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Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, I rise, joined by my friend, the distinguished Senator from South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, to discuss the health care legislation being considered in Congress. The current debate is primarily about process. But before addressing that, I wish to remind everyone that in the end, this is about the substance of the legislation that Washington liberals want to impose upon the country by any means necessary.
This legislation is bad, both for what it represents and for what it would do. It represents a massive Federal Government takeover of the health care system. The health care and health insurance systems could be significantly improved with policies that respect individual choice, that embrace our system of federalism, in which the States can tailor solutions to their own needs and demographics. It could. But Washington liberals have rejected that path.
What would this legislation do? As I have argued in the past, this legislation would bust the limits the Constitution places on Federal Government power. Liberty itself depends on those limits, it always has and it always will. Those limits mean Congress may exercise only the powers listed in the Constitution. None of those powers authorizes Congress to take such unprecedented steps as requiring that individuals spend their own money to purchase a particular good or service, such as health insurance, or face a financial penalty. This legislation would unnecessarily take this country into unchartered political and legal territory.
We just heard from the Congressional Budget Office that President Obama's policies will add a staggering $8.5 trillion--that is trillion with a ``t''--to our already sky-high national debt.
This is before passage of the health care tax-and-spend bill that would cost another $2.5 trillion. Claims that this boondoggle will lower the deficit result from some pretty impressive accounting tricks. This legislation, for example, would start taking money from Americans immediately but would not provide any benefits to them for years. How about that as a neat way to lower a bill's supposed cost?
What do Americans get for all these trillions of dollars? They would be required to buy health insurance, but only 7 percent of Americans would receive any government subsidy to do so. Washington liberals say this bill cuts taxes, but 93 percent of all Americans would not be eligible for any tax benefit. Contrary to President Obama's explicit pledge, one-quarter of Americans making under $200,000 per year would see their taxes go up. Middle-class American families paying higher taxes will outnumber those receiving any government subsidy by more than 3 to 1.
And after the higher taxes, increased government control, greater regulation, and paltry help in buying health insurance, this legislation would not control health care costs, which is the main reason for the concern about health insurance in the first place.
It does nothing to rein in the junk lawsuits that drive up costs and drive doctors out of medicine. Instead, this legislation would cut $500 billion from Medicare to pay for a massive new government entitlement system that would include 159 new boards and other bureaucratic entities.
Last month, the White House released an 11-page document titled ``The President's Proposal.'' Calling it that, I suppose, was to make it appear to be a meaningful step in a genuine negotiation. It is nothing of the kind. One of the most obvious changes suggested in this document was elimination of the Medicaid subsidy that the Senate bill gave to only one State. That was for political rather than policy reasons. And I cannot forget to mention that this 11-page document's suggested changes would add at least $75 billion more to the cost of the Senate bill. That is around $7 billion a page. But it offered nothing to change the real defects in this legislation.
For these and so many other reasons, this legislation is the wrong way to address the challenges we face in health care and health insurance.
Let me turn to my friend from South Dakota, Senator Thune. Now that we have been debating these issues for the better part of a year, what do the American people think of these liberal Washingtonian proposals and how did we get where we are today?
Mr. THUNE. I say to the Senator from Utah that he has made, over the course of the last year, many compelling arguments about the substance of this legislation and just now summarized what some of those are. The reason the American people have rejected this legislation is because they understand the substance of it. As the Senator pointed out, it has tax increases, Medicare cuts, and premium increases for most Americans. They figured that out a long time ago. That is why, if you look at the public opinion surveys that have been done with regard to the bill itself and to the process by which it got where it is, the American people reject it.
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Mr. HATCH. I thank my colleague for his cogent remarks because my friend from North Dakota is absolutely right. The American people are not buying this, nor are they going to buy this misuse of reconciliation.
Even with large majorities in the Senate and the House, the White House, and most of the mainstream media, Washington liberals have not been able to convince the American people this is the right way to go. The American people oppose this bill. They want us to start over, and they want us to adopt step-by-step, commonsense reforms.
