U.S. Chamber of Commerce: “Sherrod Brown – 4 Decades Is Long Enough”

An ad from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was a “deciding vote” for the Affordable Care Act, which the ad says cut $716 billion from Medicare. But Brown was one of 60 senators to support the law, which seeks to reduce future Medicare spending without taking money out of the program. The Chamber also accuses Brown of casting “a vote against Ohio energy producers” but don’t mention that Brown was voting to support an EPA rule that would limit toxic mercury emissions, thereby saving thousands of lives each year.

Sen. Brown Supported Health Care Reform, But He Was Not The “Deciding Vote”

Senator Brown “Certainly Did Not Cast The 60th Vote” For The Affordable Care Act. Responding to a similar claim by Republican candidate Josh Mandel, PolitiFact concluded: “Brown’s vote for the health care reform legislation was crucial, but was it the deciding vote? A listener hearing the Mandel ad could be lead to believe Brown’s vote had more weight than other votes. Yet, he certainly did not cast the 60th vote, and he did not have to be wooed for support.” [PolitiFact.com, 5/23/12]

Affordable Care Act Savings Do Not ‘Cut’ Medicare Benefits

PolitiFact: Affordable Care Act Does Not Cut Medicare’s Budget, It Attempts To Reduce Future Costs. According to PolitiFact, “Neither Obama nor his health care law literally cut a dollar amount from the Medicare program’s budget. Rather, the health care law instituted a number of changes to try to bring down future health care costs in the program.” [PolitiFact, 8/15/12]

Medicare Spending Reductions “Aimed At Insurance Companies And Hospitals, Not Beneficiaries.” According to PolitiFact: “What kind of spending reductions are we talking about? They were mainly aimed at insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries. The law makes significant reductions to Medicare Advantage, a subset of Medicare plans run by private insurers. Medicare Advantage was started under President George W. Bush, and the idea was that competition among the private insurers would reduce costs. But in recent years the plans have actually cost more than traditional Medicare. So the health care law scales back the payments to private insurers. Hospitals, too, will be paid less if they have too many re-admissions, or if they fail to meet other new benchmarks for patient care. Obama and fellow Democrats say the intention is to protect beneficiaries’ coverage while forcing health care providers to become more efficient.” [PolitiFact, 8/15/12]

  • CBO’s July Estimate Updates Medicare Cost Savings To $716 Billion. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, repeal would have the following effects on Medicare spending: “Spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013–2022 period. Federal spending for Medicaid and CHIP would  increase by about $25 billion from repealing the noncoverage provisions of the ACA, and direct spending for other programs would decrease by about $30 billion, CBO estimates. Within Medicare, net increases in spending for the services covered by Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) would total $517 billion and $247 billion, respectively. Those increases would be partially offset by a $48 billion reduction in net spending for Part D.” [CBO.gov, 8/13/12]

GOP Plan Kept Most Of The Savings In The Affordable Care Act. According to the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler: “First of all, under the health care bill, Medicare spending continues to go up year after year. The health care bill tries to identify ways to save money, and so the $500 billion figure comes from the difference over 10 years between anticipated Medicare spending (what is known as ‘the baseline’) and the changes the law makes to reduce spending. […] The savings actually are wrung from health-care providers, not Medicare beneficiaries. These spending reductions presumably would be a good thing, since virtually everyone agrees that Medicare spending is out of control. In the House Republican budget, lawmakers repealed the Obama health care law but retained all but $10 billion of the nearly  $500 billion in Medicare savings, suggesting the actual policies enacted to achieve these spending reductions were not that objectionable to GOP lawmakers.” [WashingtonPost.com, 6/15/11, emphasis added]

Brown Voted To Preserve Life-Saving Air Pollution Rule

To back up its claims about Brown’s “vote against Ohio energy producers, endangering Ohio jobs,” the Chamber cites Senate vote #139 on June 20, 2012, and an op-ed by the director of public policy services for the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association in the Columbus Dispatch on October 20, 2011.

