Nov 13 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) shared stories he has received from Nevadans whose healthcare costs are rising, or whose plans have been cancelled under ObamaCare. Heller’s speech centers on President Obama’s promise to the American people that if they liked their health insurance plan, they could keep their health insurance plan.
Last week, Heller cosponsored the If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act (S.1617) introduced by Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), which allows Americans to keep their current health insurance plan.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“We’ve all heard from the law’s supporters that ObamaCare would give uninsured Americans access to health insurance. Time and time again, they promised that people who already had a health plan they liked could keep it.
“In fact, President Obama made that exact promise on numerous occasions.
“But one of my constituents sent me a letter last week telling me that wasn’t the case. Sunny from the Las Vegas area wrote ‘I wanted to tell you that we have lost our wonderful health insurance plan.’ Sunny’s family received a letter from their insurance company telling them that their existing plan didn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. They were automatically reassigned to a new plan that costs about $400 more per month.
“But yet another one of my constituents, Kirk from northern Nevada, was just notified that his current health insurance has been cancelled. He went to the exchange to find a new policy and shared his story with me. He wrote, ‘…despite higher deductibles and higher co-pays, my new insurance under this devastating law will be more than 250% of what I am paying now.’
“Marc received a letter telling him that his current plan is no longer offered. The plan, the letter detailed, was cancelled in order to ‘meet the requirements of the new laws.’ Marc was given the option to keep his plan for one additional year if he accepts a rate increase, even though he just saw a rate increase in September.
“I think Steven from Washoe County would likely take issue with that promise. He told me that he now has health care that costs $293 per month. However, he just received a letter from his health care provider informing him that the cost of his health care will increase to $546 per month on January 1st. That means health insurance costs will nearly double next year. There’s nothing affordable about that. There’s nothing secure about that.
“I have a letter here from a father from Reno. He writes, ‘I’m writing you to tell you that I’m now eating crow. A few weeks back I wrote to you and expressed my support for health reform and my dissatisfaction with the government shutdown. Since then, I’ve received notification from my insurance company informing me that my current policy is being discontinued. I then began shopping for new policies for myself and family and have found that rates are two to three times of what I’m currently paying and that my max out of pocket will double, all for basically the same plan as what I have now. In essence, I’ve been put into a situation where I can either save for my kids’ college education or buy healthcare.’
“These stories don’t fit with the narrative we’ve heard for nearly five years. Now, President Obama is trying to backtrack on the dozens of times he made his promise to the American people.
“These personal stories are why I’m proud to cosponsor the ‘If You Like Your Health Plan, You Can Keep It Act,’ introduced by my colleague, Senator Johnson from Wisconsin. This is a simple, but necessary, bill to give Americans the ability to keep their health plans if they like them. The people of Nevada deserve better, and they deserve to have a government that keeps its promises.”
Nov 13 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) testified at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law entitled "The Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013." Last month, Heller joined Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) to introduce this bill, which would expand and improve ongoing government reporting about current National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.
Additionally, Heller has partnered with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on the USA Freedom Act (S. 1599) to stop the NSA from using the practice of bulk data collection to obtain telephone records of millions of Americans.
Remarks as prepared:
Good Morning, it is a pleasure to be here. I would like to begin my remarks by thanking Chairman Franken for inviting me to testify today.
I also want to thank you for holding this hearing and for your leadership to bring more transparency to the bulk collection programs run by the National Security Agency.
This is a strong bill rooted in the belief that Nevadans, Minnesotans and all Americans should be provided access to reports that explain the personal communication records the government is collecting and how many Americans’ have had their information caught up in that collection.
By now, most people are well aware of the bulk collection practices by the federal government that are authorized by sections of the PATRIOT Act and sections of the FISA Amendments Act.
I am confident the full Judiciary Committee will have a robust debate on the bulk collection practices and whether or not those programs should continue.
I believe the bulk collection programs mostly authorized under section 215 of the PATRIOT ACT should come to an end. Subsequently, I agreed to join Judiciary Chairman Leahy as a principal sponsor with Senator Lee and Senator Durbin on the USA FREEDOM Act.
While there is disagreement on whether that program should continue, I am confident all of us can agree that these programs demand more transparency.
That is why I joined Senator Franken to introduce the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.
This legislation would call for reports by the Attorney General detailing the requests for information authorized under the PATRIOT ACT and the FISA Amendments Act.
The reports would detail the total number of people whose information has been collected under these programs, how many Americans have had their information collected and also how many Americans actually had their information looked at by the NSA.