We could do that, but Washington liberals instead are determined to find some way to get their way. The latest procedural gambit, which has been raised by my colleague, is called reconciliation. Before talking about what reconciliation is, I have to emphasize what it is not. Reconciliation is not simply an alternative to the Senate's regular process for handling legislation. Instead, reconciliation is an exception to that process.
While the House is about action, the Senate is about deliberation, and the rules in each body reflect its role. For more than 200 years, Senate rules have allowed smaller groups of Senators to slow down or stop legislation. The House is a simple majority vote body, but the Senate is not. This creates checks and speed bumps to legislation, but passing legislation is not supposed to be easy, especially something that affects one-sixth of the American economy.
Reconciliation is the exception to that because it limits debate and amendments and requires only a simple majority. It allows for only 20 hours of debate. It actually weakens the role the Senate plays in the legislative branch and, therefore, this exception to our regular order was created to handle a small category of legislation related to the budget. While thousands of public laws have been enacted since the reconciliation process was created, that process, as the distinguished Senator from South Dakota said, has been used only 19 times to enact legislation of any kind into law.
Not only is reconciliation a rare exception to our regular legislative process, but using reconciliation to pass sweeping social legislation, as opposed to budget or tax legislation, is even more rare. Reconciliation has been used only three times to pass such major social legislation. Welfare reform passed in 1996 with 78 votes, child health insurance passed in 1997 with 85 votes, and a college tuition bill passed in 2007 with 79 votes. In each case, dozens of Senators in the minority party supported the legislation.
The health care legislation before us is not the kind of budget or tax legislation that has been the primary focus of the reconciliation process in the past. It is much more like the welfare reform or child health insurance bills, except for one very important thing: The health care legislation is a completely, 100-percent, partisan bill--100 percent. The reconciliation process, which from the start is a rare exception to our regular process, has never been used for such sweeping, major social legislation that did not have wide bipartisan support--never. It was never supposed to be used for that. You can criticize the three times social legislation was passed, and your criticism might be considered valid by some, but the fact is, those bills were bipartisan.
Washington liberals obviously know this because their latest talking point is, reconciliation will not be used to pass the large health care bill only to change the big health care bill. My friends, that is a distinction without a difference. The bill Washington liberals want is the combination of the big Senate bill and the smaller fixer bill. In fact, they cannot stomach the one without the other. The bill they want, whether passed in one piece or two, cannot pass Congress through the regular legislative process. The health care bill that Washington liberals want, if it can be passed at all, can only be passed through an illegitimate use of this extraordinary process called reconciliation.
By the way, I would like to remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that the reconciliation process has been used only twice to pass a purely partisan bill on any subject, even those that reconciliation may have been designed for. In both cases--1993, when Democrats were in charge, and 2005, when Republicans were in charge--the American people in the next election threw the majority party out and gave the other party a chance to run the Senate.
Just as Washington liberals cannot convince the American people to support the substance of this legislation, they cannot make the case that reconciliation is a legitimate way to pass it.
Let me also say, there are those in the House who want to distort this reconciliation process even further by devising a way so that House Members do not have to actually vote directly on the Senate-passed bill. They want to create a rule that would deem the Senate bill as passed. Talk about distorting the process. Talk about the lack of guts to stand and vote for what they claim is so good. Talk about deceiving the American people. They have already distorted the reconciliation rules, but that would be a bridge too far.
I ask my friend from South Dakota, Senator Thune, whether he has seen, as I have, the spin and misdirection that have been employed to give the impression that this is a legitimate process to pass this unpopular legislation.
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Mr. HATCH. My friend from South Dakota hit the nail on the head. I appreciate his remarks. If this legislation were sound policy, if it incorporated consensus ideas, if it had any level of real support among the American people, Washington liberals would not need to use the gimmicks they are using. They wouldn't have to use the tricks that are being used. They wouldn't have to use the spin that the Senator from South Dakota so accurately described.
I mentioned earlier that the reconciliation process has never been used to enact sweeping social legislation that did not have wide bipartisan support.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Would the Senator yield?
Mr. HATCH. I am happy to yield for a question because I do want to finish my remarks.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. As I understand it--and I am presiding over the Federal Aviation Administration legislation, so this is a little offtrack, but it is very hard for me to listen to this kind of dialogue week after week without having these thoughts and questions.