Measure Would Have Blocked EPA Utility MACT Rule Limiting Toxic Emissions. From the State Journal: “The Senate voted 53 to 46 on June 20 to affirm air quality protections, pressing an upgrade of the nation’s coal-fired power generation fleet. Senate Joint Resolution 37, introduced in February by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., would have blocked implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics, or MATS rule — also sometimes referred to as the Utility MACT rule, for ‘maximum available control technology.’ […] The MATS rule, finalized in December, sets the first national standards to limit toxic air emissions from power plants as called for by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The rule is expected to cut mercury emissions by 90 percent and also to cut emissions of arsenic, chromium, nickel, and acid gases including hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid. The technology that controls those emissions also will reduce fine particulate matter. Mercury is a neurotoxin to which fetuses and children are particularly susceptible, while other targeted emissions cause cancer, chronic and acute respiratory disorders, and other illnesses.” [State Journal, 6/20/12]

Most Power Plants Already Comply With MACT Standards, And Non-Compliant Plants Can Install New Technology Rather Than Close. From the Congressional Research Service: “In 2005, EPA promulgated regulations establishing a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions of mercury from coal-fired power plants. The rules were challenged, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated them in 2008. Rather than appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, EPA agreed to propose and promulgate Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards by the end of 2011. EPA states that the standards for existing units, promulgated February 16, 2012, can be met by 56% of coal- and oil-fired electric generating units using pollution control equipment already installed; the other 44% would be required to install technology that will reduce uncontrolled mercury and acid gas emissions by about 90%, at an annual cost of $9.6 billion.” [Congressional Research Service via FAS.org, 10/5/12, internal citations removed]

EPA Estimated That Utility MACT Rule’s Financial Benefits Would Exceed its Costs. From the Environmental Protection Agency’s fact sheet on the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards: “The value of the air quality improvements for human health alone totals $37 billion to $90 billion each year. […] [T]he agency has finalized standards that follow the law, maintain vital and significant health benefits and can be implemented for $9.6 billion, about a billion dollars less than the proposed standards. That means that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution, Americans get $3‐9 in health benefits in return.” [EPA.gov, accessed 12/21/11]

EPA Estimated That Air Quality Rules Would Prevent Up To Thousands Of Premature Deaths Per Year. The EPA estimated that each year the mercury and air toxic standards would prevent:

  • 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths,
  • 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis,
  • 4,700 heart attacks,
  • 130,000 cases of aggravated asthma
  • 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits,
  • 6,300 cases of acute bronchitis,
  • 140,000 cases of respiratory symptoms,
  • 540,000 days when people miss work, and
  • 3.2 million days when people must restrict their activities

[EPA.gov, 12/21/11]

Op-Ed By Manufacturers’ Association Representative Cites Coal Industry-Funded Study On Ohio Job Losses. From the Columbus Dispatch op-ed cited in the Chamber’s ad: “National Economic Research Associates, a firm that evaluates economic impacts for government agencies, associations and businesses, in a preliminary analysis for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity projects that Utility MACT and CSAPR will result in 1.4 million lost jobs nationally over the next nine years, including 53,500 jobs in Ohio.” [Dispatch.com, 10/20/11]

  • ACCCE Is A Coal Industry Group, And The Study Was “Part Of A Campaign To Delay Compliance Deadlines.” From Bloomberg: “Clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration will cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016, according to an analysis paid for by a coal-industry group. The report, released today as part of a campaign to delay compliance deadlines in the pending rules, estimates that regulations cutting emissions of mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides would lead to the ‘premature’ retirements of coal-fired power plants that can generate 47.8 gigawatts of electricity, about 15 percent of coal’s U.S. production capacity. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an Alexandria, Virginia-based group whose members include Southern Co. (SO) of Atlanta and St. Louis-based Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU), paid National Economic Research Associates Inc. for the study.” [Bloomberg, 6/8/11]

Health Insurers Poured Money Into Chamber To Attack Reform

Health Insurance Industry Gave Chamber Over $100 Million To Fight Health Care Reform. From the National Journal: “The nation’s leading health insurance industry group gave more than $100 million to help fuel the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2009 and 2010 efforts to defeat President Obama’s signature health care reform law, National Journal’s Influence Alley has learned. During the final push to kill the bill before its March 2010 passage, America’s Health Insurance Plans gave the chamber $16.2 million. With the $86.2 million the insurers funneled to the business lobbying powerhouse in 2009, AHIP sent the chamber a total of $102.4 million during the health care reform debate, a number that has not been reported before now. The backchannel spending allowed insurers to publicly stake out a pro-reform position while privately funding the leading anti-reform lobbying group in Washington. The chamber spent tens of millions of dollars bankrolling efforts to kill health care reform.” [NationalJournal.com, 6/13/12]

[NARRATOR:] Sherrod Brown: A politician for nearly forty years. Ranked the most liberal senator two years in a row. A record of failure. A deciding vote for the health care mandate, cutting $716 billion from Medicare. A vote against Ohio energy producers, endangering Ohio jobs. No wonder Brown scored as low as 9 percent with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Almost four decades is long enough. Defeat Sherrod Brown. The U.S. Chamber is responsible for the content of this advertising. [U.S. Chamber of Commerce via YouTube.com, 10/18/12]