Furthermore, this legislation would allow telephone and Internet companies to tell consumers basic information regarding the FISA Court orders they receive and the number of users whose information is turned over.
The principles outlined in this bill to increase transparency for Americans and private companies would clear up a tremendous amount of confusion that exists with these programs.
That is why transparency reform is included in multiple NSA reform proposals including the Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act introduced by Senator Wyden, the USA FREEDOM ACT introduced by Chairman Leahy and myself, and the FISA Improvements Act introduced by Senator Feinstein.
Mr. Chairman, while positions on the bulk collection program may differ, many of us agree on the need for more transparency.This is why I urge support for the Franken Heller legislation before the Sub-Committee today.
We are talking about millions of Americans’ call records that are collected and stored by the NSA and Americans should have access to some basic information regarding the amount of data collected and what is actually being analyzed so that my constituents can determine for themselves whether they believe this program is worthy to continue or not.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and Mr. Chairman, thank you for your leadership on this issue.
Nov 07 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), Ranking Member of the Senate Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee, today delivered the following remarks during a hearing to examine the impact of demand letters — sent by patent assertion entities (PAEs) or “patent trolls” — on small businesses, consumers, and innovators:
Remarks as prepared:
I would like to thank Chairman McCaskill for holding this hearing and I would also like to thank our witnesses for being here and sharing their expert testimony today with the subcommittee.
Today, we are taking a hard look at patent litigation. Specifically, we are looking at the practice of some entities that engage in aggressive pre-litigation practices based on alleged patent infringements.
We all agree that patent holders should be protected under the law and they should be able to assert patent protection methods. Patents are incredibly important to our economy and we all agree that a patent holder should receive compensation for their innovation.
Unfortunately, there are some actors in this sphere who are aggressively asserting that a patent they own has been infringed on in a manner that some believe is in fact deceptive.
Examples brought to our attention include a business that accumulates patents, often by purchasing them from defunct companies or directly from individual inventors. The company then makes use of patents that are ambiguous or broadly written in order to maximize the number of companies against which the troll can assert the patent.
These companies generally do not make or sell anything related to these patents. Instead, they identify companies using a technology that it can allege is an infringement of the patent, then they write a letter to the alleged infringer stating that infringement has occurred and litigation will commence unless a licensing agreement is entered into—i.e., “pay us or we’ll sue you for patent infringement.”
This practice seems to have initially started with technology companies; however other industries including retailors, hospitals, banks, restaurants and the gaming industry have become targets as well.
This practice concerns me and I am sure it concerns many Senators. If frivolous lawsuits are being filed across my state of Nevada because a coffee shop allows their customers to use free Wi-Fi in Reno or a Las Vegas Casino receives a demand letter on a game they offer, it can have a negative impact on the economy because it could hinder innovation and economic growth.
So, I do not believe there is any question that this practice is taking place, it is.
What I hope the hearing today sheds light on is the scope of the problem and the most appropriate method to stem this behavior.
It is my understanding that the Federal Trade Commission has authority to act under its existing Section 5 authority to enforce against unfair and deceptive acts and practices. I also understand if they are waiting for the results of their own 6B study to be completed before moving forward.
I think it is important to see that study or at the very least have a stronger understanding of the scope of the issue before us, especially before moving on to any proposal that may be under this Committee’s jurisdiction regarding the FTC.
I also know that patent reform is an issue that the Judiciary Committee has looked at and will continue to look at. Many of the issues that will be discussed here may also be solved by passing rule-making authority instructing the Patent and Trademark Office to enforce standards on these “demand letters.”
I hope that we can aid in solving this problem by using this hearing today to shed more light on this issue, but this Committee is somewhat limited due to the narrow lane of jurisdiction we have.
Nevertheless, this is an important issue and even by holding this hearing, we are drawing attention to it and rightly so.
So again, I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing, and discussing ways in which we can work to ensure patent holders can protect their patents and that frivolous patent lawsuits are mitigated.
Thank you again Ms. Chairman.
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about the need to stop the National Security Agency (NSA) from using the practice of bulk collection to obtain telephone records of millions of Americans. On Tuesday, Heller joined Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as a lead Republican cosponsor to the USA Freedom Act (S. 1599), which stops the massive intrusion on Americans’ privacy by ending bulk data collection practices permitted under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…Due to published reports in newspapers around the world, Nevadans are well aware that the federal government has been collecting phone data of law-abiding citizens without their knowledge through a process known as bulk collection. These practices are mostly authorized by Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
“…Millions of Americans’ call records are collected and stored by the NSA because a few numbers may help solve an authorized investigation.