Mr. HATCH. OK.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. The Senate passed with 60 votes the health care bill which is now----
Mr. HATCH. Sixty partisan votes.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Right--which is now on the way over to the House. The House has it.
Mr. HATCH. Right.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. The question is, is the House going to pass it. If there is going to be any health care reform at all, the House has to pass it. Now, if the House does pass it, it will then constitute about 85 to 90 percent of the entire health care bill.
I listened to my good friend and the Senator from South Dakota talk about 16 percent of the gross national product. But the bill that will come out of the House--hopefully passed--and, therefore, will not have to come back to the Senate will, No. 1, be nowhere--will be the vast majority of the 16 percent, if that is an accurate figure. But one thing that is even more clear to me is it will have absolutely nothing to do with reconciliation, just the regular legislative process.
The only question about reconciliation and the only place where it applies from this Senator's point of view is on that particular add-on that would be done to include some Republican ideas and include a few more things that the House wants to do.
I ask the Senator from Utah, why does he say this is reconciliation affecting 16 percent of GDP when, in fact, it affects 14 percent or 15 percent of GDP, which is simply in the regular order of Senate process and has nothing to do with reconciliation?
Mr. HATCH. Well, I have already said that it is the combination of these bills that Washington liberals want and that combination cannot pass without reconciliation. First of all, we know the House doesn't like the bill that passed in the Senate. If they had the votes to pass it over in the House, it would already be passed. So what they have done is come up with some cockamamie misuse of reconciliation to do a smaller bill.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. I have stipulated that.
Mr. HATCH. Let me finish--doing a smaller bill that, assuming they can pass the large bill, would then come over here.
I submit to you--and I know it is absolutely true--they can't pass the larger bill. I have also indicated that they may abuse the rules further by getting a special rule over there that would would have to deem the Senate bill as having been passed by the House even though there never was a vote on it.
So the key vote would be the vote on the rule to deem the Senate bill as passed. That is a really, really mixed up and messed up version of the reconciliation process. There is only one reason they are doing that, and that is because it is the only way they can possibly get the health care reform they want.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Then I would further inquire: I don't see any possibility of the House changing a bill, which would have to come back over to the Senate, because it would be highly unlikely the Senate would be able to pass that bill. So I don't think that will be the process. I think what the House will do--and they said they haven't done it; therefore they can't do it--well, they said that about the Senate bill in the Senate, too, and we did, and it was very close for reasons that it got no votes from your side. But that is not the point.
The point is, reconciliation on 16 percent of the GDP, if they pass it--and this is all in the full time of working out the process on the House side the Senate bill, which is what they want to try to do, and then the reconciliation is not done on their side, it is done on our side, in which we put in a few things to--whatever will be attractive to Republicans as well as some things which will help with liberals on the Democratic side in the House because they are more liberal than we are.
That, I would say to my good friend from Utah, is not reconciliation, but it is put that way for months now. I am on the floor and I have this microphone and you are being kind enough to be patient with me, but it isn't reconciliation. The Senator from South Dakota said it is 16 percent of the gross domestic product. It isn't. It is probably about 5 percent, 6 percent.
Mr. HATCH. Well, I wish to finish my remarks.
Mr. ROCKEFELLER. I thank the Senator.
Mr. HATCH. I am happy to do it. I wish to finish my remarks, but the real problem is that the House is having difficulty passing the Senate bill because an awful lot of liberals don't like it, and an awful lot of conservative Democrats don't like it--if there are any conservative Democrats in that body; there may be a few, although there aren't any over here in this body. The only way they can get the bill back over here with their small reconciliation package that they talked about--the only way they can do that is by abusing the rules.
Frankly, if they had the votes to pass it, it would have been passed by now. The Senator from West Virginia and I both know they don't have the votes.
Let me just continue on with my remarks. I mentioned earlier that the reconciliation process has never been used to enact sweeping social legislation that did not have wide bipartisan support, but I also wish to emphasize that such major legislation has had wide bipartisan support even when passed through the regular legislative process. That is the best way to achieve such significant change that can impact so much of our economy and virtually every American family.
