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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I say to my friend, obviously, the answer to that question is, they continue to go back to the Congressional Budget Office with different assumptions in order to get the answers they want when the American people have figured it out.

Again, I know my friend from Tennessee saw yesterday's news, which has to be considered in the context of the cost of this bill, which Congressman Ryan estimates at around $2.5 trillion with true budgeting over 10 years. But we cannot ignore the fundamental fact that ``the government ran up''--this is an AP article yesterday:

The government ran up the largest monthly deficit in history in February, keeping the flood of red ink on track to top last year's record for the full year.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the February deficit totaled $220.9 billion, 14 percent higher than the previous record set in February of last year.

The deficit through the first 5 months of this budget year totals $651.6 billion, 10.5 percent higher than a year ago.

The Obama administration is projecting that the deficit for the 2010 budget year will hit an all-time high of $1.56 trillion, surpassing last year's of $1.4 trillion total.

I say to my friend from Tennessee, these are numbers that in our younger years we would not believe. We would not believe we could be running up these kinds of deficits. Yet we hear from the President and from the administration that things are getting better--certainly not from the debt we are laying onto future generations of Americans.

May I mention also in this context--I wonder if my friend from Tennessee will agree with me that there is so much anger out there over porkbarrel spending and earmark spending that the Speaker of the House said they are going to ban earmarks in the other body for for-profit companies. I think that is a step forward. Why not ban them all? Immediately they would set up shadow outfits.

Chairman Obey says that would be 1,000 earmarks. In one bill last year, there were 9,000 earmarks. So why don't we take the final step and put a moratorium on earmarks until we have a balanced budget, until there is no more deficit? I think that is what the American people wanted to get rid of--this corruption that continues there.

But I would also mention to my friend from Tennessee very briefly that the President, when he and I sat next to each other at Blair House, and I talked about the special deals for the special interests and the unsavory deal that was cut with PhRMA and how the American people are as angry about the process as the product, the President's response to me was--and there is a certain accuracy associated with it--the campaign is over.

Well, I would remind my friend that before the campaign--even before the campaign--when the President was still a Senator, he said this about reconciliation:

You know, the Founders designed this system, as frustrating [as] it is, to make sure that there's a broad consensus before the country moves forward. ..... And what we have now is a president who--

And there he was referring to President Bush--

hasn't gotten his way. And that is now prompting, you know, a change in the Senate rules that really I think would change the character of the Senate forever. ..... And what I worry about would be you essentially have still two chambers--the House and the Senate--but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended.

That was a statement by then-Senator Barack Obama. Then he went on to say:

I would try to get a unified effort saying this is a national emergency to do something about this. We need the Republicans, we need the Democrats.

Just yesterday, of course, at rallies around the country, he said: It is time to vote.

It is time to vote, is his message, which certainly is attractive. We will be glad to vote. But we want to vote preserving the institution of the Senate and the 60-vote rule.

In the interest of full disclosure, Republicans, when they were in the majority, tried to change it, as the Senator from Tennessee remembers. But the fact is, if we take away the 60-vote majority that has characterized the way this body has proceeded, we would then have just what then-Senator Obama said:

You essentially have still two Chambers--the House and the Senate--but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that's just not what the founders intended.

I wonder if my colleague from Tennessee would like to comment on whether the President still believes that is not what the Founders intended.

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Mr. McCAIN. I would also remind my friend from Tennessee of Senator Byrd's comments regarding reconciliation and health care reform.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record Senator ROBERT BYRD's statement on the floor of the Senate from April of 2001.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Senator Byrd on the Use of Reconciliation for the Clinton Health Plan

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd on the Floor of the Senate in April of 2001 explaining his objection to using reconciliation to pass controversial health care legislation (Clinton plan):

``The democratic leadership pleaded with me at length to agree to support the idea that the Clinton health care bill should be included in that year's reconciliation package. President Clinton got on the phone and called me also and pressed me to allow his massive health care bill to be insulated by reconciliation's protection. I felt that changes as dramatic as the Clinton health care package, which would affect every man, woman and child in the United States should be subject to scrutiny.

``I said Mr. President, I cannot in good conscience turn my face the other way. That's why we have a Senate. To amend and debate freely. And that health bill, as important as it is, is so complex, so far-reaching that the people of this country need to know what's in it. And, moreover, Mr. President, we Senators need to know what's in it before we vote. And he accepted that. He accepted that. Thanked me and said good bye.''

``I could not, I would not, and I did not allow that package to be handled in such a cavalier manner. It was the threat of the use of the Byrd rule.''

``Reconciliation was never, never, never intended to be a shield, to be used as a shield for controversial legislation.''

Mr. McCAIN. Let me explain his objection to using reconciliation to pass controversial health care legislation by quoting from Senator ROBERT BYRD:

The Democratic leadership pleaded with me at length to agree to support the idea that the Clinton health care bill should be included in that year's reconciliation package. President Clinton got on the phone and called me also and pressed me to allow his massive health care bill to be insulated by reconciliation's protection. I felt that changes as dramatic as the Clinton health care package, which would affect every man, woman child in the United States would be subject to scrutiny.