“…I believe, Mr. President, what Congress has authorized is a massive surrender of our constituents’ privacy.
“…I want to be clear; I share the concerns of all Americans that we must protect ourselves against threats to the homeland. I believe that we must continue to understand that terrorism is very real and the United States is the target of those looking to undermine the freedoms we hold as the core of our national identity.
“…So, in essence, Congress has authorized a program that invades the privacy of millions of Americans with little to show for it. The results simply do not justify this massive invasion of privacy. That is why I want to end the bulk collection practices authorized under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and have joined Senator Leahy to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral USA FREEDOM Act.
“…Here in the United States Congress, it is our responsibility to take great care to acknowledge each possible step that could whittle away our privacy. We must examine its necessity carefully and reasonably. And in this case, I do not believe such practices are warranted.”
Oct 30 2013
Legislation considered in Veterans Affairs Committee Today
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) urged his colleagues on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to support the Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act (S. 1148) and the Military Family Relief Act (S. 1573).
Heller Veterans Legislation Considered by the Committee today:
Veterans Benefits Claims Faster Filing Act (S. 1148) - This legislation, which Heller introduced with Senator Heinrich (D-NM), is a bipartisan bill to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The bill would require the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to provide veterans with accurate information for faster filing options.
Specifically, the bill would require the VA to track and post the average turnaround time for veterans when they are filing their claims. Filing claims online through the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, instead of filing a paper claim, accelerates turnaround times and makes processing more efficient. The bill would require the VA to inform veterans that under current law, when they file a FDC, they are eligible to receive up to an extra year of benefits.
Military Family Relief Act (S. 1573) –Senator Heller is an original cosponsor of this bill introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). The bill would authorize the VBA to automatically provide Death and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and death pension benefits to the widows and widowers of fallen service members and veterans for up to six months. Currently, these widows are ineligible to receive benefits until they file a claim and it is approved, a process that can often take several months.
“Those who wrote the law should be beholden to it”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about an amendment he cosponsored along with Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), among others. Their legislation will require all Members of Congress, the President, Vice President, and all political appointees in the Administration to purchase their health insurance on the Obamacare Exchange without the help of taxpayer-funded subsidies.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…Specifically, this amendment seeks to eliminate special Washington D.C. exemptions in the current law. It requires Congressional staff, including Committee and Leadership staff, as well as the President, the Vice President and all political appointees in the Administration to participate in the same exchanges that ObamaCare forces on everyday Americans.
I think it’s clear that the American people are fed up with the Beltway mentality that the rules apply to everyone else, but not Washington D.C. If you ask me, a law that applies to all Americans except those who wrote it, simply doesn’t pass the smell test.
By the way, I want to note that this elitist attitude isn’t anything new. In fact, America’s second President, John Adams, warned against a legislative assembly that would ‘In time, not hesitate to exempt itself from the burdens which it will lay, without shame, on its constituents.’ It turns out, this was a tragically accurate prediction.
If ObamaCare is such a good idea, why wouldn’t those who helped write the law stand proudly by it? The fact that ObamaCare protects a select few from participating in its exchanges is just further evidence that the law never should have been passed to begin with.
And if Congress is going to pass laws that are unpopular, we had better be ready to live by those same rules as everyone else. That’s what this amendment is about, and I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting it.”
Jul 30 2013
"I don’t trust the IRS or the NSA, and I certainly don’t trust the federal government to manage nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain"
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee about his strong opposition to Yucca Mountain and his concerns regarding the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) proposal to ship nuclear waste to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). Heller requested that the DOE work in a transparent way when it comes to nuclear waste storage in Nevada.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…While I am concerned that the Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 does not do the right thing and take Yucca Mountain off the table, I am pleased that we are discussing legislation that recognizes the need for a realistic solution.
“As you know, Nevada is home to the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. I have long had serious concerns about the safety of Yucca Mountain and the suitability of Southern Nevada as the final resting place of our spent nuclear material.
“Many people here know I don’t trust the IRS, I don’t trust the NSA, and I certainly don’t trust the federal government to appropriately manage a repository at this site. I hope that my position is clear.
“As you know, DOE and the State of Nevada have been in discussions regarding the shipment of nuclear waste from Oak Ridge, Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site.
“I remain concerned about any plan to bring nuclear waste to Nevada, and continue to be concerned about the reclassification of waste for DOE’s convenience.
