear they support an all-
of-the-above energy strategy.
  As the Presiding Officer knows, serving on the Energy Committee along 
with me, there is broad agreement on the need for a comprehensive 
approach that will develop secure, homegrown, efficient energy sources 
for our next generation.
  I believe an across-the-board policy that accepts the likely reality 
of our current dependence on our fossil-based fuels going forward, as 
well as the vital need to develop and deploy new, promising, clean 
energy fuels of the future, is essential. Such a policy will provide 
certainty to our markets, opportunities to our families and companies 
and communities, and ensure that we are not--as some would say--picking 
winners and losers in the energy space.
  Yet there is today an obstacle standing in the way of a truly 
comprehensive strategy that at least both parties say they want. It is 
a provision in our Federal Tax Code that has its metaphoric thumb on 
the scale, tipping the balance in favor of traditional fossil fuels. 
That is why I am so glad I have been able to work with my colleague and 
friend Senator Moran of Kansas to today introduce bipartisan 
legislation that will level the playing field and bring parity to one 
piece of Federal tax policy relating to energy.
  Investors in oil, natural gas, coal, and pipelines have for nearly 30 
years been able to form publicly traded entities called master limited 
partnerships, or MLPs. These partnerships include a passthrough tax 
structure that avoids double taxation and leaves more cash available to 
distribute to investors. They have for investors the liquidity and the 
return that is commonly associated with equity and the tax advantage 
that is associated with partnerships, and they have been able to 
aggregate and deploy a significant amount of private capital in the 
traditional fossil fuel marketplace, roughly $350 billion today across 
100 MLPs. They have access to private capital at a lower cost, 
something that capital-intensive alternative energy projects in the 
United States badly need now more than ever.
  As a result, MLPs should be a great source for raising private 
capital for clean energy projects as well as they have been for fossil 
fuel projects. The only problem is, under current law, only fossil 
fuel-based energy projects can attract this type of private energy 
investment. That is right--we are currently in our tax policies working 
against our broadly stated commitment as a country to an all-of-the-
above energy policy with a statute that explicitly excludes clean 
energy projects from forming these MLPs. This inequity is starving a 
growing portion of America's domestic energy sector of the very capital 
it needs to build and grow and compete. So Senator Moran and I, along 
with other colleagues, decided to fix it. We came together and said it 
was time to level the playing field.
  Sometimes when I have the opportunity, I have gone for a run here in 
Washington or, even better, in my home State in Delaware. Something any 
runner can tell you is that going up and down hills is what saps your 
strength. When a surface is flat, you can go farther, you can go 
faster, and it is the same with our Federal Tax Code. When it comes to 
evening things out, we have two choices. We can either lower everything 
to a common level by eliminating MLPs--by saying this tax advantage 
shouldn't be given to its traditional beneficiaries in gas and oil and 
coal, or we can raise the level of opportunity and attract greater 
investment by broadening the fields that can take advantage of MLPs to 
include wind and solar, biomass, geothermal, cellulosic, biodiesel.
  In my view, the better strategy, the better approach is the 
bipartisan one that takes our colleagues at their word and says we 
intend to stop picking winners and losers and, instead, embrace an all-
of-the-above energy strategy. Senator Moran and I have chosen this 
option and believe that rather than eliminating MLPs, bringing 
everything together and making renewables on the same level playing 
field with fossil fuels has a better promise for the future of the 
American energy economy.
  This is a relatively straightforward proposal. Our bill, the Master 
Limited Partnerships Parity Act, will bring new fairness to the Tax 
Code in this specific area. It recognizes revenue from projects that 
sell electricity or fuels produced from clean energy sources as 
qualifying MLPs.
  This change will encourage investment in domestic energy resources, 
and could bring substantial new private capital off the sidelines to 
finance renewable projects ranging from wind and solar to geothermal 
and cellulosic ethanol, just at a time when we so badly need it.
  Harnessing the power of the private market is essential if 
alternative energy projects are to grow and create jobs all across 
America. Two experts in energy finance, Felix Mormann and Dan Reicher 
from Stanford's Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, 
wrote an op-ed this past week in the New York Times endorsing this 
  They said:

       If renewable energy is going to become fully competitive 
     and a significant source of energy in the United States, then 
     further technological innovation must be accompanied by 
     financial innovation so that clean energy sources gain access 
     to the same low-cost capital that traditional energy sources 
     like coal and oil and natural gas enjoy.

  In the search for common ground on energy policy, this kind of simple 
fairness is the sort of thing I hope we can all agree on. That is why 
the MLP Parity Act carries the strong support of a wide range of 
business groups, financial experts, and energy organizations.
  David Crane is the CEO of Fortune 300 company NRG Energy. NRG has 
generating assets across a wide range of traditional fuel sources and 
clean and alternative energy sources. Mr. Crane said:

       The MLP Parity Act is a phenomenal idea. It's a fairly 
     arcane part of the tax law, but it's worked well and has been 
     extremely beneficial to the private investment in the oil and 
     gas space. The fact that it doesn't currently apply to 
     renewables is just a silly inequity in our current law.