The Senate, for example, passed the Social Security Act in August 1935 by a voice vote. The legislation creating the Medicare Program in July 1965 received 70 votes, a bipartisan vote. Legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, in which I played a significant role, passed in 1990 by a vote of 94 to 6, and a revision in 2008 passed the Senate and the House unanimously. That is the best way to enact sweeping social legislation with wide bipartisan support and the deep consensus of the American people.
If you look at the meeting down at the White House of Republicans and Democrats and the President, I think it was shocking to many who had been blaming Republicans for not coming up with a bill, knowing that there was no chance it would even be considered, to see that Republicans had a lot of ideas and were willing to work with Democrats, would have worked together. We could have started by doing the things we can agree on and then go from there and see what we can do to bring about a bipartisan consensus. But, no, that wasn't good enough.
So whether our regular legislative process is used or the exception to that process called reconciliation is used, major social legislation has had wide bipartisan support. This one does not. Legislation with much less impact on the health care bills before us had to have wide bipartisan support. But rather than compromise or deviate in any way from their big government, federally controlled, one-size-fits-all approach, Washington liberals have insisted that they know better than the American people, and the American people have caught on to them. These liberals are determined to have their way by any means necessary, even by the illegitimate use of an extraordinary process such as reconciliation.
I ask unanimous consent that a column by this body's former majority leader, Dr. Bill Frist, appearing in the February 25 edition of the Wall Street Journal be placed in the Record following my remarks.
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Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, Senator Frist cogently argues that using reconciliation for this health care legislation would be a historic and dangerous mistake.
There is still time to turn back from this path. There is still time to do what nearly three-quarters of Americans want us to do and that is start over and work together. I hope we do. I told the President 3 days after the inauguration, when I was down there at their request, that I would be happy to work with him, and I know a lot of other Republicans would be happy to. We were never even called on it.
I wish to thank my distinguished colleague from South Dakota, Senator Thune, for his leadership in this body and his articulate arguments here today. I have appreciated them. He does a great job leading our policy committee and is a real advocate for sound ideas and conservative principles. I hope he feels as I do, as we have outlined today, that on both substance and process the Senate is heading in the wrong direction on health care reform. We need to pull back and do it right.
Mr. THUNE. If the Senator will yield for just one final point.
Mr. HATCH. I am happy to yield.
Mr. THUNE. I think it is an important one point. I hear articulated by our colleagues on the other side the whole process by which the House is acting on this legislation. I served for three terms in the House of Representatives. I still have colleagues and friends over there, and I know they have a way, through the rules process, of doing a lot of things that aren't allowed in the Senate.
The Senate was designed by our Founders to be more free flowing, to slow things down, and to be more deliberative. The Rules Committee allows them to put together what is called a self-enacting, self-executing rule and, as you said, to ``deem as passed'' the Senate bill without a rollcall vote or without a recorded vote on it, which tells us right there that there are a lot of House Members who don't want to vote on the Senate-passed bill. They don't want to go on the record.
The only way that bill can pass in the House of Representatives is with an accompanying reconciliation vehicle that makes the fixes that most of those House Members want to make.
My point simply is this: Health care reform cannot pass absent this reconciliation process that is being promised on the House side, and also being promised to House Members is that if they vote for it over there, the Senate will follow suit. With all the points of order that will lie against this legislation when it comes to the Senate, in all likelihood the House Members are being asked to take an incredible leap of faith that the Senate is going to be able to maintain many of the provisions they added to the reconciliation bill in the House.
The point--and I come back to the dialog the Senator from Utah had with the Senator from West Virginia because I think it is an interesting point of discussion and one criticism I heard from our colleagues on the other side--but, frankly, the House of Representatives could not pass health care reform absent this reconciliation vehicle. It is about one-sixth of our economy. It is about reordering, restructuring, literally, something that is personal and important to every American. When you are talking about doing issues of that consequence and that impact, it ought to be done, as the Senator from Utah has mentioned, as has been done in the past, in a bipartisan way that elicits the best suggestions and ideas of both sides and gets a broad bipartisan vote in the Senate.