“If DOE wants to have a partner in Nevada on activities at the NNSS, we need DOE to act like a partner…”
*To see the full exchange, please visit the Energy and Natural Resources Committee website at www.energy.senate.gov.
Compares asking celebrities to promote Obamacare to tactics used in the ‘50s and ‘60s glamorizing tobacco products
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke on the Senate floor about the negative impacts of Obamacare. Heller’s speech comes on the heels of the Administration’s decision to delay the law’s mandate on employers and small businesses.
Excerpts from the speech below:
“…But the more the American people learn about it, the less popular it becomes. In fact, news reports tell us the Administration is now looking for help from Hollywood celebrities to push a bill that many Americans clearly do not support.
“That tactic has been used before. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Hollywood was used in order to sell and glamorize tobacco products. Today, Hollywood is being asked to peddle the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps to make up for past sins…
“The President’s recent decision to delay, for another year, the law’s mandate on employers and small businesses is more compelling evidence that the Obamacare approach to healthcare reform isn’t working, and is only going to make matters worse…
“Nearly 75% of small businesses in this country have been forced to fire their employees, or cut their hours and turn full-time workers into part-time workers. In fact, just last month, 322,000 workers were forced into part-time employment…
“I can understand the Obama Administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate that is crushing small businesses across the country. That’s why so many of us opposed the law to begin with.
“But the American people deserve far better than a cherry-picking, tax-increasing approach to healthcare reform. American families shouldn’t have to juggle higher healthcare premiums with the threat of losing their job, or losing hours at work. They deserve common sense solutions that will reduce costs and increase access to high-quality care. Obamacare, clearly, is not that solution."
Jul 17 2013
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, delivered the following remarks during today’s hearing, “The Expansion of Internet Gambling: Assessing Consumer Protection Concerns.”
Text of prepared remarks:
Thank you Chairman McCaskill for holding this hearing today.
I also appreciate our panelists today and the expert testimony they will provide to the Committee. Thank you for being here.
Online gambling and its implications on consumers has been an issue that Congress has focused on for over a decade.
As many know, Internet gambling was accessible to U.S. consumers starting in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Illegal gambling on the Internet was on the verge of exploding in the United States.
For many years, gambling websites were run by offshore operators who, in defiance of U.S. law, offered online sports betting as well as casino type games, such as slots or roulette.
Some operate from foreign jurisdictions, but many operate from small Caribbean countries that do nothing to protect consumers and minors.
This changed in 2006 when Congress, including some members of this Committee, enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act to put an end to this wagering.
This law was effective in going after some of the “bad guys,” but it was not perfect. There were still some issues that needed to be addressed in the bill in order to give our federal agencies the tools they needed to stop illegal Internet gambling.
Fast forward to December 23, 2011, when the Department of Justice reversed its interpretation of the Wire Act.
For over 50 years, the Department of Justice argued that, under the Wire Act, intra-state gambling falls within the statute even if the wire communication originates and terminates in the same state, provided that the wire crossed state lines at some point in the process.
Because of this interpretation, all online wagering fell under the Wire Act.
With one decision, the Department of Justice effectively rendered all laws that we have on our books – the very laws this body has passed – useless to regulate and stop Internet gambling.
The result is that the floodgates are now open to states legalizing all forms of Internet gambling, such as casino games and lotteries. Five states have already acted – including my home state of Nevada - and 20 more are looking to act.
Patchwork state and tribal regulations have sparked a regulatory race to the bottom, and states that already do not allow Internet gambling will have difficulty enforcing their own laws.
On top of that, no discussion has been had as to what consumer protections will be afforded, if any, under this patchwork system of state regulations.
As we will hear from our witnesses today, due to the regulatory uncertainty created by the 2011 decision, the Internet has effectively turned it into the “wild west” for online gaming.
Not only does it present an opportunity for criminal and terrorist organizations to launder money with transactions happening under the radar, but there are issues of cheating and identity theft without any recourse for consumers.
There are also little, if any, regulatory standards required by these websites to securely ensure those who are playing the game are who they say they are, the age they say they are, and where they say they say are.
I believe the technology exists that can meet this goal either through the use of biometrics or geo-location data.
I look forward to seeing the presentation of such technology software from one of our witnesses today.
Such standards provide protections for all consumers, particularly underage and problem gamblers. They must, however, be able to account for the ever-changing technologies of the Internet.
Finally, I believe that we need to examine whether or not law enforcement has the appropriate tools to either shut down or regulate the space.
In the past I have been vocal about my belief that law enforcement lacks this authority and Congress needs to provide clarity and guidance on these issues.