  We are also grateful for the support of national organizations such 
as the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries 
Association, the American Council on Renewable Energy, and many others, 
and thank them for their hard work in promoting this commonsense energy 
future for our country.
  I also wish to specifically thank Dr. Chris Avery and Franz 

[[Page S3842]]

dobler who worked in my office so well in preparing this and moving 
this forward as public policy. And I wish to thank Josh Freed of Third 
Way for bringing this to our attention and producing one of the first 
policy papers on how master limited partnerships can be a great 
financing vehicle for clean energy.

  I have no doubt there is significant growing opportunity worldwide in 
alternative fuels. There is a clean energy future coming. The only 
question is whether American workers, American communities, and 
American companies will benefit from this, or will simply be bystanders 
and watch our competitors pass us by. I think if we are going to lead, 
we have to work together. The private sector can and will provide the 
financing and the researchers to develop critical innovations and 
deploy them, but the Federal Government--the Congress in particular--
must set a realistic and positive policy pathway to sustain these 
innovations and let the market work to its fullest potential. The 
Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act moves us toward that goal. By 
leveling the playing field for fair competition, this market-driven 
solution could provide vital and needed support for the kind of 
comprehensive energy strategy we need to power our country for 
generations to come.
  Some of us who will support this bill also support things such as the 
ITC, the PTC, and other clean energy financing vehicles. Others may 
not. On the specific question of master limited partnerships, the bill 
we introduced today simply allows us to come together in a bipartisan 
way to open it up to all energy sources, and to build a sustainable 
energy financing future on this planet.
  Once again, I want to thank my cosponsor, Senator Moran. I look 
forward to working with all of my colleagues, on the Energy Committee 
and throughout the Senate and the House, to move forward this important 
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 3275

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Master Limited Partnerships 
     Parity Act''.

                   AND TRANSPORTATION FUELS.

       (a) In General.--Subparagraph (E) of section 7704(d)(1) of 
     the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by striking ``, 
     industrial source carbon dioxide,'' and all that follows and 
     inserting ``or of any industrial source carbon dioxide; or 
     the generation, storage, or transmission to the electrical 
     grid of electric power exclusively utilizing any resource 
     described in section 45(c)(1) or energy property described in 
     section 48, or the accepting or processing of such resource 
     or property for such utilization; or the generation or 
     storage of thermal power exclusively utilizing any such 
     resource or property; or the transportation or storage of any 
     fuel described in subsection (b), (c), (d), or (e) of section 
     6426; or the production for sale by the taxpayer, the 
     transportation, or the storage of any renewable fuel 
     described in section 211(o)(1)(J) of the Clean Air Act (42 
     U.S.C. 7545(o)(1)(J)),''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section 
     shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, 
     in taxable years ending after such date.
      By Ms. SNOWE (for herself, Mr. Kerry, and Mr. Coburn):
  S. 3281. A bill to terminate the Federal authorization of the 
National Veterans Business Development Corporation; to the Committee on 
Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
  Ms. SNOWE. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation to 
cease federal involvement in the National Veterans Business Development 
  This bipartisan bill would cease, once and for all, Federal 
involvement in the National Veterans Business Development Corporation, 
also known as The Veterans Corporation or simply TVC. Let me begin by 
thanking the bill's cosponsors, former Small Business Committee Chair 
Kerry and Senator Coburn. Senator Coburn, as most in this body will 
recognize, is a true leader in efforts to streamline the Federal 
Government. Recently he spoke with us about ideas for Federal entities 
or programs that could be eliminated and we readily provided TVC as an 
example of an entity that we had already identified that the Federal 
Government should sever its ties with.
  I want to say at the outset that an amendment, with identical text as 
our legislation, passed the Senate by a vote of 99 0 in May of 2011, 
but the bill it was attached to did not pass. We are introducing this 
repeal as a standalone bill because TVC has been ineffective and 
controversial since its inception as part of the Veterans 
Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act, P.L. 106 50 in 
1999. In December of 2008, former Small Business Committee Chairman 
Kerry and I investigated TVC, and issued a report detailing the 
organization's blatant mismanagement and wasting of taxpayers' dollars.
  The report found, among other things, that TVC failed to support 
Veteran Business Resource Centers; had wasteful programs; lacked 
outcomes-based measurements; provided its employees with unacceptably 
high executive compensation; engaged in dubious expenditures, and 
failed to properly fundraise.
  For instance, our report concluded that TVC had spent only 15 percent 
of the Federal funding that it had received on veterans business 
resource centers, which TVC was required to establish and maintain 
under law. In fiscal year 2008, the percentage dropped to about 9 
percent. We also found that TVC's executives received unacceptably high 
levels of compensation given the organization's limited resources and 
reach. While an average of 15 percent of TVC's federally appropriated 
funds went to the Centers, 22 percent of TVC's fiscal year 2007 Federal 
appropriation dollars were spent on its top two executives' 
compensation packages alone. Moreover, the organization miserably 
failed to fundraise--which was required by law in order for it to 
become self-sufficient--and during fiscal years 2005 through 2007, TVC 
leaders spent $2.50 for every $1.00 they raised through the 
organization's fundraising efforts--almost entirely at the taxpayers' 
expense. Additionally, through broad decision-making powers granted to 
TVC's executive committee under the organization's bylaws, the 
committee approved a number of measures without proper approval or 
ratification from the full Board, including $40,000 in employee bonuses 
in 1 year alone.
  Since the issuing of the Small Business Committee's report, Congress 
has appropriated no further funding for TVC, and the Small Business 
Administration, SBA, has incorporated the Veteran Business Resource 
Centers, VBRCs, that TVC previously funded into its existing network of 
Veteran Business Outreach Centers, VBOCs. These moves were publically 
supported by a variety of veteran service organizations, including the 
American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW. For instance, in 
August of 2008, the American Legion passed a resolution at its national 
convention, Resolution No. 223, stating that the Legion ``. . . no 
longer support[s] the continuing initiatives or existence of the 
national Veterans Business Development Corporation.''
  At present, TVC is still federally chartered. At the same time, it 
receives no Federal funds, has no Department or Agency oversight. In 
light of everything I have discussed, it is my belief that the Federal 
government must take the next step and fully sever all ties with the 
organization. I ask my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                S. 3281