I thank the Senator from Utah for his leadership.
Mr. HATCH. I appreciate the Senator's remarks. Make no bones about it, they know they cannot pass the bill that has been sent over there, so they are going to attempt this extraordinary rules gimmick.
Frankly, it really disturbs me that on something this important, something that affects one-sixth of the American economy, they are willing to play games with this in order to get their will when a vast majority of the American people are against what they are doing. Only about 24 percent are for it. Frankly, they want their way no matter what. If they pull this off, and I question whether they can, but if they do, I believe they are going to pay a tremendous price.
It is not the way we should be legislating, especially since a number of us have been willing to work with them on issues we agree on first--and there is a lot we could agree on first--and then go from there and battle it out on the issues on which we cannot agree. That is a pretty good offer, and it has been on the table from the inauguration on.
There is something more to this. It is a question of power. If they get control of the health care system of this country and they move it more and more into the Federal Government and more and more people become dependent on the Federal Government, then it is a question of power.
I want to make fewer and fewer people dependent on the Federal Government. I would like to have people have freedoms. This is going to take away freedoms. Not only that, in order to arrive at this $2.5 trillion bill, they have had to use accounting gimmicks like imposing taxes first and then 4 years later implementing other parts of the bill. Some of it will not be implemented until 2018, long after President Obama, assuming he is elected to two terms, is gone. That is to accommodate their union friends, knowing that otherwise they will never have the guts to enact that part of the bill.
This bill is going to cost a lot more. We are already spending $2.4 trillion on our health care system in this country. They want to add another $2.5 trillion to it. They say it is $1 trillion, but they use gimmicks for the first several years. Can you imagine $5 trillion for health care? And they still do not cover everybody in our society. There is a real issue of whether they are covering a lot of people the American taxpayers are going to have to pay for who should not be covered.
To use this process to slip such a bill through, it is abysmal. They should be ashamed of themselves. They act as if the American people are so doggone stupid, they cannot figure it out. They have already figured it out. They know it is not a good thing.
Mr. THUNE. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. HATCH. Yes, I yield.
Mr. THUNE. I think they have figured it out, which is why the last survey I quoted was the CNN survey which said 48 percent of the people want us to start over and 25 percent want Congress to quit working on the issue altogether. That is literally three-quarters of Americans who have rejected the substance of this legislation--higher taxes, expanded government, Medicare cuts, higher premiums for most Americans--and some who flatout do not want anything done, which, as I said, is not the view to which I subscribe. Three-quarters of Americans understand what this bill is about. They know how it was put together, and they reject both.
Mr. HATCH. I know the distinguished Senator knows as well as I know that there are 1,700 provisions in this bill that turn the power over to make decisions on our health care matters to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. I don't care whether the Secretary is a Democrat or a Republican. Naturally, I prefer a Republican, but I don't care whether they are either. That kind of power should not be turned over to the bureaucracy.
I think Republicans are willing to stand up and have the guts to do it. My gosh, there has not been a hand extended to us at all during this process. They just said: Take it or leave it.
I was in the Gang of 7 on the Finance Committee. I thought that the chairman was trying his best but was not given enough power to really come up with a health care bill, except within the parameters they had already decided. He was so restricted. I decided that I could no longer continue in those talks.
The bill turned out as I thought it would. They took the HELP Committee bill and then they took aspects of the Finance bill and in one office, with even very few Democrats--no Republicans--they came up with this monstrosity of a bill on which the House now does not want to vote. They are going to do anything they can to avoid that vote, even gimmicking up the whole process. That is disgraceful, in my eyes.
I do not need to go on any further. I think we ought to start over. We ought to do it right. We ought to work together and start with the issues on
which we can agree. I think there would be a number of considerable issues we can agree on, starting with people who have preexisting conditions. They ought to be able to get health insurance. We all agree on that. There are a number of other things on which we can agree.
I thank my dear colleague from South Dakota. I thank him for the excellent remarks he made on the floor. I appreciate him answering some of the questions I had.
I yield the floor.
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