If we do not, this illegal market will continue to grow where millions of consumers are put at risk and criminals can act freely. I firmly believe that Congress has a unique opportunity to act by updating the Wire Act and clarifying other existing statutes that govern Internet gambling before it is too late and states become dependent on a new source of revenue.
I also believe that Congress should examine the merits of providing a path forward for limited, federally-regulated online poker. Poker - a game of skill, not a game of chance - is different than other house-banked games such as blackjack or roulette.
I believe that if given the opportunity, appropriate consumer protection standards could be put in place to protect American consumers while still providing for play of this nationally recognized peer-to-peer game.
I commend this Committee and Chairman McCaskill for examining this issue today, the harms it poses to consumers, and whether or not Congressional action is warranted.
I look forward to hearing from of our witnesses today. Thank you.
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) spoke yesterday on the
Senate floor about property rights and the negative effects that government
abuse of these rights has on Nevada ranchers.
Senator Heller’s Remarks as prepared:
“Mr./Madam President, I rise today to address an issue that is troubling to me, to my constituents at home in Nevada, and to a growing number of Americans across the country.
“I’m referring, Mr./Madam President, to the tendency of those who lead government agencies to abuse their power, and deprive Americans of their constitutional rights.
“We’ve seen examples of this alarming trend over the last several weeks. The NSA is reportedly confiscating private email and phone records. And the IRS has specifically targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
“Constituents have flooded my office with phone calls, emails, and letters, demanding to know why their government continues to encroach on their liberty. They’ve had enough. And so have I.
“Recently, the Federal District Court of Nevada ruled that the federal government was abusing its power in my home state. The Court ruled in favor of private cattle owners in Nevada - ranchers who came to the Court because they felt the federal government was intentionally interfering with their grazing permits and private property
“The court found that for more than two decades, federal officials entrusted with responsibly managing public lands actively conspired to deprive Wayne Hage, and his father’s estate, of their grazing permits and their water rights.
“In its decision, the court ruled that ‘the government had abused its discretion through a series of actions designed to strip the Estate of its grazing permits, and of the ability to use water rights.’
“The court described the actions of the government officials as an ‘abuse of executive power,’ that ‘shocked the conscience of the court, and provided a basis for a finding of irreparable harm.’
“Mr./Madam President, there seems to be a pattern emerging here. The federal government is supposed to be entrusted with protecting fundamental rights, like property rights and the right to privacy. And yet sadly, the American people are left wondering if their own government is living up to that public trust.
“The Framers of the Constitution believed that private property rights were sacred. The 5th and 14th Amendments specifically prohibit the government from depriving citizens of ‘Life, Liberty, or Property, without Due Process of law.’ And those amendments are there for a reason.
“As the Nevada District Court wrote, ‘Substantive due process protects individuals from arbitrary deprivation of their liberty by government.’
“No question, the federal government has an obligation to help manage the nation’s resources, just like it has a duty to keep Americans safe, and to fairly enforce the tax code.
“But these responsibilities require integrity, accountability, and impartiality, and these powers cannot be used to push political or partisan agendas.
“In a state like Nevada, which is made up of land that is 87% federally-controlled, and where resources like water and vegetation are scarce, the role of the government in protecting private property rights is especially important, and cannot be abused by over-zealous government officials.
“The rights of cattle owners and ranchers to have their grazing permits honored is no less important than other forms of property rights secured by law through permits and licensing. And the government cannot be allowed to arbitrarily target certain groups for punishment, and selectively enforce the law. That kind of behavior is precisely what the Framers wanted to guard against.
“Whether it’s the IRS targeting groups for their political views, the NSA confiscating mass amounts of private data, or the federal government interfering with property rights, Americans are fed up with this laundry list of examples of the federal government blatantly disrespecting constitutional liberties.
“Fortunately, the federal courts remain open for Americans to defend themselves against government abuse. But I think it’s a tragedy for American citizens to be subjected to costly, drawn-out litigation in order to make sure their liberties are secured against the very government they’ve entrusted to protect them.
“Mr./Madam President, the American people will not stand for an all-powerful government that ignores their constitutional rights. It’s long past time that we end this culture of government bullying and harassment.
“The government derives its power from the consent of the governed. That consent depends on a fair, transparent, and reasonable enforcement of the law.
“If we are to remain the greatest country on earth, and live up to the powerful ideals that inspired our founders, then we must restore the trust of the American people in their government. And we must begin that process right away.
“Thank you, Mr./Madam President, I yield the floor.”