Departments Of Transportation And Housing And Urban Development, And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 - Conference Report

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Dec. 12, 2009
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, yesterday may well have been a seminal moment in this debate. We heard from CMS. And for those who do not know what that is, who may be watching C-SPAN 2, that is the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They did an analysis of the Reid health care bill, a rather detailed analysis. The important part I will summarize. It says: We estimate that total national health expenditures under this bill would increase by an estimated $234 billion during the calendar years 2010 to 2019. In other words, it will increase the deficit. We know there was a letter to Chairman Baucus from six Democrats on September 17, 2009, saying:

There are many, wide-ranging options to address the broad and complicated issue of runaway health care costs, and we pledge our support to you in making the necessary and tough decisions. This is our number one priority. If we pass health [care] reform legislation without addressing the issue of health care spending, we will have failed.

That letter was signed by Senator Kohl of Wisconsin, Senator McCaskill of Missouri, Senator Pryor of Arkansas, Senator Begich of Alaska, Senator Bayh of Indiana, and Senator Klobuchar of Minnesota to the chairman of the Finance Committee, saying: ``If we pass health care reform legislation without addressing the issue of health [care] spending, we will have failed.''

We know from CMS, the actuary at the Department of Health and Human Services, that the Reid bill fails the test of Senators KOHL, MCCASKILL, PRYOR, BEGICH, BAYH, and KLOBUCHAR. So we know what CMS thinks.

We also know what CNN thinks. We know where the American people are. We have watched the public opinion polls dramatically shift against the Reid proposal. The well-respected Quinnipiac poll a week or so ago had the proposal disapproved by 14 percent; the week before that, Gallup had it disapproved by 9 percent. And now CNN, just yesterday, the latest poll: people oppose the Senate bill 61 to 36.

We have heard from both CMS and CNN. When will our colleagues on the other side of the aisle respond to either cold, hard facts or the American people? They argue: ``to make history.'' It is clear this would be a historical mistake of gargantuan proportions--a historical mistake of gargantuan proportions. The only history we would be making here is a historical mistake.

We know from the experts it will not achieve the goal. We know from the American people they do not want us to pass it. It is time to stop this effort and to start over and go step by step to fix the problems the American people sent us here to fix regarding the American health care system.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, we had indicated to Senators REID and DURBIN that we wanted to see if there was a way to develop some path forward on the health care bill, and I wish to at this point propound a consent agreement that might well give us a way to move forward on some of the amendments that have been pending for quite some time, some of which are both supported and opposed on each side.

Having said that, I ask unanimous consent that after the vote on the adoption of the pending conference report, the Senate resume consideration of H.R. 3590 under the following order; there be 2 hours of debate equally divided between the two leaders or their designees and following the use or yielding back of that time, the Senate proceed to a series of stacked votes in relation to the following amendments or motions; a Baucus sense-of-the-Senate amendment related to taxes, the pending Crapo motion--which I might add parenthetically has been out there since last Tuesday--the Crapo motion to commit the bill related to taxes, then the Dorgan amendment, which is on the drug importation issue, No. 2793, and then a McCain amendment, No. 3200, on the same subject.

I further ask unanimous consent that the above referenced motion and amendments be subject to an affirmative 60-vote threshold, and if they achieve that threshold, they become agreed to; further, if they do not achieve that threshold, they be withdrawn; finally, I ask that no amendments be in order to any of the mentioned amendments and motion.

Before the Chair rules, I wish to make a quick point. The majority leader has been proposing a series of votes, which regretfully has not held to our pattern of alternating back and forth. We have many people interested in the pending amendments, and under the agreement I put forward, each side would get two votes, as we have tried to operate throughout the health care debate, and then we would move forward.

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Mr. McCONNELL. Maybe I have a solution to the problem. It actually involves my side agreeing to a procedure we have not followed throughout this bill, but let me suggest the following, which I think would get us out of this conundrum we seem to be in: that even though we have alternated from side to side, we would agree to both Dorgan and Lautenberg in conjunction, right after Crapo and Baucus; and then we get in the queue our next two--which I believe you are already familiar with, because they have been discussed on the floor--the Hutchison-Thune amendment, and then a Snowe amendment.

Mr. McCAIN. And I withdraw, with great reluctance and great anger, my amendment, because I think the Lautenberg amendment would be in violation of what we have agreed to.

Mr. McCONNELL. In other words, Mr. President, putting it another way, we are basically conceding to what the Senator had earlier proffered as a way to get moving on the bill, and then we would get back into our process of going side to side. And we want you to know that our next two--as we have been letting each side know what the other side was going to offer--our next two would be the Snowe amendment and the Hutchison-Thune amendment.

Mr. DURBIN. Let me suggest this. I will formally object to the original unanimous consent request, and I will then take what I consider to be a good-faith offer from your side as to the next two amendments to the majority leader. We will review the amendments, and I hope even today we will be back to Senators and suggest whether that is a path out of this.

Mr. McCAIN. Could I be clear with the Senator from Illinois that what this means is we would move forward with the side-by-side Dorgan and Lautenberg--we would agree to that--and then we would also expect agreement on following amendments so that we could lock those in for debate and votes?

Mr. DURBIN. May I ask whether the two amendments the minority leader mentioned, which would be Thune and Hutchison, and the other amendment, Snowe, we would be allowed to have side-by-sides to those?

Mr. McCONNELL. Of course.

Mr. DURBIN. If you would be kind enough----

Mr. McCONNELL. If you so chose.

Mr. DURBIN. If you are kind enough to give us time to review that proposal, we will be sure to get back to you.

Mr. McCONNELL. I understand capitulation when we do it, and we have essentially said to the majority we will go along with what you had earlier requested and we would like for you to take ``yes'' for an answer and for us to wrap this up and have a sense of where we are going from here.

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