WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2012 — Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) yesterday addressed the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) membership at the association’s annual Legislative Conference & Convention.
Thune and Barrow delivered keynote speeches at the legislative conference breakfast which occurs just prior to the association’s annual Big “I” Day on Capitol Hill. Every year, approximately one thousand agents and brokers visit Capitol Hill offices to lobby members of the House, Senate and their staffs on issues that directly impact independent agents and consumers.
The lawmakers weighed in on numerous top issues including health care, election year politics and the economy. Agents asked the lawmakers what they thought would happen to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the constitutionality of which is under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thune said that while he “can’t predict how it’s going to come out,” he thinks the court will find the individual mandate to be unconstitutional by a narrow vote, based on the court’s past decisions where they had “taken the side of individual liberty when they looked at these issues.”
The individual mandate is the lynchpin of the law, he said, “because if they decide to kill off the individual mandate and declare it unconstitutional, then for all intents and purposes, it’s sort of a house of cards after that.”
Similarly, Barrow said if he “had to bet the farm,” he would predict that the court would strike parts of law, such as the individual mandate, and leave the rest intact.
“What worries me is if we carve out parts of it, we could have something that Congress never intended as being the law of the land,” Barrow said. “It would be the worst of all possible worlds.”
Regardless of whether or not the court upholds the constitutionality of the law, Thune said health care will be a huge issue in this year’s presidential election.
“Both sides are going to be trying to win the argument with the American people about how best to deal with the health care issue,” he said.
Thune said lawmakers need to come together to rein in government spending and craft policies to promote economic growth and boost domestic energy production to change the direction of the country. “If you look at where we are today, we need to get the country turned around—or we are heading for a train wreck,” Thune said.
In addition, lawmakers also need to enact comprehensive tax reform, including simplifying the tax code and creating solutions for S corporations and limited liability companies, corporate structures often used by agencies, that end up paying at a higher individual tax rate because they’re considered pass-through entities, he said.
“That’s why this debate about the individual tax rate is so important,” Thune said. “Everybody seems to think that that just affects the rich in this country, but what they don’t realize is how much of small business income is actually paid at those higher rates, the individual rates.” He said he thinks that Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate front-runner, will be elected president this fall over incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama.
“People in this country—when they are concerned about their economic futures and when there is a lot of anxiety about pocketbook, bread and butter, kitchen table issues—are going to be looking for a different direction,” he added.
While many believe Thune is on the short list of vice president contenders, when asked whether he would end up being Romney’s running mate, he said “I don’t expect to be there.” Instead he anticipates he will ultimately be “in the Senate, hopefully working with a new president to take on big issues.”
“In order to solve big problems, you’ve got to have presidential leadership,” he said.
The Big “I” Legislative Conference & Convention is the insurance industry’s best-attended, most effective legislative meeting. This year’s event was held April 25-27 in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1896, the Big “I” is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of approximately a quarter of a million agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life, health, employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.