I said, Mr. President, I cannot in good conscience turn my face the other way. That's why we have a Senate. To amend and debate freely. And that health bill, as important as it is, is so complex, so far-reaching that the people of this country need to know what's in it.

Let me note here what the Speaker of the House said on March 9:

We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.

Now, continuing to quote from Senator ROBERT BYRD:

And, moreover, Mr. President, we Senators need to know what's in it before we vote. And he accepted that. He accepted that. Thanked me and said good bye.

I could not, I would not, and I did not allow that package to be handled in such a cavalier manner. It was the threat of the use of the Byrd rule. Reconciliation was never, never, never intended to be a shield, to be used as a shield for controversial legislation.

I might also point out that the Senator from Tennessee mentioned the process. I don't think the American people understand that if the House passes the Senate bill, every one of these sweetheart deals that were included behind closed-door negotiations in the majority leader's office and in the White House will remain in that bill. We Republicans have all signed a letter, 41 votes, that we will not accept any change or amendment, whether it is good or bad, because we oppose the use of reconciliation, as ROBERT BYRD did so eloquently back in 2001.

Mr. ALEXANDER. I wonder if the Senator from Arizona would agree with me that what is happening is the President is inviting the House Democrats to join hands and jump off a cliff and hope Senator Reid catches them.

Mr. McCAIN. Will the C-SPAN cameras be in those meetings, I would ask my friend?

Mr. ALEXANDER. Well, when they jump, they may be. But Senator Reid and his Democratic colleagues, I would say to my friend from Arizona, are not going to have any incentive to catch these House Members who vote for the bill because the President will have already signed it into law, and he will be well on his way to Indonesia, as the Senator from Arizona has just said. We have 41 Republican Senators who have signed a letter saying that you are not going to make new deals and send them over here and change them by reconciliation.

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record an article entitled ``Health-Care Reform's Sickeningly Sweet Deals'' by Kathleen Parker, which appeared in the Washington Post on Wednesday, March 10.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record

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Mr. McCAIN. I think Kathleen Parker says it best, and let me quote from her article:

Skipping through the Candy Land of the health-care bill, one is tempted to hum a few bars of ``Let Me Call You Sweetheart.'' What a deal. For dealmakers, that is. Not so much for American taxpayers, who have been misled into thinking the sweetheart deals have been excised.

That is why I say to my friend from Tennessee, it is important the American people understand that the Senate bill cannot be changed without coming back to the Senate. Therefore, all these deals they have pledged to remove will be in the bill that will be voted on by the other body--the ``Cornhusker kickback,'' which, by the way, had to secure 100 percent Federal funding for Nebraska's Medicaid expansion in perpetuity, among other hidden prizes to benefit locally based insurance companies. When other States complained about the unfair treatment, President Obama and Congress fixed it by increasing the Federal share of Medicaid to all States through 2017, after which all amounts are supposed to decrease. But they didn't fix it.

Anyway, I think it is important for us to understand that these sweetheart deals have not been removed and that we are in opposition to this entire reconciliation which would lead to the erosion and eventual destruction of the 60-vote procedure that has characterized the way the Senate has operated.

I have been in the majority, and I have been in the minority, and when I have been in the majority, we have been frustrated by the 60-vote rule and vice versa. Some of the people who are doing the greatest complaining and arguing about the fact that we have a 60-vote rule are the same ones who were the most steadfast defenders of it in past years when they were in the minority. That alone is enough argument for us to leave the process alone.

I believe historians will show that there are times where the 60-vote rule, because of the exigency of the moment, averted us from taking actions; and later on, in perhaps calmer times, we were glad that we did not act at that time.

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, may I ask the Senator from Wyoming if is he aware of a letter written to House leadership, representing, I believe, 85,000 physicians who oppose this legislation?

Mr. BARRASSO. I am not aware of that article, but I look forward to hearing about it from my colleague from Arizona.

Mr. McCAIN. Let me quote a little for my colleague, Dr. Barrasso:

The undersigned state and national specialty medical societies--representing more than 85,000 physicians and the millions of patients they serve--are writing to oppose passage of the ``Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.'' The changes that were recently proposed by President Obama do not address our many concerns with this legislation, and we therefore urge you to draft a more patient-centered bill that will reform the country's flawed system for financing healthcare, while preserving the best healthcare in the world.

At this point, I want to ask my friend, the doctor, isn't it true that included in this legislation remains the so-called doc fix, and that there will be a 21-percent cut in doctors payments for treatment of Medicare enrollees? There is no one in America who believes that cut will actually be enacted, which then makes the comments by supporters of this bill false on their face--just that alone. I believe that is $371 billion; is that correct?

Mr. BARRASSO. My colleague is absolutely correct. That is exactly what is happening. They call this a health care bill. It doesn't seem to address the major issues that patients across the country are concerned about. My colleague is absolutely right, we need a patient-centered approach. It doesn't address the issue that doctors are concerned about, which is the issue of making sure a doctor and a patient can work together toward the best health for that patient.

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