Montana’s freshman U.S. representative is stepping into the spotlight on some high-profile issues, cosponsoring a bill he says will restore religious freedoms infringed upon by health care reform.
Rep. Steve Daines also testified before the House Budget Committee that congressional pay should be tied to balancing the federal budget.
A press release from Daines, R-Mont., said he spoke before members of the House Budget Committee today during “Member’s Day,” an annual hearing allowing members of Congress to convey their ideas and concerns regarding the federal budget in advance of the House Budget Committee releasing its preliminary budget.
Daines told the committee he supports tying congressional pay to passing a budget and that it should be taken further. The pay should be tied to a timeline to balancing the federal budget, something a bill he has proposed would do, Daines said.
“In the private sector, if you don’t produce results, you don’t get paid,” Daines said. “Congress should be no different.”
He said the work of the government should be modeled after the forms of the private sector.
“Balancing the budget, demanding accountability and results, promoting efficiency — these principles are at the core of success in the private sector, and they are championed and adhered to by the people of Montana,” Daines said. “It is time to bring these common-sense principles to Washington.”
Montana’s U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, also have spoken in favor of balancing the budget. The two were among 20 Democrats — and one Republican — who voted for a balanced budget amendment proposal Dec. 14, 2011, after voting against a different balanced budget amendment bill that same day.
Daines also announced his, along with three other Republican representatives, introducing what he called the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.
Daines said the act would give employers and individuals the freedom to object to paying for health care coverage on products and services mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but to which they are morally opposed. The Affordable Care Act is scheduled to take full effect in 2014.
The act also would allow health care providers to refuse to perform services, such as abortion, based on moral or religious objections, Daines said in the release.
“As a fifth-generation Montanan and a person of faith, I know my faith does not begin and end at the doors of our church,” Daines said on the floor of the House Tuesday, the day the bill was introduced by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. “Living the principles of what I believe is a key part of my faith. But under the Affordable Care Act, religious institutions and employers, as well as health care providers who hold religious and moral convictions, are stripped of their religious freedoms.”
The bill was referred to the House committees on Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means.
Andrea Helling, director of communications for Tester, said to the Havre Daily that the provision Daines’ bill addresses deals solely with health insurance coverage of contraceptives, not abortion.
“Sen. Tester is a strong advocate for all women to be able to access contraception without copayments as part of their health insurance plan,” Helling said. “This is one of the key recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is an independent panel of non-Federal primary care providers whose job it is to make recommendations about how to make the nation’s health care more efficient and less expensive.”