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       (a) In General.--The Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 631 et 
     seq.) is amended by striking section 33 (15 U.S.C. 657c).
       (b) Corporation.--On and after the date of enactment of 
     this Act, the National Veterans Business Development 
     Corporation and any successor thereto may not represent that 
     the corporation is federally chartered or in any other manner 
     authorized by the Federal Government.
       (c) Technical and Conforming Amendments.--

[[Page S3843]]

       (1) Small business act.--The Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 
     631 et seq.), as amended by this section, is amended--
       (A) by redesignating sections 34 through 45 as sections 33 
     through 44, respectively;
       (B) in section 9(k)(1)(D) (15 U.S.C. 638(k)(1)(D)), by 
     striking ``section 34(d)'' and inserting ``section 33(d)'';
       (C) in section 33 (15 U.S.C. 657d), as so redesignated--
       (i) by striking ``section 35'' each place it appears and 
     inserting ``section 34'';
       (ii) in subsection (a)--

       (I) in paragraph (2), by striking ``section 35(c)(2)(B)'' 
     and inserting ``section 34(c)(2)(B)'';
       (II) in paragraph (4), by striking ``section 35(c)(2)'' and 
     inserting ``section 34(c)(2)''; and
       (III) in paragraph (5), by striking ``section 35(c)'' and 
     inserting ``section 34(c)''; and

       (iii) in subsection (h)(2), by striking ``section 35(d)'' 
     and inserting ``section 34(d)'';
       (D) in section 34 (15 U.S.C. 657e), as so redesignated--
       (i) by striking ``section 34'' each place it appears and 
     inserting ``section 33''; and
       (ii) in subsection (c)(1), by striking section 
     ``34(c)(1)(E)(ii)'' and inserting section 
       (E) in section 36(d) (15 U.S.C. 657i(d)), as so 
     redesignated, by striking ``section 43'' and inserting 
     ``section 42'';
       (F) in section 39(d) (15 U.S.C. 657l(d)), as so 
     redesignated, by striking ``section 43'' and inserting 
     ``section 42''; and
       (G) in section 40(b) (15 U.S.C. 657m(b)), as so 
     redesignated, by striking ``section 43'' and inserting 
     ``section 42''.
       (2) Title 10.--Section 1142(b)(13) of title 10, United 
     States Code, is amended by striking ``and the National 
     Veterans Business Development Corporation''.
       (3) Title 38.--Section 3452(h) of title 38, United States 
     Code, is amended by striking ``any of the'' and all that 
     follows and inserting ``any small business development center 
     described in section 21 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 
     648), insofar as such center offers, sponsors, or cosponsors 
     an entrepreneurship course, as that term is defined in 
     section 3675(c)(2).''.
       (4) Food, conservation, and energy act of 2008.--Section 
     12072(c)(2) of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 
     (15 U.S.C. 636g(c)(2)) is amended by striking ``section 43 of 
     the Small Business Act, as added by this Act'' and inserting 
     ``section 42 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 657o)''.
       (5) Veterans entrepreneurship and small business 
     development act of 1999.--Section 203(c)(5) of the Veterans 
     Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 
     (15 U.S.C. 657b note) is amended by striking ``In cooperation 
     with the National Veterans Business Development Corporation, 
     develop'' and inserting ``Develop''.