Committee Marks Up Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act and Telephone Tax Repeal
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Finance Committee met today to report out two pieces of legislation, S. 662, The Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act and H.R. 3916, legislation to repeal the telephone tax. Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) delivered the following statement at the mark up:
"Our business today is to markup and report out two important pieces of legislation. The first piece of legislation, S. 662, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act, will bring needed medical care to women afflicted with breast or cervical cancer. The second item on our agenda is H.R. 3916, a bill will to repeal the federal communications excise tax.
"I had intended that there be a third item on today's agenda. I had hoped to markup a resolution regarding the FSC dispute. However, based on my conversations with Deputy Secretary Eisenstat yesterday, I agreed to the Administration's request to defer action on the resolution pending further Administration discussions with the Europeans. The Administration has offered a concrete proposal to resolve the dispute and I think the onus is on the Europeans, at this point, to engage in a constructive dialog aimed at resolving the matter. That said, I intend to follow the developments on the FSC dispute closely and will continue my discussions with the Administration on the resolution and the Treasury Department's proposal. As I have said before, I intend to ensure that this matter is resolved in a way that allows American companies operating in international markets to compete on fair terms with their competitors.
"Before I turn to the items on the agenda, I have been asked by some members if we could hold both votes on final passage until the end of markup so that they can leave other committees to participate. I intend to accommodate them.
"Now, I would like to turn to the markup of S. 662, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act. But before we begin the discussion of the bill before us today, a brief history lesson is in order.
"Nearly 10 years ago, Congress created the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, through the Centers for Disease Control, to help lower-income women receive the early detection services that are the best protection against breast and cervical cancer. This important program has served more than a million women in subsequent years. However, the screening program does not include a treatment component. Instead, women who receive the terrifying word that they do in fact have cancer must rely on informal networks of donated care.
"Last year, Senator John Chafee introduced S. 662 to make it easier for women facing breast and cervical cancer to receive necessary treatment - and I think each and every one of us share that important goal. S. 662 does that through the Medicaid program. Now, maybe some of us here would have approached the problem differently. I think there are very valid concerns about creating disease-specific eligibility categories within the Medicaid program, which would take this successful and important program away from its original mandate. However, despite those concerns, I think this bill should move forward because we are dealing with a thoroughly unique set of circumstances. The new Medicaid eligibility category created in S. 662 is specifically linked to a unique and existing federal screening program and must not, and will not, be viewed as a precedent for extending Medicaid eligibility body-part by body-part.
"Instead, what we are doing today is fulfilling a promise made nearly 10 years ago. We are saying to lower-income, uninsured women that we will continue to help you access the preventive health care services you need. But now, through S. 662, our commitment to you will not stop with screening. If problems are found, the federal government stands ready to work with the states to make sure you receive the treatment you need to get well."
"With that I turn to the next order of today's business: markup of H.R. 3916, a bill to repeal the federal communications excise tax. This "tax on talking" is outdated, unfair, and complex for both consumers to understand and for the collectors to administer. It cannot be justified on any tax policy grounds.
"The telephone tax was first imposed in 1898 as a temporary measure to fund the Spanish-American War. That war lasted about 8 months. Yet here we are -- 102 years later -- and we are still dealing with this tax.
"Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. The original tax was designed to be a luxury tax -- as there were a little more than half a million phone lines existing in the country. Now, virtually every American family has at least one telephone line, and it estimated that there are 252 total million phone lines in the country. The federal phone tax applies to local phone service, to long distance service, to home phones, to cellular phones, and to phones used for Internet connections. And since it applies at the same rate to everyone, this tax is one of the most regressive taxes on the books.
"Families with incomes of under $20,000 earn less than 9% of the total income in the U.S.; yet, they shoulder almost one-quarter of the total communications tax burden. Families with incomes under $50,000 pay about 60% of the total communications tax. All-in-all, this tax costs the American public more than $5 billion per year. This immediate repeal is overdue, it's fair, and because it's within the tax cut allocation given to us in the budget, it's fiscally responsible as well.
"I want to empha that unlike some other excise taxes, the money raised by this tax does not go into a specific trust fund. Also, this tax is different from most other excise taxes in that it is imposed directly on consumers. If consumers wade through their phone bill -- and I know that is not as easy as it sounds -- they should be able to find a separate line listing a 3% federal excise tax. With the immediate repeal of this tax, that charge should simply disappear. 93 million households and 23 million business service companies will see their overall phone bills go down by 3%.
"Members of the Committee, it is time to end the federal phone tax. For too long, while America is listening to a dial tone, Washington has been hearing a dollar tone. Let us hang up the phone tax once and for all."
"I now offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute. My amendment, which has been described in the Joint Committee of Taxation document that was released on Monday, is very straightforward. It immediately repeals the federal communications excise tax in full, effective for all amounts paid with respect to bills first rendered after August 31, 2000. In other words, if my proposal is enacted, no consumer who receives a bill after September 1, 2000 will have to pay this federal tax.
"I do want to make one modification to my substitute amendment. Senator Kerrey has filed an amendment designed to ensure that consumers actually receive the benefits of this tax repeal. We all intend for that to happen, and so I think that the Senator's amendment makes good sense. Accordingly, I will modify my substitute to include a modified version of the Senator's amendment as follows. One year after complete repeal of the phone tax takes effect, the GAO, in consultation with the FCC, shall provide a report to Congress detailing what amount of the communications excise tax repeal has been passed on to residential and business consumers."
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